Travel the World Without Leaving Bloomington, Indiana
I love living in a college town. Universities seem to curate a beautifully eclectic environment where there is always something going on. In Bloomington, that translates into a vibrant campus with tons of performing arts, film, music, art and more on campus throughout the year. That diversity and activity bleeds over into the town too creating an incredibly unique restaurant scene for a small city. With over 75 different international restaurants in Bloomington representing 18 different countries, you really can travel the globe in a weekend without leaving Bloomington. Here's how...
Lunch at Turkuaz
Whenever I'm traveling I always start and end with food; this guide is no exception. When you arrive in town, check in to your hotel then head out for lunch. I'd recommend Turkuaz Cafe for traditional Turkish fare. I fell in love with Turkey on a trip in grad school and I'm so thankful to have 2 Turkish restaurants in Bloomington so I can get my fix anytime. Turkuaz has a delicious lunch buffet with just about any dish you can imagine. You can order off the menu too; my go to is usually a traditional pide (kind of like pizza). Pide plates are a good deal too because they come with a tabbouli and cucumber salad. For the full experience take your shoes off and sent in the kilim den on the floor surrounded by plush pillows. Don't forget the cay (tea) and baklava.
Explore Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center
After lunch head south to the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center. This center was established by Indiana University Professor Emeritus Thubten J. Norbu in 1979 to acquaint people with the history and culture of Tibet and to support Tibetans everywhere. All are welcome to visit. Wander the grounds and see the only two Tibetan chortens in the nation and venture inside and see intricate sand mandalas and butter sculptures among other works of art. Throughout the year there are workshops, retreats, and other events hosted here. You can even rent one of their yurts for your own mini getaway. Best part of this incredible place? It is free to visit. Don't forget to check out the gift shop.
Dinner on 4th Street
4th Street is Bloomington's unofficial international restaurant row. There are countless options so I would recommend just walking this street and see what sounds good. There's Korean, Thai, Indiana, Burmese, Tibetan, and more. One of my absolute favorites is Burma Garden (formerly Mandalay) for some of the best pho in town. Anyetsang’s Little Tibet is incredibly unique offering Tibetan, Thai, and Indian cuisine with their specialty being momo dumplings. Can't decide on one place? Go big and get appetizers at a few different places.
The Irish Lion
After dinner, check out The Irish Lion. The building was built in 1892 and historically has been a bar on the ground floor and a hotel upstairs. In 1979, the McConnaughy family purchased the building to restore it and create a real Irish pub and it's been that way ever since. They of course serve traditional Irish pub fare like corned beef and cabbage but they have a variety of imported beers on tap, Guiness of course, and an array of Irish whiskeys.
On Sundays Le Petit Cafe serves up a multi course brunch for $12. Yes you read that correctly, $12. The plates are small but mighty. Come with a big appetite and enjoy cheese puffs, buckwheat crepes, and croque madame to name a few. This mom and pop restaurant is run by a sweet French couple that make you feel like you're dining in their family home rather than a restaurant. They wait on tables, prepare, and serve all the meals; it is amazing. If you're in town longer than a day or two, dinner here is a must.
Art of the World
Trust me when I say you'll need to walk around a bit after brunch... The Eskenazi Museum of Art at Indiana University is a great place to explore art from all over the world. The building alone is really impressive; designed by Chinese-American I.M. Pei, the museum is like a modern sculpture with sharp angles throughout and a beautiful atrium for the entryway. Their permanent collection is impressive with galleries dedicated to European, African, Asian, Pre-Columbian, and South Pacific artwork. Highlights include: Picasso, Duchamp, Judd, and more.
This is just a taste of the vivid cultural scene in Bloomington. For more info on all of the international restaurants click here. If you're interested in finding out more about Bloomington, let me know in the comments!