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Will be traveling to Bloomington, In, Champaign, Il, & Iowa City.

  • p

...would appreciate any imput from 'fellow hounds'. We are somewhat focused on good 'bar food'; maybe an awesome place for a burger and 'local country' breakfast and dinner..Thank you very much..

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  1. Hi Paul - sounds like a Big Ten University tour. :)

    I live in Iowa City and can give you a couple of recommendations - for burgers and breakfast, I'd go to the Hamburg Inn. Classic old diner (my Dad used to stop for a burger every day after his paper route) with great burgers, omelettes, pancakes, malts, and homemade pie. I'm not a big fan of the fries - they're the crinkle cut kind, but the hash browns are good. It's very close to campus - 214 N. Linn Street

    Another good spot for breakfast is Lou Henri - great service and lots of tasty choices. Also good for lunch - 630 Iowa Ave.

    If you're looking for pizza and beer and like thin crust, definitely try Pagliai's - right down the street from Hamburg Inn. Locally owned, homemade sausage, very good thin crust.

    Hope this is a start - feel free to ask for more! :)

    Enjoy the Big Ten!

    2 Replies
    1. re: iowagirl

      thank you so much..

      1. re: iowagirl

        Although it's been a while since I've lived in Iowa City, I second iowagirl's recs (particularly within the framework of your preferences). Another thought (and this is partially a question for iowagirl), is Pearson's. It used to be an honest to goodness drug store with a real soda fountain in back (and truly amazing malts). I know it's now a video store, but somebody told me they still do malts. Is that true iowagirl?

        If so, it's worth consider (and is nearly adjacent to Hamburg Inn).

      2. In Bloomington The Uptown Cafe or The Village Deli (which it is not) are good for breakfast. They both are on Kirkwood (5th St.) east of the square, the VD does lunch too with great homemade potato chips) Uptown is open all day and does a great dinner menu too.

        Truffle's does great bar food. They are on College Mall Rd. in the strip mall that Kroger is in just at the corner of Covenanter. Behind it is the Limestone Grill also very good. Lennie's on 10th St, eastern end, in another stip will give you a good burger or pizzas etc.

        Janko's Little Zagreb is a Bloomington tradition and is a great steak and rib place. It is on the corner of 6th and Morton just west of the square.

        If you are feeling like spending a bit more Restaurant Tallent is a real treat, but no burgers www.restauranttallent.com

        For student oriented bars and bar foods there is Scotty's on Walnut and several places Kilroys, Nicks, etc. on Kirkwood.

        By the way Bloomington is adamant about their smoking ban. There is no smoking in any bar or restaurant or working place so if you are making reservations you won't need to ask for a non-smoking section

        4 Replies
        1. re: Candy

          I appreciate this..thanx.

          1. re: Candy

            Not to undermine Candy's recommendations, but I'd like to add some information:

            Restaurant Tallent does not seem to match what you're looking for--she did warn "if you're willing to spend a little more", but Tallent is a more upscale dining experience using local meats and produce and is a far, far cry from bar food. The lower-end of the pricing scale is $16 and ranges up to the high $20's--definitely worth the price, but maybe not on this trip.

            For a truly Bloomington (IU) experience, I have to plug Nick's on Kirkwood Avenue...It's a Bloomington landmark and has a great old bar feel and a pretty good menu--their salads actually use real greens and not the white iceberg stuff...their steaks are surprisingly good...and their menu is stocked with the bar staples: burgers, pizza (not my fav: I like the stromboli better), wings...It is an over-21 place, so if you're touring a potential freshman it may not work.

            Another good place for a burger is Opie Taylor's up on the square (Kirkwood and Walnut)--sometimes hit or miss, but the burgers are good and they've recently changed the decor to be more Bloomington-esque. If you're looking for a quick sandwich stop and aren't looking for a great atmosphere, I'd suggest the Bloomington Sandwich Company (also on the square)--by far the best reuben I've ever tasted (not open on Sundays).

            Breakfast: Uptown serves great food, but it's not a typical hearty, down-to-earth type of place--a tad bit pricey for breakfast ($6-10), but it is worth it if that's what you're looking for. They have AMAZING hot chocolate and wonderful french toast...
            I second the Village Deli as that seems to be a favorite in town, especially if you like a huge helping of good pancakes...but, if you're looking for cheap, greasy-spoon diner breakfast complete with 'seasoned' waitresses, you might try Ladyman's Cafe (also on Kirkwood)...not a culinary delight, but quick and fun.

            There are so, so many wonderful places to eat in town but I'll refrain and only tout the type of places you're looking for...Enjoy your visit!

            1. re: Nicole

              ...Appreciate response, you helped us narrow in on 'village deli', lol. We're not tying to do this visit 'on the cheap', just looking for relaxed places (doing the 'Big 10' tour)..You said 'Vallent' features "local meat and produce"...hhhmmm...that's intriguing..we're from chicago and bored with the "presentation crap", but that might be worth a 'taste'...thanx

              1. re: Paul R.

                Check out www.visitbloomington.com for more info on the Bloomington area, including restaurants and a neat "Visitor Review" section.

          2. Hi Smokey - ahhh, the old Pearson's. Unfortunately, they recently removed all of the soda fountain equipment, put in video games and a bad popcorn machine and painted everything bright pink. No more tuna sandwiches on white with a chocolate malt! (a childhood favorite) :(

            5 Replies
            1. re: iowagirl

              Oh, that's crushing. I have such fond memories of smoking (I'll leave it up to your imagination what) and going there for a chocolate malt in high school.

              Do you remember the perfume store downtown? I think it was on Washington Street, right near the ped mall. I can't remember the name and now I think it's a hair cuttery or something totally non-descript. The perfume place was really amazing, totally unique, and part of what made IA City so cool and wonderful.

              Mmmm, cheesecake at the Sheepshead on Linn...

              Wow, I miss IA City, or at least what it was when I was there.

              1. re: Smokey

                Hi Smokey - yeah, it's a real bummer. You wouldn't recoginze downtown Iowa City at all! I actually don't remember the perfume store, but my parents still talk about the Sheepshead. (they both grew up here, I went to college here and came back to work at the U)

                It's funny - a lot of the cool little stores are gone ("Dirty" John's grocery is still going strong and has a great wine selection), but we do have a better "dining scene" with several really nice options. Lots of local flavor, seasonal ingredients and chefs who love what they do.

                And there is always Hamburg! ;)

                1. re: iowagirl

                  The perfume store was extraordinary. As was Sheepshead. Both closed almost twenty years ago. But there are new equally quirky things now. Motley Cow and so on ...

                  1. re: David M

                    The perfume store was Motts Drug Store. In its place now is a fairly good little noodle shop. Z'Marik's. Close to Motley Cow is Devotay, one of my favorites, and downtown are 126, Atlas, and a swanky sushi place called Takanami, all worth a visit. But for something special, go north about 14 miles on Highway 1 to Solon and stop at Redhead Cafe. Nice people, interesting, fresh food. We all miss The Sheep's Head and Bushnell's Turtle. Some of us are old enough to miss the burgers at Donnelly's Bar.

                    1. re: Charlie D

                      Wow, thanks for that post and reminding me of the name--Motts Drug Store.

                      I know it's been 20 years or so. They're just really fond memories. I'm sure that, as you say, there are some pretty special places there now. If I'm ever back (HS reunion this summer...hmmmm), the Redhead sounds interesting.

            2. Champaign, Illinois –
              Recommendations from someone who’s lived here twenty some years:
              Courier Café in Urbana. (www.couriersilvercreek.com/) Great milkshakes too.
              Extremely popular local place that’s been open for years.
              Silvercreek - The sister restaurant just down the street is a terrific place for dinner or lunch. (Burgers only served at lunch.) Beautiful restaurant.
              Apple Dumpling – great “local country” place. I’ve not been for breakfast but they serve it. Love this place for lunch or dinner – everything’s homemade, rolls, chicken or beef and noodles, fried chicken, mashed potatos, sweet tea, etc. No web site – located at 2014 High Cross Rd, Urbana 344-0076.
              Hickory River Smokehouse, Urbana (1706 N. Cunningham, 337-165) http://www.hickoryriver.com Great local bbque place.
              The Ribeye, Champaign (1701 S. Neil, 351-9115) Is a great local place for steaks, no burgers. No web site.
              Guido's 2 E. Main Street, Champaign 217-359-3148, downtown Champaign, is a beautiful bar. We tried their burgers twice during the summer and they were okay but the bar is so neat.

              1. t
                Tha Groovin' Gourmet

                If you are traveling between and not just to those cities, and your route takes you near West Lafayette, IN (home of Purdue) DO NOT MISS the XXX Drive-In (named for root beer, not porno). It is exactly the kind of burger joint you are looking for. Open 24 hours. Both the burgers and the root beer ROCK!