Bloomington is home to some of the best cuisine in Indiana if not the Midwest region. We are fortunate to have such fine dining establishments as Farm Bloomington with Chef Daniel Orr at the helm; The Uptown Café with its excellent twist on Cajun cooking under the guidance of Michael Cassady; and the not to be missed Restaurant Tallent named for its chefs/owners, David & Kristin Tallent. All have specialties but the fact that a city the size of Bloomington can support such top-notch dining is testament to the fact that people here really appreciate great food!
A new addition to the scene in recent years is Sweetgrass located in McDoel Gardens at the intersection of S. Rogers & Patterson Dr./Grimes Ln. Sweetgrass finds its roots in South Carolina and the corn bread alone will convince you that they know Southern cooking. Try the filet mignon and a bottle of Chilean Caminiere…a fabulous dinner at a great price. For really casual healthy food you will love the California burritos and bowls at Laughing Planet on Kirkwood & Grant. Afterwards go downstairs to Soma and enjoy a cappuccino and biscotti.
But enough about great food…we also have a thriving art scene in our community. The SOFA Gallery in the School of Fine Art has just been renamed the Gruenwald Gallery in honor of a recent donation. The IU Art Museum in the adjoining building is home to some wonderful collections including ethnographic art from Oceania and a fantastic collection of classical and contemporary artists including Pollack, Picasso, Johns…just to name a few. Additionally we are fortunate to have such art purveyors as the Venue on Grant Street featuring many local artists. Also, not to be missed are some fine examples of public art including the WPA murals located in the IU Auditorium and Woodburn Hall by regionalist Thomas Hart Benton. Recently restored they have been brought back to their original brilliance. Another stunning piece is “Peau Rouge” by Alexander Calder which sits playfully in front of the IU Musical Arts Center.
For home furnishings no shopping trip is complete without stopping by Relish at 6th & Morton Streets. Brad and Sharon Fugate provide our city with very cool furnishings for the home and office. Next head around the corner to Goods for Cooks on College Ave. for great kitchen wares. If you like to cook this is a super place.
Bloomington is a place that I am proud to call my home. Growing up in Bloomington provided me with a strong sense of community and a unique appreciation for the arts, cultural events, fine food and small-town living in an eclectic, progressive environment with great schools. Now raising my own kids here, I’ve grown to value what Bloomington has to offer and am hopefully passing that love on to my kids.
Indiana University alone offers a wealth of opportunities and experiences, from various sporting events (from water polo and women’s volleyball to men’s basketball and the men’s NCAA champion soccer team), as well as the IU auditorium’s Broadway productions and concerts, the Musical Arts Center’s annual opera and ballet series, including The Nutcracker, as well as endless cultural and ethnic events throughout the year. The Little 500, which is the well-known university bicycle race on which the movie Breaking Away is based, draws thousands of spectators and is centered around various springtime campus events and celebrations.
Local theater groups — Cardinal Stage Company and Bloomington Playwrights Project — produce fantastic plays and musicals throughout the year, including Cardinal’s children’s series which has included well-known shows like Annie and The Wizard of Oz. Kirkwood Avenue is a downtown Bloomington street that is bustling with shops, theaters, bars and many restaurants touting fresh, local fare. Some of my favorites include The Uptown Café (Cajun), The Trojan Horse (Greek) and Finches (local cuisine). One block over from Kirkwood, you will find Fourth Street which is like the United Nations of eateries, including everything from Indian to Korean to Thai, with my favorite being Turkuaz (Turkish).
Several area lakes include Lake Monroe, Griffy Lake and Lake Lemon. Indiana’s largest man-made lake, Lake Monroe, spans for over 10,000 acres and is surrounded by 13,000 acres of protected forest and several recreational and campground areas. Griffy Lake, which is near IU’s campus, provides excellent hiking trails and a dog park. In addition, Bloomington is surrounded by several state parks for camping, overnight lodging, hiking and horseback riding. The nearby town of Nashville is a quaint shopping row of local artists and activities.