Best Places to Live

Bloomington, IN

Population: 86,048
Photo: Ryan Irvin, Visit

Bloomington, IN is one of the best food cities in America. Like any good college town, Bloomington, delivers when it comes to pizza places and pubs. But the restaurants in Bloomington with refined kitchens, respected chefs, and avant-garde menus make Bloomington a top food town and encourage trying new things. Isn't that what college is all about?

Don't worry, there's plenty of pizza to go around, starting with Mother Bear's Pizza, a favorite among Indiana University students. Inside a kitschy log cabin-like building, the staff at Mother Bear's creates gourmet pies with ingredients such as shredded smoked pork loin, portabella mushrooms, pine nuts and fontina cheese.

Bringing national attention to Bloomington's growing collection of upscale eateries, Chef David Tallent, a two-time James Beard Award nominee, and his wife Kristen, own Restaurant Tallent. The Tallents utilize regionally produced cheeses, fruits, vegetables and Old World culinary methods to deliver a simple menu that's full of complex flavors.

FARMbloomington, the creation of Chef Daniel Orr, specializes in tangy dishes, often reminiscent of island cooking. Below FARMbloomington's main dining area, the night spot Root Cellar Lounge serves up live music and a large drink selection.

A graduate of the New England Culinary Institute, Chef Jeff Finch and his wife Candace opened Finch's Brasserie in 2008. The restaurant's Mediterranean-American menu includes wood-fired pizzettas, Moroccan vegetable tagine, duck locally produced steaks, more than 60 wines and nearly 90 artisan beers.

With imported pastas and fresh seasonal produce, the chefs at Grazie Italian Eatery create heaping plates of food that residents have been lining up for since the restaurant opened more than 10 years ago. Drawing inspiration from New Orleans chefs, Michael Cassady's The Uptown Café serves a collection of gumbos, etouffees, barbecue shrimp and Louisiana hot pepper chicken. 

Annual events like the Week of Chocolate, Wine & Food Festival and Taste of Bloomington celebrate the city's culinary renaissance. Aspiring chefs can take courses at the Bloomington Cooking School, and pick up fresh ingredients at the Bloomington Community Farmers Market.


See where Bloomington ranked on these lists:

Top 10 College Towns 2010

Top 10 College Towns 2012

Top 10 Places to Start a Fall Foliage Tour