Thursday, July 8, 2021
Hidden Gems Near The Square
The Square is the heart of downtown Bloomington, lined with over 30 locally-owned businesses including shops, restaurants, art galleries, and more. There's so much to do directly on The Square, but there are even more incredible businesses and attractions surrounding it. Venture off the beaten path to explore these downtown hidden gems that are in very near proximity to The Square — you just might discover some new favorite places!
Use this navigation list to easily jump from section-to-section:
The Bishop is a live music venue and bar, located two blocks south of The Square on the corner of Walnut and 4th Streets. They pride themselves on never charging a cover to get in, only the cost for tickets on the night of a show. While The Bishop is known for hosting musical acts, they're also open daily as a bar. Proving that they do it all, you'll also find stand-up comedy, dance parties led by local DJs, karaoke, pop-up shops in partnership with other local businesses, and more at the venue.
Insider Tip: While The Bishop is usually a 21+ venue, they host 18+ shows every once in awhile, giving the under 21 crowd a chance to enjoy live music at a local establishment they aren't able to frequent. Check their calendar in advance of your trip if you're traveling with young adults ages 18-20.
The B-Line Trail is a 3.1-mile paved trail that winds through downtown. Part of the trail is located just one block west of The Square, running parallel with Morton Street. It's a great path for walking, running, biking, and roller-skating — beyond exercise, it's also a fantastic way to explore a lot of downtown's offerings. You'll pass several restaurants, local stores, and other attractions; in fact, you could spend the better part of a day on the trail:
Grab coffee at Hopscotch Coffee Roastery in the morning, spend a few hours at the WonderLab Museum, enjoy lunch at Le Petit Cafe, shop for vintage treasures at the Bloomington Antique Mall, head down to Switchyard Park for the afternoon, stop for dinner at Cardinal Spirits, then head back toward The Square for nightlife activities.
Insider Tip: Want to explore the entirety of the B-Line without having to walk several miles? Rent one of the many motorized scooters downtown. Not only will you cover ground much faster on wheel than on foot, but you'll also have a blast (safely) speeding down the trail. Be sure to watch for pedestrians, look both ways before crossing streets, and never operate a scooter while under the influence.
The Bluebird is Bloomington's premier music venue, strictly 21+, located just one block north of The Square on Walnut Street. They book iconic artists such as Jimmy Eat World and Blues Traveler, cover bands including Hairbangers Ball and Back to Mac, and local artists like Hank Ruff and Clayton Anderson. You haven't truly experienced B-Town's live music scene before seeing a show at The Bird — check their digital calendar for all upcoming acts.
Insider Tip: Spend some time perusing the posters that line The Bluebird's walls — they feature big-name artists who have previously played at the venue, including Jason Aldean, Mumford & Sons, John Mellencamp, Kings of Leon, and more. Snap a pic in front of them for the perfect Instagram moment!
The Comedy Attic
The Comedy Attic, Bloomington's first and only full-time comedy club, is located on the corner of Walnut and 4th Streets. The venue has become one of the most respected clubs in the country — many comedians cite B-Town as a destination spot for comedy, and some have even hailed The Comedy Attic the best in the country. Comedians who have performed at The Attic include Amy Schumer, Melissa Villaseñor, Marc Maron, Tig Notaro, Bobcat Goldthwait, and many more.
Insider Tip: Are you a die-hard stand-up fan? Head to Bloomington for Limestone Comedy Festival, an annual three-day event in which over 50 comedians from across the nation perform at The Comedy Attic and other Bloomington venues.
Bars & Breweries
The Alley Bar, located half a block from the Courthouse on West Kirkwood Avenue, is a local-favorite B-Town dive bar. Its casual atmosphere makes it a great place to catch a sports game, grab a beer with friends, or enjoy a laid-back evening with your significant other.
Insider Tip: The Alley is known for their "World Famous" spicy peanuts — ask for some to munch on while you enjoy your drinks!
Brothers Bar & Grill
Brothers is one of the most popular bars in town, located just across the street from The Bluebird. The establishment prides itself on modernizing the "old Midwestern corner tavern," providing locals and visitors a relaxed place to hangout with great food, plenty of cold beer, and endless drink options. At Brothers, you'll find a mix of students, townies, and alumni enjoying daily drink specials, music & dancing, and mouthwatering late-night bites every night of the week.
Insider Tip: Brothers has an upstairs patio at the back of their building — hang out outdoors if the weather allows it.
Gamers will find the ultimate bar experience at The Cade, located right next to Brothers. Bloomington's first (and only) arcade bar offers a wide variety of free-to-play games with 18 stand-up cabinets and 6 consoles. Drinks range from local brews to classic cocktails to spiked slushies — something for everyone to enjoy as they play a game of Mario Kart 64, Guardians of the Galaxy Pinball, or Asteroids!
Insider Tip: The Cade frequently hosts trivia nights with subjects including the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Friends, Rick and Morty, The Office, and much more. First-place winners receive a special prize!
Function Brewing is one of five Bloomington breweries, located right around the corner from The Square's Amrit India on 6th Street. The taproom offers a never-changing supply of their standard beers, as well as rotating offerings on draft. In addition to their beers, they also offer a menu of gourmet sandwiches (which are consistently voted Best in Bloomington), appetizers, desserts, hard ciders, and wines. If you're traveling with kids, you'll be thrilled to know that Function is a family-friendly environment — they even offer a kids menu so the littles can snack while the adults sip.
Insider Tip: Function offers a variety of vegan-friendly plates on their menu — those who follow a plant-based diet will find many delicious creations to choose from.
Kilroy's Sports Bar
Kilroy's Sports Bar, located two blocks north of The Square on Walnut Street, blends the concepts of a sports bar, nightclub, and live music venue to create the ultimate nightlife & entertainment experience. They offer various specials and events, including $2.00 Tuesdays, Live in the Atrium, an annual masquerade ball, and more. If you're looking to experience some of Bloomington's best nightlife, Sports should definitely be on your list.
Insider Tip: Kilroy's Sports offers private party packages — if you're planning a bachelor/bachelorette party in B-Town, visit their website to learn more about customized event experiences.
The Orbit Room is technically on The Square, but it's a true hidden gem: find the narrow cubby between Blooming Thai and J.L. Waters & Co., then head down the staircase into the dive bar. Enjoy live music, karaoke, pinball, and an ever-changing menu of gourmet hotdogs in the eclectic underground bar.
Insider Tip: The Orbit Room offers a weekly pinball league night — passionate pinballers are challenged to put their skills to the test with the best of the best in B-Town.
Switchyard Brewing Co.
Located three blocks north of The Square on Walnut Street, Switchyard Brewing Co. offers a variety of unique, locally-brewed beers that will inspire you to come back for more each time you visit B-Town. Their in-house pizza kitchen and food truck partnerships ensure that you'll never be hungry, whether you're savoring a slice or grabbing a Mac Daddy from the Big Cheeze. The best part? Switchyard is a family-friendly environment — travelers with littles are more than welcome to stop by.
Insider Tip: Switchyard frequently offers events including live music, yoga in the taproom, "Parents & Pints," neighborhood clean-ups, trivia nights, and more — check out their Facebook page for the most up-to-date information.
The Video Saloon
The Video Saloon, known by locals as "The Vid," stands on the corner of Walnut and 7th Streets above The Cade. A true dive bar, The Vid offers several pool tables and dart boards for patrons to enjoy while sipping their drinks. The drink selection is straightforward — both craft and macro beers, plus a full bar — and the general ambiance is unglamorous yet eclectic.
Insider Tip: Bring your quarters to play Pop-a-Shot. Have a tournament with friends — loser has to buy the winner a drink!
Located just a few business-fronts south of The Bluebird, the Village Pub is a gastropub that offers gourmet appetizers, flatbreads, tacos, skewers, sliders, and pub plates. They frequently host live music acts, offer a patio with a great view of The Square, and serve some of the most unique food in town. If you're looking for a higher-end yet still casual and relaxed bar experience, the Village Pub is the spot for you.
Insider Tip: Pups are welcome on the patio at the Village Pub — if you're traveling with furry friends, feel free to bring them with you on a leash.
Cup & Kettle Tea Co.
Cup & Kettle Tea Co., located across the street from Brothers, is one of Bloomington's two dedicated teahouses. They serve 50 different teas in the following categories: black teas, black tea blends, green teas, green tea blends, Pu'erh teas, oolong teas, white teas, white tea blends, Rooibos, and herbal blends. Enjoy your brew in their relaxing tearoom or on the patio with a view of the Monroe County Courthouse — they offer iced and hot tea, so a trip into the shop is the perfect break from an afternoon downtown during any season.
Insider Tip: While Cup & Kettle serves tea in-house, their unique offering is their monthly tea subscription: for $15.00 per month, subscribers receive four different varieties of tea plus a tea ball infuser to get started on the tea journey.
B-Town Diner is truly one of those blink-and-you-might-miss-it hole-in-the-wall establishments. Just south of Brothers on the corner of the same building strip, you'll find one of Bloomington's few classic diners. Breakfast is served all day, along with an assortment of burgers & sandwiches, hot plates, and salads. If you're craving some homestyle cooking while you explore downtown, look no further than this hidden gem.
Insider Tip: B-Town Diner offers six varieties of loaded fries — upgrade your side to include loaded toppings, or share a big basket among friends.
Located just two business-fronts west of the Alley Bar, Crazy Horse is known for their frequent drink specials, happy hour, huge food menu, and vast selection of beer & spirits. The Bloomington staple is a popular spot for students, locals, and visitors, as it's a great place to sit back and take in B-Town's energy while enjoying great food and drinks.
Insider Tip: Crazy Horse offers Around the World in 80 Beers, a long-standing tradition in which guests can indulge in 80 beers from various places around the world and receive a special t-shirt and a plaque on Crazy Horse's wall commemorating their status as a beer connoisseur. Visit their website for the full rules.
The Irish Lion, located next to the Alley Bar, is a Bloomington mainstay for Irish comfort food. The pub is in a remodeled building that's stood in town since the 1800s, and on any given night, you can find families enjoying dinner in the restaurant or friends catching up over a Guinness at the bar. Their soda bread is a delight, the coddle is hearty enough to keep you full for hours, and their famous Blarney puffballs are an absolute must. If you're looking for an extremely unique meal in B-Town, The Lion is a great choice.
Insider Tip: The Irish Lion offers a secret garden-esque patio, called The Glen, tucked between two downtown buildings near their pub. If the weather allows it, we highly recommend experiencing the whimsical ambiance of outdoor area.
La Una Cantina
La Una Cantina, located just a few business-fronts north of The Bluebird at the corner of Walnut and 7th Streets, is a Mexican restaurant and tequila bar with the goal of putting a modern spin on traditional dishes. The cantina offers a variety of chips & dips, tortas, shareables, tacos, enchiladas, and dinner entrees. They're also known for their margarita selection and tequila flights — definitely order one or the other with your meal if you're in the 21+ crowd.
Insider Tip: La Una Cantina offers coupons on their website — download and print yours to save on your meal or get a free appetizer!
Pili's Party Taco Truck & Deli
Pili's Party Taco is a Bloomington food truck that sells authentic Mexican tacos & street fare, with meat options including carnitas, árabe, asada, and other varieties. Pili's has not one, but two taco trucks in town, and is the venture that led to Pili's Party Deli, a Mexican market just a block south of The Square. Inspired by her home town of Puebla, Mexico, owner Maria del Pilar Gonzales is proud to share her authentic recipes with B-Town's residents & visitors.
Insider Tip: You can usually find one of Pili's Party Taco Trucks parked in front of the Deli on Walnut Street, but check their Facebook page for the most up-to-date location of both trucks.
Rockit's Famous Pizza
Rockit's is a popular late-night destination for the nightlife crowd in B-Town due to its convenient location next to The Bluebird and across the street from Brother's, The Vid, and The Cade, Rockit's offers a variety of rock-and-roll themed pizzas, sold by the slice or by the pie, for anyone craving a late-night slice. It's the perfect post-bar snack before heading back to your hotel for the night.
Insider Tip: Not feeling pizza? Place an order for garlic bread!
Yogi's Bar & Grill
Located two blocks north of The Square on the corner of Walnut and 7th Streets, Yogi's is a beloved Hoosier alumni favorite that was recently rebranded. The interior of the restaurant is decked out in Hoosier fanfare and memorabilia, as well as cool art including neon signs and a mural. The restaurant serves a pretty epic menu of appetizers, sliders & burgers, wings, sandwiches & wraps, desserts, and more. They also offer daily drink specials, weekend brunch, and a variety of fun games, including darts, pool, foosball, shuffle board, board games, and more, in their Side Bar.
Insider Tip: Yogi's is family-friendly! Pop in for a meal during your visit — be sure to play a few games in the Side Bar before or after you eat.
DK Sweets, located on the same block as Soul Juice, just further north on College Avenue, is a locally-owned sweets shop created by a mother/daughter duo. They specialize in chocolate confections, specifically their fudge, but they also sell classic candies like Pop Rocks and lollipops, krispie treats and varieties of chocolate bark, malt balls and truffles, Jelly Bellies, and much more. They even churn their own ice cream to be enjoyed by the scoop or in a milkshake. It's the perfect spot for anyone craving something sweet, or for families traveling with kids.
Insider Tip: Can't make it into the shop? DK accepts online orders and will ship them right to your front door. Create your own order of confections, or select one of their subscription boxes for a sweet surprise.
Located next to Pili's Party Deli on Walnut Street, Landlocked Music is Bloomington's premier music store. The retailer sells records, CDs, cassettes, DVDs, turntables, magazines, and more — if it's of-interest to music lovers, Landlocked is likely to have it. They also offer a buy/trade program for anyone looking to sell their gently-used CDs, LPs, DVDs, cassettes, and any other material you'd like them to take a look at. Landlocked buys and sells all genres of music and will even take special orders for customers at no additional cost with no money down.
Insider Tip: Planning to see a show at The Bishop? Purchase your tickets in advance at Landlocked rather than waiting to buy them at the door the night of the show.
One of The Square's best hidden gems, SLCT Stock is located across the street from Brothers between The Bluebird and Cup & Kettle Tea Co. The apparel store carries a variety of vintage sneakers, t-shirts, hats, and other clothing & accessories. If you love to collect old-school pop culture tees, designer clothing & accessories, and IU apparel, SLCT Stock is going to be your new favorite store — it's one of the best places in town to shop for IU gear and vintage fashion items.
Insider Tip: Due to the curated nature of SLCT's stock, items tend to fly off the shelves — follow them on their social channels to stay up-to-date with all new items in the store.
Vintage Phoenix Comic Books
Vintage Phoenix Comic Books, located next to Function Brewing, is a must for all superhero, anime, and general comic book lovers, as it's a destination for comics, graphic novels, action figures, and more. Marvel-obsessed fans will delight in a trip to the shop, as they carry comics related to the film adaptations and storylines that have yet to hit the big screen. While they have plenty of superhero material to pour over, they carry other genres for readers of all ages as well — it's a great place to visit for both kids and adults.
Insider Tip: Vintage Phoenix holds an annual Free Comic Book Day on the first Saturday of May every year. Visit the shop on that day to score a free comic book, no strings attached!
Looking for more hidden gems and things to do downtown? Check out these blogs:
How to Spend a Day on Kirkwood
Kirkwood Avenue is chock-full of shops, eateries, bars, and picture-perfect views.
Fourth Street Restaurant Round-Up
Fourth Street Restaurant Round-Up
Find everything you need to know about the beloved authentic international restaurants on 4th Street!
Most Insta-Worthy Places
Most Insta-Worthy Places
Find Bloomington's best spots to take photos during your trip.
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