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After 4 years here are my best places to eat:

most unique: Dats, formerly Yats - its a creole/cajun type place that isreally yummy, quick, and cheap

best Thai: Esan-Thai, Not Siam House!

best chinese: Chow Bar, buffet at lunch is actually good and so is the Super Asian on Sundays

best BBQ: Barbeque guy at the corner of 17th and college next to the stadium...a must during tailgate
*Smokin Jacks is good too

best pizza: don't bother, but best cheezy bread isMad mushroom

best burger: hard to say, Opie's is ok, Crazyhorse chili gulch is good, really any is good

Best food and drinking: Irish Lion, fish and chips or coddle with 1/2 yard of weizen

best food while watching game: yogis or scottys

Best vegetarian: Roots

Best Ice cream was white mountain now i dont know

best burrito: laughing planet

best sandwich: take your pick, although village deli is most unique

best indian: bombay house, buffet is good deal but not much selection

Best Gyro: Int'l market on 4th st

also, little zags is good but not great, stay away from malibu and most places like that, most mexican isnt good

have fun

also a list of restaurants can be found on the IDS website

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  1. i happen to have a different opinion about a few of bloomingtons best:

    Best burger: Kilroys sports bar... at 2pm or 2am its delicous
    Best pizza: Uncle D's
    Best Mexican: El Norteno is GREAT and it has a wonderful atmosphere
    Best sandwich: Bloomington Sandwich Company
    Best Thai: Im a fan of Siam House.... Esan Thai has horrible service
    Best Japanese: Japanee
    Best Breakfast: Village Deli (they also have the best french fries!)

    3 Replies
    1. re: ninz

      Best Burger: Nick's
      Best Pizza: Butch's
      Best Mexican: La Torre
      Best Japanese: Mikado
      Best Thai: My Thai Cafe
      Best Barbecue: Fatman's
      Best Breakfast: Uptown
      Best Ice Cream: Blu Boy

      1. re: pikawicca

        Mexican: Le Torre though Casa Brava is a solid contender
        Best Pizza: Lenie's
        Thai: Esan Thai
        Japanese: Mikado though I've heard great things about Japanee- just haven't been there, yet.
        Breakfast: Uptown or Village Deli
        Food & Drink and watching a game: Nick's
        Fine Food: Tallent

        1. re: HoosierFoodie

          Definitely agree with your Fine Food pick!

    2. Most unique: Falafels
      Best Thai: Thai between Esan-Thai and My Thai
      Chinese: Fortune Cookies
      BBQ:: meh, not in Bloomington
      Best Pizza: maybe Mother Bear's thin crust
      Burger: Nick's
      Food and drinking: Irish Lion
      Watching a game: Yogis or Nicks
      Vegetarian: Who eats vegetarian? :)
      Ice cream: I'm lactose intolerant, so not fair
      Burrito: Laughing Planet
      Sandwich: Dagwoods
      Indian: Bombay House
      Gyro: Trojan Horse
      Fine dining: Tallent

      Worst in Bloomington: Farm, Scholar's Inn

      1. Re; sandwiches in Bloomington.

        Bloomington Sandwich Company is really good.

        There's this newish place, Butch's Delicatessan, that got a big writeup in the local paper about how the owner came here from NYC to go to business school, but he missed Jewish deli food from NY, so now he opened his own "New York style deli." We just got lunch here and it was pretty bad, unfortunately. The turkey club sandwich was... OK, but overpriced at $8.50. My wife said "is this big enough to split" and they all said "oh yeah, it's huge" -- but it turns out to be made with regular small sandwich sliced bread. Three pieces rather than two, and it's piled pretty high, but it's just not a huge sandwich. Also, no pickle, and no swiss although we asked for this and it's listed on the receipt. Otherwise, nothing special.

        The matzo ball soup had something wrong with it. Here's the transcript of our conversation:

        -Is it supposed to taste so lemony?
        -Is it OK, or did it turn or something?
        -I'm not sure if we should eat this.

        It was also way, way too salty. We threw it out.

        Maybe the problem was the 16 year old girls working there; I have a feeling they may not understand the nuances of New York style Jewish deli food.

        Anyway, Butch's definitely has to work out some kinks. Maybe the pizza's good. (I'd try Max's Place for great pizza in Bloomington).

        1 Reply
        1. re: ivan812

          Sorry you had such a bad experience. I haven't been in a while, but I'm a fan of their thin crust cheese pizza and the potato knishes.

        2. I'd like to add to the list. Finch's Brasserie is excellent. I've enjoyed everything I have eaten there. Bloomington Sandwich Shop too, Mike the owner corns his own beef and it is excellent.

          We enjoy Sunny Palace too. It is Chinese but they do branch out to other Asian cuisines and I love the scallion pancakes. The Limestone Grill has some excellent specials. The regular menu is okay but the specials are what we go for. Truffles, it has been awhile since we were there but the bar food is good. I heard recently that Martin Frenea former Truffles chef is coming back to town. I've not heard where he'll be cooking but I am looking forward to going to where ever he lands a spot. I'm also curious about a new place getting ready to open, Sweetgrass. Southern cuisine. That I will definitely want to try.

          I had customers in the shop who had just had lunch at Dunn St. Inn and were raving about it. I've not been yet but I guess I'll have to add it to the list. Bloomington has a lot of options for fine and casual dining. We do have people come to town just to dine at a specific restaurant. It has definitely improved from what was available when we first moved here. i was ready to go home the day after we arrived.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Candy

            We had lunch at the Dunn Inn shortly after it opened. The food was okay, but every time someone opened the door, a blast of cold air rushed through the entire dining room. I imagine temperature control is a big problem in the summer, too. We were simply too uncomfortable to go back. If you like eating outside, though, they have a lovely space.

            1. re: Candy

              Marty is now at Chapman's. He's working on a new menu, which should be out in a week or 2.

              1. re: Candy

                I second the vote for Finch's! I've had nothing but delicious food there, and Jeff and Candace Finch are lovely folks!! My only complaint: I think a lot of passers-by might miss this sleeper because of their too-subtle signage. I'm planning a trip there from Indy next week, and I'm sure I'll be pleased as usual.

              2. Great list and I would agreed with most.

                Pizza: Uncle D's

                @ Atkins. Farm = The Worst? I have been there once and I really enjoyed it. hmm.

                3 Replies
                1. re: wouldibuyitagain.com

                  Farm's offerings are really weak, poorly executed, and the service is awful. Add to that a drink menu that's terrible. The best thing about Farm is the root cellar and its bourbon offerings, and that's simply because all they have to do is pour it into a glass.

                  Beyond that, you're going to have a hard time convincing me a restaurant is a locally focused restaurant when a number of their supplies come from Sysco.

                  1. re: chetatkinsdiet

                    I would not say Farm is awful. You just never know when it is going to be really good. There have been staffing issues. I have been lucky when dining there. My DH had a business lunch meeting there a few weeks ago and it was quite good. Another friend had dinner there about a week ago and was quite pleased. That said, it is about time that they get it together and become more reliable. But I know some people who have hated Tallent and that was a shocker to me.

                    1. re: Candy

                      I think the reality of the situation is that you're going to have a certain level of unhappy customers at every restaurant- I've seen it from the French Laundry and Per Se, arguably the best two restaurants in the US both in terms of service and food. That said, the level of poor execution going on at Farm is far beyond that of Tallent. You're right, it's time to settle into a rhythm for Farm. I understand staffling issues, but over the time they've been open it seems to reflect more on management than it does on the individuals who have been hired. There are plenty of restaurants both at the high end and the middle of the road who do just fine on their staffing in Bloomington.

                2. I've had problems w/The Farm's service a couple of times. Staffing is a problem to everyone all of the time. They are past the point in time of
                  settling in to a rhythm. I don't know that I'll go back as long as Tallent is an option.

                  33 Replies
                  1. re: HoosierFoodie

                    Sweet Grass opened 2 days ago, and I would say that it's definitely worth a visit. The young chef is a graduate of Johnson and Wales in Charleston, and there is a strong southern influence evident on the menu (collards, pimento cheese, shrimp grits, shrimp po boy, fried green tomatoes), as well as more sophisticated fare. They are open for lunch and dinner and are located at 405 W. Patterson, just off Grimes Lane. Give them a try the next time you're in town.

                    1. re: pikawicca

                      I can't find much of anything on Sweet Grass -do you know when they open for lunch on Saturday and if they serve a regular menu (meaning not brunchy things)?
                      And that address is a little vague on Google...it puts me just at S Madison-is that about right?
                      We'll be in town in a few weeks for our Tallent fix, and I was planning on Finch's for lunch Saturday, but you've got me interested...thanks.

                      1. re: David W

                        Hi David,

                        They do a regular lunch on Saturday. If you drive south on College, turn right on Grimes (the Sherwin Williams paint shop is on the corner). Sweet Grass will be on your left. One of our local food bloggers just informed me that she had a very good dinner there tonight. I love Finch's but I think you might want to take at look at this new place, as well. Let us know what you think.

                        1. re: pikawicca

                          Thanks for the additional information- I'll let you know where we end up.
                          I always end up wishing I had more time in Bloomington, but since the reason for our trips is family related, I'm not always the master of my fate.

                          1. re: David W

                            A friend of mine (also a local food writer) dined at SG last night with her husband. She had only good things to say about the pizza, fries, coleslaw, and hanger steak. My husband and I just had lunch there -- excellent fried green tomatoes, french fries, and pimento cheese sandwich w/bacon and tomato.

                            1. re: pikawicca

                              They only opened this week and we had lunch there today. My DH was delighted with his shrimp-po-boy. My Pimento cheese burger left a lot to be desired. I did not see any point in finishing it. Accoustics are terrible. i was facing a silent (thank God) television tuned to ESPN. It was featuring very sweaty partially dressed obese men. I may give it a try later, but I felt $35.00 for two for lunch consisting of one shared palte of fried green tomatoes, Iced tea for each, a shrimp po-boy and a very dry over cooked burger was a bit much. The pimento cheese was skimpy and undetectable. I asked for some mayo to moisten the burger, I was brought ranch dressing. As I said to another friend, at least it was not Miracle Whip but it was definitely not mayo. Service was good. There was hardly any one there at 1:30 PM. I'll try it again in a couple of months. There are really so many good places to select from it is hard to get enthused. i come from a long line of really good Southern cooks, I was let down.

                              If you have a chance and are downtown on a Mon, Wed. or Thurs. stop in at Goods for Cooks and say hi. I am there from 10-6. We are directly across from the courthouse square and 2 doors south of the Bakehouse between 5th and 6th. If you get to the Bloomington Sandwich Shop or JL Waters just back up a bit towards 6th.



                              1. re: Candy

                                By the way, this is kind of a small pet peeve of mine about bloomington- there are very few places to have a nice lunch. Basically it's just Finch's at this point. Malibu is terrible, and if I need to do business I'm not doing it at a brewery.

                                  1. re: HoosierFoodie

                                    Both are solid choices. If you love soup, the Limestone always has a great soup of the day. It's also quieter than the Uptown, if you're doing a business lunch. That said, there's a reason that Uptown continues to do excellent business, even in these lousy economic times.

                                    1. re: HoosierFoodie

                                      Neither if possible. Limestone is just plain bad, and Uptown is ok but hasn't changed their menu in...ever. Uptown is better than limestone but just by a hair.

                                      Ultimately it depends what you're doing- are you just going for lunch yourselves or entertaining?

                                      1. re: chetatkinsdiet

                                        I eat lunch at Limestone at least once a week, and I see many people there who are obviously doing business. The regular Uptown menu is sacrosanct because regulars would have a conniption fit if any of their favorites were removed. There is always a selection of interesting specials posted on the board.

                                        I find your comments ludicrous. There are many fine places in Bloomington to lunch. So many, in fact, that it's sometimes difficult to choose among them.

                                        1. re: pikawicca

                                          I have to agree here. Neither Limestone or Uptown are "bad". I quit doing Limestone for dinner quite some time ago but its perfectly fine for lunch. If I'm going to drop that kind of coin for dinner I have other options. Uptown hasn't changed their lunch menu for a long time because, well, it works. Their service has been good at the Uptown. To critique a restaurant based on the fact of a huge local following for decades reminds of the Yogi Berra saying, "Nobody goes there anymore...its too crowded".

                                          1. re: HoosierFoodie

                                            Limestone does some very good specials at dinner. The regular dinner menu could use a little sprucing up but i reall never have been disappointed there.

                                            1. re: HoosierFoodie

                                              Uptown isn't bad, it's just stagnant and boring. It's fine if you only go there once in a blue moon, but otherwise it's just ok.

                                              Sorry I still believe Limestone is bad. The ingredients haven't ever felt fresh, the service has always been meh, and the wine list is pretty darn bad (last time I was there was about 4-5 mos. ago)

                                              1. re: chetatkinsdiet

                                                We can disagree on the food (for lunch at least) but the service can be "meh". The wine list has been good at times (at least when they had help from a "consultant") but not only is not not very good but the last time we were there, and granted its been a while, they didn't have what we ordered. I have heard that complaint from others.

                                    2. re: Candy

                                      I'm only able to spare one night in Bloomington, and that will be a Friday (so we can take advantage of the Saturday morning market.)

                                      1. re: David W

                                        Well I know you won't miss Tallent on Friday (nor should you!) It's better than ever. Brought our visiting kids in for the tasting menu the other day and it was just perfect. Unfortunately the butterscotch semifreddo dessert has left the menu by now, but it was one of the best things I ever ate.

                                        As far as lunches go, Finch's does a fabulous post-market lunch on Saturday. Really wonderful. Their new menu is lovely. I have had some excellent lunches at FARM. When it is good, it is very, very good.

                                        These days I am loving Sweet Grass. Except that I am not a fried twinkie fan, every single thing I have had there has been delish. Fried green tomato BLT was excellent, a friend had what he said was a perfect burger, and we both loved the soup of the day, which was, oddly, but deliciously, french onion. Pizzas are good (the shrimp one was super and I had a daily special that had arugula, blue cheese and smoked pears -- wonderful!) What else? Wonderful shrimp on a fried grit cake, first rate slaw and collards. Glad to see us get another place of that caliber. Fun web site here: http://sweetgrassbloomington.com/welc...

                                        Also good food news for us, Chapman's on the far east side has a new chef (Martin Frannea, the guy that opened Truffles but left five years ago is back in town) and they will have a completely revised lunch and dinner menu in a month or so (but not yet, so don't go tomorrow looking for changes.) The dining room is lovely there -- I'd think it would be an excellent place for business lunches, chetatkinsdiet, as well as dinners once Martin's got it under control.

                                        1. re: myplateoryours

                                          I'd be curious, but I've never found Truffles menu to be worth bothering with. The menu is old and tired. It's been that way for a long time, too.

                                          1. re: chetatkinsdiet

                                            In the early days, Truffles was a delight, with a menu that changed on a regular basis. That was a long time ago, however. I have high hopes for Chapman's.

                                            1. re: pikawicca

                                              When Martin left, the owner of Truffles really didn't let his replacement change the menu much for a long time. It's very stale. But Martin really knows his stuff. We'll see what he does. He's talking about dishes like last night's dinner specials --- chargrilled walleye with crab pico di gallo, Tabasco butter and parmesan polenta and applewood smoked beef tenderloin with warm lobster salad and parsley pistou.

                                              1. re: myplateoryours

                                                So glad he is going to be there. I'd heard he was coming back to town. I hope the owners give him the leeway to do what he does best. Chapman's might become a desirable place to go for a meal.

                                                1. re: myplateoryours

                                                  Well I guess I'd better update this lest anyone visit Chapman's on my say-so. Martin has done a bunk, skipped town with no notice in the wake of a love affair gone bad. Don't know what will happen to Chapman's -- they are stuck with a new menu and an Open Table system and no one in the kitchen to make it all work.

                                                  The Dunn Inn also closed due to a dispute with the landlord.


                                                  1. re: myplateoryours

                                                    Oh well, how very chef-like. Bloomington's fortunate enough to have a few chefs who love to be in their kitchens and who are super dedicated to their restaurants.

                                                    1. re: chetatkinsdiet

                                                      I'm happy to report that most of our local chefs are great people, and would never leave their investors in the lurch. Martin Frannea is definitely "persona au gratin" (as my lawyer/chowhound hubby offers) in our town, and I hope that he's closely scrutinized by anyone thinking to hire him in the future.

                                                      1. re: pikawicca

                                                        Unfortunately, in the restaurant world it's not a terribly uncommon thing. Chefs, and restaurants in general, have one of the highest personnel turnover rates of the service industry. I have a lot of respect for any chef who's willing to be in the kitchen, cook food, and tough things out through these hard economic times, knowing that there's investor money behind them and serving that responsibility daily.

                                    3. re: David W

                                      We tried to eat lunch at Sweet Grass, but when we arrived found a note taped to the door that they would be open only for dinner that day...maybe another time. So we ended up back at Finch's-we had soup-corn and tomato-both very nice, the Parisian Pizzetta-nice and crispy, and the macaroni and cheese, which my wife liked but I found a bit too rich.

                                      I continue to be amazed by Tallent-he puts together flavors that I don't think I find anywhere else. We had a lovely egglant soup, foie gras "PB&J"-a terrific take on those flavors, we split a generous serving of the tagliatelle with corn and tomatoes (this I could eat every day), the rabbit dish-including the wonderful confit, and snapper with risotto.
                                      We only managed on dessert, the blueberry cornmeal cake with corn ice cream. And once again, the service is perfect.

                                      The farmers market was great as usual, despite the threat of rain...I love the interaction among the buyers and sellers, and the overall atmosphere.

                                      If we ever decide to give up life in the big city, Bloomington would be at the top of our list...if only you could do something about those midwestern winters (oh, wait-global warming may be doing just that...)

                                      1. re: David W

                                        I don't know what's going on with Sweet Grass; several people have told me that they've tried to go for lunch on Saturdays, and it's been closed. I'll inquire and report back.

                                        1. re: pikawicca

                                          I drove by there on Sunday and it seemed busy with people on the patio. I'm going to wait for some kinks to get straightened out before going back.

                                          1. re: Candy

                                            Try the tomato soup and the stuffed portobello -- both were excellent on my last visit.

                                          2. re: pikawicca

                                            Had friends who had lunch there today.....liked it, too.

                                          3. re: David W

                                            Dave, we've been kicking around going back to Plattsburgh for a few years in about 2-3 years. Those long dark NY winters are making us pause and maybe rethink it. But on the up side there is Montreal so close and Burlington, VT.

                                1. I grew up in Bloomington and still get back there a few times a year. Here are some of my favorites:

                                  Hamburger: Hinkles (double cheese extra onions and potato cakes)
                                  Coney: Dairy Queen near South High School
                                  Pizza: Pizza Express (mostly for the breadsticks now that Noble Roman's is closed)
                                  Casual Dining: Trojan Horse (gyro, falafel, tenderloin)
                                  Fine Dining: Tallent (anything pork related, also the mussels and fries app)
                                  Mexican: La Torre
                                  Best Sandwich: Stromboli at Nicks or Cafe Pizzaria