Bloomington, Indiana is well known for its college sports supremacy…so, in that spirit, here are my final four best Bloomington restaurants you can’t miss when visiting this vibrant community.
Housed in a 150 year old mansion, the Scholars Inn Gourmet Cafe & Wine Bar is the perfect blend of creative food, atmosphere and service. The various nooks and crannies throughout the space make each sojourn a memorable experience. The restaurant is lead by chef Jake Brenchley, who put together a special tasting menu when I was in town for “Best of the Road.” Our four-course meal was simply impeccable. Each course was perfectly paired with wine, including an ice wine with our dessert course.
- For the first course we had Sous vide Sockeye Salmon, heirloom tomatoes, pickled cantaloupe, fresh chervil, meyer lemon cilantro sorbet, preserved mango foam. This starter dish was so fresh and delicious. It makes my mouth water just thinking about it again. This creation made my “Ten unique eats” list.
- Second course included crispy chicken thigh, chevre croquette, pork belly marmalade, watermelon beurre blanc and fresh mint to set it all off.
- Our third course was a tomato butter basted filet mignon, bechamel macaroni and cheese (sounds odd, but it was good!), pomegranate veal demi glace and fresh seven herb salad. Hands down one of the best filets I’ve ever had. Chef Jake was telling me that it took him seven years to perfect his pomegranate sauce…I say, it was seven years well spent.
- The final dessert course was red wine braised cherries, vanilla bean sponge cake, pistachio dust, supreme brie cheese, fresh basil and honey lavender ice cream. This had to be one of the most unique dessert combinations I’ve ever had. Chef Jake was explaining that while in culinary school, he was taught that serving chocolate for dessert was a cop-out.
Website: Scholars Inn cafe and wine bar
The Uptown is a hip restaurant/bar located in the heart of Bloomington. They serve Cajun Creole…Louisiana style, with bold flavors and personality to boot. The Uptown is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner–no matter when you go, you’ll experience a menagerie of goodness. The Uptown is sort of two restaurants in one…for breakfast and lunch the space is lively and face-paced. By dinner, the place is transformed into a jazz-filled romantic bistro.
- While dining for breakfast…I couldn’t resist trying the cottage cheese pancakes with warm real maple syrup. The pancakes were out of this world good. I know it may not sound like a good combination, but trust me…it works! As a child I was exposed to the Mennonite religion on my maternal side–the family often made cottage cheese fritters, which I always enjoyed…so the pancakes infused with moist curds wasn’t a big risk.
- On the opposite side of the palate spectrum are the chorizo and eggs…a signature dish at the Uptown.
- I also tried a build-your-own-omelet and sampled a very decadent dish…crème brulee French toast. Oh my…it was decadent.
Website: The Uptown
The first thing I noticed when entering Finch’s Brasserie was the wood-fired hearth oven. I don’t know what it is, but for me…a hearth oven is a sign of good things to come. The menu at Finch’s is a blend of Mediterranean/American..including traditional and regional dishes from countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, as well as local American favorites. You can get pizza just about anywhere, but few places serve artisan style out of a wood-fired hearth oven…so I just had to see if a Finch’s pizza was good enough to crack my top-10 list of gourmet pizzerias.
- The pizza I ordered was the “The French Quarter,” which had smoking goose tasso, duck fat roasted Yukon gold potatoes, corn, red onion and manchego & mozzarella. Without a doubt the pizza at Finch’s is a worthy inclusion to my top-10 list.
- Next up was the “Muffuletta Sandwich,” which was so unique I had to include it on a “unique eats” post I did. The Muffuletta has mortadella, capicola and sopressata meats with jardiniere (house made pickled vegetable salad) and provolone apenade (house made calamata olive spread) served on a Ciabatta bread.
- I also had an opportunity to try the rabbit cacciatore and cheese & charcuterie as appetizers.
In addition to wood-fired pizzas and the items I mentioned, guests will enjoy pasta dishes, savory entrees and an array of daily specials. The seasonal menu is designed to showcase unique flavor combinations which can be enjoyed with a choice of more than sixty wines and over eighty artisan beers. A buddy of mine lives in Bloomingtion—he and his wife are foodie connoisseurs…he told me that Finch’s is his favorite place in town.
Website: Finch’s Brasserie
The final of the four restaurants is arguably the finest in town…Restaurant Tallent. Chef David Tallent became acquainted with the slow food movement and found inspiration in its principle of using local, seasonal and organic ingredients. Embracing these ideals, the menu at Restaurant Tallent changes several times throughout the year to reflect what’s available in the southern Indiana region. Restaurant Tallent works closely with local farmers and artisan food producers to ensure the highest quality ingredients. The combination of Old World culinary methods and midwestern produce and meats result in a distinctly Indiana cuisine.
During my visit I had the opportunity to splurge on a six-course meal…here are some of the dishes I tried:
- Hors d’ oeuvres included: Head cheese Terrine, foie gras stuffed quail torchon and blackberry mustard with house pickles.
- Next Course: Smoked lake trout crude, summer vegetable escadeche, wild watercress with a lemon dill aioli.
- Third Course: Herbed house-made ricotta tortellini, summer squash with tempura cherry tomato.
- Fourth Course: Indian surf and turf, which was Walleye and braised pork belly, green garlic grits, collard greens, and pickled shiitake in a sherry bacon froth.
- Fifth Course was a bacon wrapped Loesch Farm pork loin, BBQ rib and pimento cheese risotto, summer beans, and a sassafras gastrique (shown).
- Final Course…for dessert I had poppyseed angel food french toast with Indiana peaches, lemon thyme, and house-made vanilla bean ice cream.
Everything at Restaurant Tallent was amazing…from the presentation to the preparation.
Website: Restaurant Tallent
There’s no question if you’re a foodie, you will enjoy the variety of culinary cuisine in Bloomington, Indiana–just make sure that your final four stops are at the above restaurants. Click the following links to see more of my pictures from Bloomington, Indiana.
If you’ve eaten at any of the restaurants I’ve featured here, please leave a comment below and let my readers and me know what you like best. Or, if you have another favorite place in town…tell me about it.