Bloomington, Indiana, is a lovely university town. I am very fortunate to have spent the last five years of my life there, surrounded by lots of great people in a fun town. One great thing about being a part of a huge university town is that there is no shortage of fun (and affordable!) stuff to do.
Here are some short reviews of some bar favorites in Btown:
The Upstairs: This was probably our favorite bar, especially the last year or two that we were there. It is a long, narrow bar that often gets pretty crowded late. We always like to go have some beers and play darts here. The specialty drink here is an AMF which is a blue drink that comes in a large cup and has several shots in it. One of these will definitely get your night going, though they are a little sugary for my taste. They also come in “baby AMF” size for the more faint of heart. Fun fact: This was the first and only time I have ever seen a dart “Robin-Hooded” (one dart hits and sticks to the tail of a dart already on the board) and it happened twice in the same game!
House Bar: This bar was across the street from where we lived our last year in Bloomington. Literally less than 100 yards away…talk about convenience! The real charm of this bar is in it’s super cheap drinks ($1 PBRs all the time) as well it’s outdoor area. The backyard is actually outside and consists of picnic tables and simple outdoor seating. It has rope lights strung across throughout to provide just enough lighting so that you can sit outside on nice evenings. (Side note: It is a cash only bar, though they have an ATM right there in case you need it.)
Nick’s: This is a Bloomington classic and favorite, especially among younger alums coming back into town for games and events. (If you want to actually get in for a big game, then you have to arrive at least a few hours in advance.) Sink the Biz is the game of choice here, an excellent drinking game involving steady hands and a constant stream (you’ll see what I mean once you try it). Nick’s also has some pretty solid food, especially the pizzas and strombolis.
Crazy Horse: This is probably my favorite bar to order food at. They make a mean cheese steak and I’d also highly recommend the cajun chicken pita. They also have a small outdoor patio area, and this is usually one of our favorite places to stop and enjoy a pitcher of beer (and maybe some nachos!) outside when it’s a nice day out. They also do 1/2 priced bottles of wine on Sundays (and I believe Wednesdays) for the vino lovers.
Yogi’s: This is another favorite place to order food. (Side note: they recently re-did their entire menu and tried to “class it up” a little. The food is still good, though I would expect a bit of a price hike in the near future.) Yogi’s does lots of fun beers and each day there is a different beer special based on the brewery location (i.e. all Michigan beers $1 off on a certain day). Yogi’s also has a really neat section of their bar where they can completely open all of the windows and ceiling so it is as if you are sitting outside. This is also a good place to watch any kind of sporting event.
Oliver Winery: Not a bar. But it is a fun and very popular little place to go for some wine tasting (it is no longer free – it is now $5), and it also has a great outdoor area for sitting outside or picnics while enjoying some wine. They do let you bring your own food if you want, but they also have plenty of snacky things to buy there to go along with your bottle. It’s a few miles outside of town (maybe a 10minute drive), but it’s worth the trip. And if you’re not up for the short drive, then you can now go the new location that is on the main square. You can do tastings in the form of flights or order a bottle, and they have a dessert menu for food as well.
The Blue Bird: If you’re looking for live music, this is probably where you’ll want to be. And if you’re looking for cheap beer on a Wednesday night to go along with that live music, then this is definitely where you’ll end up, for the 15cent drafts. You really can’t beat spending an entire Wednesday night drinking and listening to live music only to find that you have racked up a whopping $3 tab while buying drinks for your entire group of friends.
Brothers: This bar came to town my second year at IU and immediately became a popular spot. So much so, that it stole enough drinkers away from Jake’s (once wildly popular) which is now closed down. It could be viewed as somewhat fratty, though not overly so. This is often a place that people hang out at before they head to Sports around 12:30-1am for some dirty dancing. (Side note: The last few times I went to Brothers there were substantially fewer people there than I was accustomed to…I’m not sure if that’s a coincidence or a new trend.)
The Vid: The Vid is located right next to/above Brothers and is a deceivingly large bar filled with a variety of individuals, though it is mostly dominated with graduate students, hipsters, and local “townies.” There are a bunch of pool tables, dart boards, and a pop-a-shot basketball game. (Side note: It used to be a cash bar, though I believe the last time I was there they were accepting credit cards.)
Sports: This is one of the Kilroy’s bars that dominates the Btown scene (the other two are Kilroy’s on Kirkwood or “KOK” and The Dunnkirk, neither of which I particularly care for). This is the closest thing that Bloomington has to a “club” of any kind. It’s a huge bar that has a very large outdoor area with lots of seating (they often also grill out during big events), and an upstairs area which is where the actual “club” part is. They have a DJ and dirty rap music with lots of grinding in a sweaty, packed room (I think one night of the week it’s actually techno/house music instead of rap). You have to see it to believe it. If it’s not your cup of tea, then the downstairs area is much more of a “normal” bar. This bar is more expensive than most and is one of the very few that has a cover and generally a long line to get in starting around 1-1:30am. Wednesday night is 1/2 price drink night, which is nice. Also, during the summer they often don’t have a cover.
Atlas: A hipster’s paradise. It also has a couple of Skee-Ball machines in the bar which makes for something very entertaining (and a little unique) to do while there. It is a newer bar and a block or two off the beaten path, but a fun place to stop by.
The Tapp: This place was just opening up as we were leaving, but was a great place the couple of times I stopped by. It is geared towards the slightly more mature crowd (not necessarily old), and feels like a bar you might encounter in Chicago rather than a “student bar.” They have a ton of beers on tapp (hence the name), though they are a little pricey for a Btown bar ($4-$6 per beer).
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These were some favorites in Btown over the past five years. Pretty much all of them are some of the “mainstream” IU bars that are found on or near Kirkwood or Walnut streets. Depending on the particular night and/or occasion, I often found myself at one of these places – they each had their highlights.
To be sure, it was the people made the fun happen – from Em (once she was old enough to drink!), to my roommate and great friend (until he kicked me out for his wife! – though they still hung around), to the 2nd generation NC leaner guys, to optometry party people, to DPU/NC/IU friends making visits for tailgates and other events. It wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun without all of you.
I guess that makes the next task to find some new bars and great places to hang out here so that when all of those people start visiting us (yes, we have a room for you all!), we will have fun places to check out!
But for now, bye bye, Btown! It was a good run.
PS. If I’ve missed any of your favorite Bloomington bars, please leave a comment and let me know!!