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We want to take you behind the scenes, to give you insider information you won't find anywhere else. This is where we pull Bloomington's hip happenings together with recommendations from our team, first-hand accounts from project producers, and guest blogs by local gurus.  The Backstage Blog helps you stay in front of it all.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Touch of Small Town Class

Categories: The IU Student Perspective, Wine & Culinary

Blogger's Note: This is the first of what will probably be many posts written by guest bloggers throughout the Bloomington Community. This take on the classy side of B-town's nightlife is brought to us by the "Nightlife Intern."

Streets crawling with crimson and cream, undergrads enjoying a pitcher of their favorite brew on a red bricked patio, ambitious high school seniors experiencing the reflection of limestone architecture on the Jordan River for the first time, a local musician with a change filled baseball cap between him and his guitar case, and the smell of Janko's steak house from the town square; without hesitation or equivocation, I can honestly say that there is no more special place that I have traveled to than Bloomington, Indiana. But who, you may ask, am I?

I'm a graduating intern for the Bloomington Monroe County Convention and Visitors Bureau. In my four years studying tourism at Indiana University, I have traveled throughout the country and abroad experiencing many different places. My passion is travel, and my senses are constantly telling me I need more. I truly plan on working to live, not the other way around.  In the next couple months I will use my experience and passion to periodically write about the nightlife, entertainment, food and spirits, which keep thousands of people each year bleeding crimson and cream, awaiting their next visit to the rolling limestone hills of Bloomington, Indiana.

In June, I will experience my first birthday within the borders of my Alma Mater. I was sitting down with a couple of friends when Mom called with news that she would be "dropping by" for the special occasion. Suddenly, my plans of singing "Midnight Train" and "Take Me Home Tonight" with a juke box and a couple hundred undergraduates have changed. Although fun for me, many parents (including mine) don't normally go for that scene. I had to find some entertainment that is baby boomer friendly but not too uptight. This got me thinking, what are some great bars for middle-aged travelers, visiting parents, and college students?  With Greek alumni weekends, parent weekends, commencement and Broadway shows coming to town regularly, I would imagine that I couldn't be the only student, or even parent/middle-aged traveler who has begged for an answer to that question. 

Fortunately, Bloomington is home to a myriad of venues with excellent wine tasting, martinis, cocktails, margaritas and beer that are perfect for the grown-up traveler. Whether you're a student planning a weekend for your parents, parents planning a weekend for yourself, or just passing through and interested in a little more class than your average college bar, here are a couple picks that are sure to impress.

For live jazz, great cocktails, a small-town culture, and a lot of great wine, Jazz at the Station is a great pick. Jazz at the station is located in between Walnut Street and College Avenue in a renovated train station. This hot spot features great food, great drinks, and nightly live entertainment that all jazz lovers are sure to enjoy. 

For an upscale, yet surprisingly casual, ambiance look no further than Malibu Grill located on Walnut Street in downtown, just across from the courthouse. This trendy hot spot has been a regular stop for noted alums, pro athletes, and local enthusiasts. Malibu is home to Bloomington's only wood fire oven, and possibly the best mojitos in town. The bar staff is excellent and sure to make you feel like a regular no matter how many times you enter the doors. They also serve great cocktails and martinis. You might even catch their house pianist playing on the grand piano.

If wine is on your list, Bloomington offers some marvelous selections.  My personal favorite and closest to campus is Tutto Bene. Tutto Bene, located on the corner of Rogers Street and Kirkwood Avenue, offers a great wine selection, amazing French décor, great cheese platters and appetizers. It's an amazing spot for a date, social, or just to drop in and relax. They offer unbelievably comfortable seating for groups of all sizes in their champagne room-like-booths.

Maybe you just want to catch a beer with Dad in a casual but not too rowdy atmosphere. For this you might try Crazy Horse on Kirkwood.  They have a huge selection and great menu. Case in point, Bloomington is home to anything you might be looking for.  If the wild party scene is your prerogative, it's certainly not too hard to find.  However, Bloomington is also home to a surfeit amount of great restaurants, classy wineries, and trendy entertainment that Mom, Dad, Aunt, Uncle, Grandma, and Grandpa are all sure to appreciate.  For the birthday weekend with the folks, I think I'll do Jazz at the Station, then a night cap at Crazy Horse for a brew with Dad. So if you are planning on stopping into town and want to avoid turntables and the regular two dollar drink crowd, or you are expecting visitors and you want to show them uptown class with a little small town hospitality, keep Bloomington on your list.   

Tosha Daugherty

Tosha Daugherty

Tosha was the primary contributor to the B-town Blog during her tenure as content coordinator. Her blogs covered a number of topics, from family activities to outdoor excursions.