Best restaurants in the Bloomington-Normal community

By Farah Bassyouni Feb 17, 2023

As a kid from the suburbs of Chicago, I saw Bloomington as “the middle of nowhere,” nestled between the vast corn farms that cover central Illinois. I didn’t expect any diversity in restaurants and ethnic options that compare to Chicago and its surrounding areas. 

I have been proved wrong repeatedly during my time in the Twin Cities. While definitely not on the level of a colossal metropolis like Chicago, Bloomington-Normal is a food hub. The two towns have one of the highest number of restaurants per capita in the country according to BNadvantage and Thrillist magazine. What hasn’t been quantified is the immense diversity in the restaurant options.

For all types of food and a great atmosphere to take your significant other on a date, Epiphany Farms and the upstairs Anju Above are both excellent options. The two restaurants are located in the same building at 220 E Front Street. They have high-grade, locally sourced meats as well as a variety of delicious vegetarian options. While it may cost you a considerable amount, it’s a wonderful place to go on a special occasion, or when your parents are visiting and can split the bill.

For some decent Italian food or pizza, there are plenty of options all around. Joe’s Station House is located at 305 Veterans Parkway. Joe’s Station House does an excellent Detroit-style pizza. Flingers on 1503 E Vernon Ave, has great specialty pizzas. 

A favorite in the Illinois Wesleyan community is the Lucca Grille. This classic place gives a lovely homey bar feel with great dishes. Mostly everyone in the area knows you can’t miss with classic italian at Biaggi’s out on 3010 E Empire Street.

When it comes to Mexican food, there are quite a few options in the area. An IWU favorite, El Porton lies at 901 N Main St, just a couple blocks from campus. As a family-owned restaurant, their food is made with love, and they provide unmatched service as well as some fantastic Mexican food. Thursday night’s popular venue, Fiesta Ranchera has three locations in the area.

 One particularly unique spot is La Bamba at 29 E Beaufort St C, where you can get a burrito, as well as a couple of rolls of sushi at the same restaurant. With this, the prices are fair and the sushi is not bad.

At 805 Morrissey Dr. is Thai House, which is known as one of the best restaurants overall. Although they have been take-out only since COVID restrictions were lifted, their food remains one of the most popular in the area. 

The fact that they are able to stay open and thriving without a dine-in option depicts the quality of the food, keeping people coming back for more.

If you enjoy Korean food, Seoul Mama on 2103 Veterans Pkwy is an excellent option. Not only are the prices incredibly reasonable, but the food is delicious and you automatically get free sides with the order of an entree.

 In addition, the service is phenomenal, and if you happen to become a regular, the owner will often throw in a couple of extra side dishes or rhubarb tea without charge. 

Quality Korean food in any city isn’t always easy to get and to have such a great place here is fantastic.

When it comes to Indian food, Bloomington takes the state as the best place for some paneer tikki masala. There are four prominent restaurants in town, but the top two, Signature  India on 1407 N Veterans Pkwy Suit #2 and Bloom Bawarchi 503 North Prospect Road are superlative. The food is as flavourful and authentic as it gets. People will place orders from all over the state to get their top-tier dishes. They are both real gems that are highly recommended.

Bloomington proves itself as a food town, with both the frequency and distribution of restaurants, as well as the diversity of options they provide. 

Each place has its own vibe and so many contain the family atmosphere common around the Bloomington-Normal area.

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