Let me start with this: I am from Chicago. Bloomington has no pizza that can compare to what I enjoy (Lou Malnati’s is at the top of my list), but the closest thing a Chicagoan can get in Bloomington, without getting too snobby and cranky, is Mother Bear’s Pizza.
Also known as the first place every visiting student and parent is recommended to eat, Mother Bear’s Pizza is a prime location to take any visiting family and friends. Mother Bear’s has everything from salads to subs to their famous and nationally ranked pizza.
Immediately upon walking in this almost 40-year old Bloomington establishment, you walk under a sign showing off their #4 ranking of best USA pizza joints, which tells you it will be a decent pie. All tables and chairs and booths are wood, and they are all decorated by their inhabitants: IU students. You will find everything from someone’s name and phone number to unique drawings etched into the classic wood all over the restaurant. Between the wood furniture and the lighting of IU billiard-lights above each table, you know you are in an important IU location.
Your server will bring you your drinks in a huge cup, and take your order in a quick but in a kind matter. All servers there, as I have noticed, are students or most likely post-college adults, so they aren’t afraid to start talking up a conversation and relax with you if it’s slow. Now the key moment:
What do I recommend? Start with a salad, and make sure you get one with goldfish. Yes, I said goldfish. One of the many unique things about Mo Bear’s is that they put goldfish atop their salads instead of croutons for a fun little twist! Next, get yourself some delicious breadsticks. No, these aren’t just scrapped up pieces of dough for the pizza crust – they are delicious sticks of glory, which are aided by their friends marinara and cheese sauce. While I have never had anything but these two items and their pizza, I have heard their sandwiches and wings are fantastic. (Check out their weekly specials to see when you should go if you are on a budget…they have great wing specials.)
The pizza is the main act here. From the simple cheese to their special pizzas (the Divine Swine has won multiple awards). My favorite pies are the Dixie Two-Step (a BBQ chicken pizza) and the Summer Garden (tons of delicious veggies). They have three crust variations, and the traditional pan is my favorite. The deep dish is too disappointing for me because it’s not what I’m used to, but still delicious.
Overall, Mother Bear’s is a great place to go for its delicious pizza, but I would recommend going with family or someone who is willing to pay. It’s a more expensive meal than most college students would like (especially with drinks and what not), but a great way to splurge and treat yourself for a great job on a test or a paper. You might not get amazing service, but you will get great food. Also, they have great deals if you plan to eat there ahead of time (the Munchie Madness is the best…10’’ pie, breadsticks, 2-liter bottle of soda, and 2-homemade delicious fudge brownies all for $10.95). You can’t leave IU without trying this great IUB establishment, and don’t forget to carve your name into the wall!
Price: $10 - $17 (based on drinks and number of people sharing)
Location: Right across from Forest Quad and Read dormitories…so dangerously close.
Rating: (and that’s coming from a Chicago pizza snob…)
Reviewed by Jeremy Levin