Bloomington, IN: Eating My Way Through College

Indiana University

Having a senior in college makes me more than a little sad. My youngest child will no longer be a student, and that’s just difficult to wrap my brain around. I think about all the time and energy that went into preparing my children for college, and then in a blink of an eye, its over.

On the plus side, having children in college can give you four years to visit a town and restaurants that you otherwise would never have the opportunity to explore. (I’m sure that there are other pluses but this is a food blog after all.)

Kirkwood Street, Bloomington

Dining out becomes part of the ritual of visiting your kids at school. It’s a way to give them a necessary break from dorm food or their own cooking. Plus, taking their friends out for a meal gives you great insight into a life you may no longer know much about.

My son graduated from University of Maryland, which is my alma mater. It’s still a disappointing food town all these years later. Despite the lack of interesting options, we visited campus a couple of times a semester to take him out to dinner. (We couldn’t not visit just because he went to a school with lousy restaurants.) Our destinations included Hard Times Café and Pita Plus (now closed). We discovered Franklins Restaurant in Hyattsville during his senior year. It’s the only restaurant that I would recommend in the College Park vicinity, although it’s been 2 ½ years since he graduated. Maybe there are some other decent choices at this point. One can only hope.  But don’t send your kid to Univ. of Md. because its an interesting town.  It isn’t.  Use the money you save on in-state tuition (assuming you’re in state) and dine out at extra-nice restaurants when they go abroad for a semester.  We had some fabulous meals in Spain!

My daughter chose to go to an out-of-town school.  I love visiting her at Indiana University. It doesn’t hurt that Bloomington, Indiana is a great town for foodies. Who knew? I am surprised by the quantity and quality of restaurants, most of which include a wide selection of vegetarian options. In her sophomore year, however, my daughter decided she would only eat at Kosher or strictly vegetarian restaurants. At first, I was terribly disappointed.  But it turned out ok.  Kosher dining at IU consists of Friday night dinners at the Chabad House, featuring food that is plentiful and delicious.  The vodka shots aren’t so bad either. I highly recommend it (the food and the vodka.)

Our Saturday night dinners in Bloomington were always at Roots Restaurant because it fulfilled the vegetarian requirement and the food was very good. But this year, they added chicken and shrimp to the menu. No more Roots for us. Thankfully, my understanding daughter joins us as we eat out. She drinks. We eat. It works.

Here are some of my favorite dining destinations in Bloomington:

Uptown Café – great brunch spot
Farm-fresh, local ingredients
Finches Brasserie
Upland Brewing Company
Bloomington Bagels– respectable bagels and interesting cream cheeses
Laughing Planet Cafe- delicious salads

Finches, Bloomington

I asked some of my blog readers to tell me their favorite college town restaurants, rather than solely focusing on Indiana. Here are their picks.

Boston University: Stella’s
Hofstra, Hempstead, NY:Frank’s Steaks (Jericho)
Penn State, State College, PA-Spats Cafe
Syracuse University: Dinosaur Barbecue

Tulane, New Orleans:  Dante’s Kitchen, One, Jacque Imos, Jackson, Camilla Grill

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor: Zingerman’s Deli, Seva, Gazzi, Good Time Charlies, Pizza Bobs, Paolis, Weber’s, Angelos
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill: Bin 54
University of Pittsburgh: Pamela’s (breakfast), Union Grill, Primanti Brothers (Strip District)
Vanderbilt University, Nashville: Bricktops, Rumba, Sunset Grill
University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wi- Ocean Grill

Do you have a pick to share?  Add your comments below.

Stay tuned later in the week for part two of “Eating our Way Through College” featuring our recent pre-college visit food binge in Indianapolis.


  1. The Mom Chef says

    I worked at Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL for many years and I would always recommend that people take their kids to either Alfies or the Smokehouse for the best Gyro sandwiches. Of course, being that close to Chicago, Giordano's is a must visit as well.

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