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Friday, March 19, 2021

How to Spend a Day on Kirkwood Avenue

Categories: Shopping, Wine & Culinary, Arts & Culture

Disclaimer: Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we realize some visitors may not currently feel comfortable dining inside restaurants. In the meantime, please support your favorite local restaurants with carryout or delivery instead! Be prepared to wear face coverings, practice physical distancing, and call ahead as hours of operation may be different than posted. Above all, thank you for supporting Bloomington's restaurants and shops.

Kirkwood Avenue is the most iconic street in Bloomington. Bold statement, we know, but considering its lineup of legendary bars & restaurants and entrance into Indiana University's campus through the famous Sample Gates, it simply can't be denied. Kirkwood is a popular destination for students, photographers, alumni, families, and visitors alike. Chock-full of shops, eateries, bars, and picture-perfect views, it's incredibly easy to spend an entire day on the avenue — which is exactly what we're suggesting!


Exterior of Greetings on Kirkwood

From boutiques to IU swag to specialty stores, there's a variety of (mostly) small businesses to shop while you explore Kirkwood.

  • Fashion-forward // The fashion lover will find heaven-on-earth in Pitaya, a chic and trendy boutique that carries women's clothing and accessories. There's also a two-story Urban Outfitters near Sample Gates for those seeking big-city fashion in our small town.
  • Cream & Crimson // Those in the market for some new IU gear will have a blast perusing Tracks, The Indiana Shop, Greetings, Indiana Varsity Shop, and Underground Printing. Tracks is not only known for their original Hoosier merch, but also for their extensive CD and vinyl record collection. For classic IU apparel & memorabilia, check out The Indiana Shop. The Hoosier sports fan should pop into Indiana Varsity Shop, the official store of IU Athletics. If you're searching for unique tees and other IU- and Bloomington-related clothing, Greetings and Underground Printing should be your go-tos.
  • Specialty finds // Book enthusiasts will love Book Corner, a family-owned, independent book store that carries best sellers, classics, children's books, unique gifts, and more. Passionate cyclists should definitely check out Bicycle Garage, Inc., a full-service bicycle store & repair shop that also offers bike rentals. Those with an interest in handmade jewelry, exotic rocks, and crystals could spend hours poring over the selection of items at Moon Stones


Three bowls from Laughing Planet Cafe

Where are our foodies? You're going to want to visit B-Town as many times as it takes you to try every restaurant on Kirkwood — they're all that good.

  • Casual dining // In the mood for a casual bite at a fair price? Kirkwood has plenty of options. If you're hankering for Chinese food, try Lotus Garden. Craving some 'za? Order a pie from Cafe Pizzaria. Sushi lovers and Korean food enthusiasts will enjoy Japonee Express. Want a Chicago-style hotdog or deli sandwich? Fat Dan's Chicago-Style Deli is your place. Those who love healthy, whole foods should try Laughing Planet Cafe, whose menu includes California-style burritos, bowls, and quesadillas. Searching for teriyaki and sushi? Z & C Teriyaki & Sushi serves both, counter-service style. In the mood for a Mediterranean meal? Trojan Horse offers gyros, falafel, pita melts, and more. We told you: plenty of options.
  • Upscale cuisine // If you're celebrating a special occasion or are simply looking for a fine-dining experience, Uptown Cafe and FARMbloomington are the places to go on Kirkwood. Uptown serves gourmet New Orleans-style, Cajun- and Creole-inspired fare, and FARM is known for their seasonal farm-to-table-style dishes that infuse local food with global flavors.
  • Breakfast club // Looking for a local breakfast or brunch joint? Village Deli is a local-favorite. Their plate-sized buttermilk pancakes and Paxton's potatoes are two of their most-talked-about dishes. Uptown and FARM also offer an incredible upscale brunch if you're seeking a more extravagant meal to start your day with.
  • Sweet tooth // Craving a sweet treat? Blu Boy Chocolate Cafe & Cakery, Hartzell's Ice Cream, and Insomnia Cookies are Kirkwood's dessert venues. Blu Boy offers beautiful from-scratch, gourmet chocolates & desserts; Hartzell's serves homemade ice cream in a wide range of traditional & unique flavors, and Insomnia sells warm cookies & brownies from 11:00 am-3:00 am — making it the perfect post-bar-crawl snack shack.
  • Pubs & grub // Those in search of a brewpub atmosphere will love Lennie's and Nick's English Hut. Both eateries are well-known local favorites — People flock to Lennie's for their huge strombolis, gourmet pizzas, and handcrafted ales from Bloomington Brewing Company. Nick's is an IU institution for students, alumni, and fans, standing at its Kirkwood location since 1927. The tavern is known for its energetic game-day atmosphere, Sink the Biz fries, and Sink the Biz drinking game. 
  • Meals on wheels // If you're in B-Town during the warmer months, you'll likely see a few food trucks parked on the avenue. Grab some tacos from La Poblana Taco Truck, a mac 'n' cheese-stuffed grilled cheese from The Big Cheeze, or a gyro from Doner Kebab, then enjoy your street food at an outdoor table at People's Park.

If you're a fan of outdoor dining, we have good news for you. In an effort to make the Kirkwood dining experience as safe and comfortable as possible, the City of Bloomington is reintroducing pedestrian-only spaces on three blocks of Kirkwood Avenue from March 25 through June 30. The timeline is tentative and could be updated due to changes in the status of the COVID-19 pandemic.

See the Sights

Village Deli Mural on Kirkwood

Kirkwood also offers a handful of sights to see, each perfect for snapping a photo to post on the 'Gram or to fondly remember your time in B-Town. If you do share a photo on Instagram, be sure to tag us and use #visitbtown

  • Street art // Kirkwood is home to three murals: the People's Park mural located on the side of Bicycle Garage, Inc., the Graduate hotel mural, and the Village Deli mural located in the alley between Tracks and Village Deli. They all make for the perfect photo backdrop, so snap a pic of yourself and your squad in front of all three!
  • Iconic landmarks // Sample Gates and the Buskirk-Chumley Theater are the must-see, legendary landmarks on Kirkwood Avenue. The Sample Gates, built in 1987, serve as the gateway between the IU and Bloomington communities. Located at the top of Kirkwood, the Gates look onto the street's iconic venues and at the Courthouse in the distance on The Square. It's the number one photo destination on campus — a beloved location for capturing photos of visitors, graduates, newlyweds, little Hoosiers, furry friends, and more. On the opposite end of Kirkwood stands the Buskirk-Chumley Theater. Originally built in 1922 as a silent-movie house, the theater has since been beautifully restored and now serves as a venue for local festivals & plays, as well as national acts including Bloomington's own John Mellencamp. 


Sink the Biz at Nick's

Whether you're looking for a latte to put some pep in your step, an organic juice to meet you fruits & veggies goal for the day, or a Long Island iced tea to start your night with, Kirkwood has a few local cafes and bars that will satisfy your thirst.

  • Cafe cohort // The caffeine-addicted and juice-obsessed will love Soma Coffee House & Juice Bar. The quirky-cool Bloomington cafe chain offers classic & unique coffee beverages, fresh smoothies & juices, a wide range of hot & iced teas, and a variety of fresh-baked pastries for those who like to have something to munch on while enjoying their brew of choice.
  • Night on the town // Want to hit a local bar to wrap up your day on Kirkwood? Kilroy's on Kirkwood, The Upstairs Pub, and Nick's are well-loved nightlife venues on the avenue. Kilroy's is one of the most legendary bars in Bloomington, as it's a rite of passage for all IU students to day-drink on their back patio on game days and party into the night on any other occasion. If you're looking for a more relaxed setting, The Upstairs Pub has a second-story patio that offers a great view of Kirkwood from above, and they also have darts & pool available for play. If you want to catch a sports game or play a round of Sink the Biz with your crew, Nick's is the place for you. 



Outside of the Graduate Hotel at dusk

Planning to have a late night on Kirkwood? Or, perhaps you simply won't be ready to part with the iconic street by the end of one day. If you want to extend your stay on Kirkwood for any reason, check in at the Graduate hotel. A wonderfully unique place to stay, the Graduate's concept is to celebrate the youthful spirit and nostalgia of the college days, nodding to the history and heritage of Indiana University in our beloved B-Town. In addition to its charming decor and IU memorabilia, the hotel also offers complementary bike rentals, a roof-top terrace, and an in-house diner.

Looking for more to do while downtown? Check out How to Spend a Day on The Square.


Alyssa Davis

Alyssa Davis

Alyssa is Visit Bloomington's Digital Content Coordinator. She's also a proud IU alumna, mom to four cats, and a travel enthusiast. When she isn't at work, you can find Alyssa checking out the newest restaurants in the area with her husband, curled up at home with her cats and a great book, or on the couch binge watching Netflix's latest trending show.