There are restaurants-galore in Bloomington's scenic and large downtown area. Entering my senior year at Indiana University, I've gathered a double-digit rotation of places to eat. My freshman year, my friends and I dined at the same three restaurants the entire school year. There are too many food spots in Bloomington to be doing that. Rather than listing my favorite restaurants, here are an editor's 10 go-to dishes to try in no particular order.
1. The Jersey | Gables Bagels
I'm from northern New Jersey, where bagel shops are king. The bagels at my local place are fluffy perfection. I'll always prefer my hometown spot, but Gables is the best bagel in Bloomington. Try The Jersey special — choice of breakfast meat, egg and cheese with salt, pepper and ketchup on any bagel. That's my exact order at my local spot. Gables offers tastes like back home for tri-state students. I also enjoy their medium roast coffee.
2. Corned Beef Hash (add two eggs cooked any style) | The Runcible Spoon
Before college, I ate corned beef hash maybe once. After countless trips to Runcible ordering the make-your-own omelet, I randomly decided to experiment with the corned beef hash, picking the option to add two eggs on top. The eggs balance the heavier, but tasty, potato hash — with delicious bite-sized pieces of tender corned beef. Pinch some salt, order any coffee beverage to help wash it down and enjoy this hearty meal in this rustic eatery!
3. Breakfast Tacos, Cajun Grilled Chicken Sandwich, Home Fries | The Village Deli
Three items for the Deli, nestled in the heart of Kirkwood Ave –– it's just that good. I recommend the breakfast tacos: two tortillas stuffed with eggs, cheddar cheese and potatoes coated with an in-house jalapeño avocado sauce. It has some kick but doesn't overwhelm the plate. I add chorizo as well. My dad took me here for lunch the first time I visited Indiana University. I got the cajun grilled chicken sandwich. This sandwich tastes fresh and the Cajun spices pack tons of flavor. Pair anything you order with their savory and crispy home fries!
4. Bruschetta Classico | Da Vinci
Probably the best bruschetta I've had anywhere. Diced tomatoes and basil spread across toasted crostini bread, topped with balsamic glaze and one thin slice of parmesan cheese. This appetizer is seasoned to perfection. Pair it with an artisan pizza. My favorites are the Truffle Funghi and Pera. Da Vinci's ambiance, as well as great food, is perfect for date night.
5. Louie’s Dozen Boneless Wings | BuffaLouie's
Right by the Sample Gates, BuffaLouie’s is iconic in Bloomington — from Indiana and Big Ten Conference memorabilia covering the walls to the distinctive architecture with dugout-style seating and the crow’s nest upstairs. I keep it classic with 15 boneless wings, called the Louie’s Dozen, covered in medium buffalo sauce. I always add curly fries and soda to my order. Grab some friends for weekly trivia night, where you can win up to $30 in gift cards!
6. The Vinny Pancini | Dagwoods Deli & Sub Shop
Dagwoods is adjacent to BuffaLouie's. When I first started going here, I ordered the classic Italian Sub. Soon, I switched to the Vinny Pancini and I'm never going back. The Vinny is like an Italian sub but on airy and delicious Focaccia bread. The banana peppers on the Vinny, which aren’t on the Italian, complement the cold cuts well. Plus, at less than $10, it's worth it for the portion size, fresh ingredients — and that Focaccia lightly soaked in red wine vinegar.
7. Sink the Biz Fries | Nick’s English Hut
Nick’s is another quintessential Indiana college-town spot on Kirkwood. Try the bucket of Sink the Biz Fries for the table. The fries are tossed in Romano cheese and seasoned with Nick’s spices. I take two-to-three fries and dip just the edge in Nick’s garlic mayonnaise sauce. The slight hint of sauce combines well with the spices. You can also order the sandwich portion!
8. Beef & Shrimp Teriyaki Combo | Z & C Teriyaki & Sushi
Just across the street from Nick’s is Z & C. Need some late-night food? It’s open until 3 AM Thursday-Saturday. The aroma of Z & C is mouthwatering upon entering — the flattop grill is only feet away from where you order. I opt for the beef and shrimp teriyaki, which comes with steamed vegetables and fried rice in takeout boxes. I order white rice rather than fried. The fried is delicious, but it makes the meal quite heavy. Remember to grab three-to-four soy sauce packets to pour over the protein. If the weather is warm, sit outside and enjoy!
9. Combo Box D, Lion King Roll | Restaurant Ami
Moving away from Kirkwood and downtown, Ami is located near the Southeast Neighborhood of campus: right by Read, Wilkie, Spruce, Forest and more. I always start with the soothing green tea, then the Vegetable Gyoza and finally, Combination Box D. The box comes with bulgogi (grilled beef), pieces of California roll sushi, white rice and more vegetable gyoza — I can’t get enough. If you don’t mind cream cheese, the crunchy Lion King roll is also tasty!
10. Matcha Latte | Soma Coffeehouse and Juice Bar
Back to Kirkwood Ave. Soma is the perfect place to grab coffee with friends or do homework. They have two separate areas for both occasions. One is the atrium which has chairs and small tables to chat with the sound of coffee-making in the background. The other is a quieter room in the back that has larger tables and a fireplace. I opt for the unsweetened Matcha Latte with whole milk. Somewhat bending the rules with beverages, but they also have pastries!