This issue is our Summer Guide, so I thought I’d write about a fun, newly discovered (by me, that is) town that’s only a two-hour drive from here. I’m a little late to the party, so bear with me if you’re an Indiana University grad and are, like, “Duh, Bar Belle. I’ve been partying in Bloomington since long before Bill Clinton fondled an intern!”
I had heard the legends of Bloomington, Ind., for years — drinks that’ll knock you on your ass; drinking games that’ll put you to shame; a craft beer mecca that rivals that of Portland; rows of colorful mismatched housing; where John Mellencamp and Meg Ryan are sometimes spotted; a college that touts groundbreaking studies on sex; a beautiful campus; hippies, lesbians and vegans, oh my! But it wasn’t until my girlfriend relocated to Bloomington that I actually decided to give it my full attention and take it on a test drive. Not only is it a fun little party town, but it corners like it’s on rails.
I thought Louisville reigned supreme when it came to pizza, and I’m a Wick’s girl at heart. But one bite of a Mother Bear’s deep-dish Chicago-style pizza made me realign my best-pizza-ever list — and it went straight to the top. I haven’t stopped talking about it since I sank my teeth into that first slice, so my friends are a bit annoyed and jealous. Bloomington boasts several other pizza joints — Lennie’s, Café Pizzaria, Pizza X — but none can melt my cheese and spread my sauce like Mother Bear’s.
The progressive college town is also sprinkled with cute little breakfast and brunch spots like Runcible Spoon (which offers $12 mimosa pitchers), Scholar’s Inn, Sweet Grass and Uptown Café, and laidback coffee shops like Rachael’s and Soma (whose public bathroom resembles a shrine — the toilet is literally on a platform, which makes you feel like you’re pissing like a king). Surprisingly, there are also some fancy cocktail bars and upscale lounges, but so far I’ve only been to one — The Rail — because, I suppose, my girlfriend knows I prefer cheap beer and flip cup.
Simple yet necessary college bars fill in the gaps between pizza and coffee shops — much like Bardstown Road. These are where I’ve spent most of my time — trying to relive the glory days of college by drinking warm draft beer, chugging bright blue cocktails that include more than four liquors, and lurking in a corner as frat boys play beer pong, hoping they’ll pick me next round. Nick’s is the most famous, and I’ve written before about the challenging Sink the Biz drinking game they offer. I was so enamored by the game, I bought a home version.
There are two spots that tout popular drinks you must try if you’re looking to leave your troubles behind in a timely fashion. The first is the AMF (Adios Mother Fucker) at the Upstairs Pub, and then the Hairy Bear at Bear’s Place. The AMF was neon blue and most likely 40 ounces of liquor and sour mix. I enjoyed the pinkish Hairy Bear a bit more for its taste — but once I got to the bottom, I forgot how to spell taste. There’s a less strong version of the Hairy Bear, appropriately titled Hairy Beaver. Oh, college.
Finally, the beer scene in Bloomington is just as thriving and vibrant as ours. You’ve probably heard of the Upland Brewery, which has a semi-upscale restaurant there, but there’s also Bloomington Brewing Co. (they currently have a delicious Blueberry Blonde Ale), Function Brewing (I tried a Red IPA and was highly impressed), The Tap, and the recently opened Quaff on Bloomington, where I spent last Saturday doing research on the Haretrigger IPA, Bourbon Busted Knuckle, a beer/ice cream float made with their Hazelnut Coffee Stout, and a Shooting Star Black Mimosa. They also make their own beef jerky, so I had no reason to leave. Don’t judge.
So there — that’s, like, at least 20 reasons to road trip to Bloomington, right? I didn’t even mention Cresent Donut or the Chocolate Moose. It’s much closer than Asheville, much cheaper than Nashville and, this time of year, there are hardly any students around — so you won’t feel as old as you look.
Drunk Text of the Week
• What’s an inch or two between friends?
• I dont dine on the swine. Im no chubby chaser
• A drunk man’s words are a sober man’s thoughts