Jihye Chang

“Esan Thai”

My Favorite Restaurants in Bloomington, IN


I spent a good deal of my 20s in Bloomington, Indiana, where I got my graduate degrees and met my husband.

Our main activity while we were dating was eating out in various little restaurants in downtown Bloomington. Bloomington has a huge selection of ethnic restaurants (especially along the 4th street), and many of them are very lovely and still in business. The last time I was in Bloomington was January 2008 when I visited for a solo recital. Here are some of my (and Ben, my husband’s) favorite places.

Downtown/4th street area/ Square

•    Le Petite Café – owned and operated by real French people! A charming, lovely place with great home-style French food. Weird hours, though. 308 West 6th St. ****

•    Runcible Spoon – very friendly yet strange deco. Really nice breakfast and coffee. Good place to just hang out. This one is a bit difficult to find…can’t explain. 412 E 6th St. ***+1/2
•    The Bakehouse on the Downtown Square – great baguette (Especially when it’s just baked in the morning!!) and good sandwiches. It’s a pricey place but baguette is priced nicely, and their breads are very good. But they have lost their quality ever since they opened the second store on the 3rd street. ***+1/2
•    Samira on the downtown square– OK lunch buffet. Rare Afghanistan cuisine with elegant atmosphere. The food is awesome but it’s a bit pricey during the dinner time. ***
•    Malibu Grill on the square – good contemporary American food (good steak and brick-oven pizza). A bit pricey. ***+1/2
•    Michael’s Uptown Café – Great breakfast/ good lunch deal/ OK Creole food. Make sure you try their Cottage Cheese Pancakes! Expect a very long wait for breakfasts, especially during weekends. *** (A lot of people really like “Village Deli” for the breakfast, but I did not care for it that much.)
•    Soma café – very good espresso and smoothies. Operates La Marzzoco machine. This place smells funny, though. ***

Drinks and pub
•    Upland brewery 350 W 11th St. – very nice dinner menu and good beer. Good place to hang out! 350 W. 11th Street ***
•    Irish Lion – great appetizers! (fried potato balls with Irsh name and soda breads are awesome. Also they have nice buffalo wings – get the sauce on the side!) Nice beer selection/ great hang-out, post-concert place.  ***
•    Lennie’s on 10th St. – good beer/ good and large sandwiches. Their food in general is decent, although it could be too huge and bland. ***

UPDATE as of 2018 March: Everything listed above is still in business and doing well. (Yelp rating on Malibu grill and Bakehouse is not the best, though.)

Others – not my favorite, but good enough places (Updated March 2018 – took out places that do not exist any more or not popular any more. It seems there are a lot of Korean restaurants now!) 

Dagwood on Indiana Ave. – good sandwich place. Locally owned, and better than Jimmy Johns. Huge portion. ***+1/2

Little Tibet on the 4th St.– a very popular place, but the food quality is uneven. Lunch is pretty cheap, though. Their Pad Thai, Momo (Tibetan dumplings), and Ping Sha (Thibetan glass noodle dish) are good enough to try. ***

Anatolia – Flavorul, nice atmosphere ***

Turkuaz Cafe – Pide! ***

Esan Thai near the public library, on Lincoln – this restaurant used to be my favorite, but the food quality seemed a bit lowered when I ate there in 2008. Still serves really good Thai food. Service can be very frustrating. People seem to still like Siam House and the service is better there. Siam House Thai food is OK, but it’s on the salty side and it just feels like it comes from not-so-clean kitchen.  ***+1/2

Indianapolis Area

•    Capri’s Italian Restaurant near Keystone Shopping mall area– The best Bolognese sauce in the world! And the Bolognese is around $15. Also their lunch deal is pretty good. This is where my husband proposed to me, near the wine cellar!