Author: Julia Tombari


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One of the most common questions I get from prospective students has to do with the location of Notre Dame in a small town, and specifically, what things students can do off campus. As a foodie from Seattle, one of the first things that comes to mind is making eating a fun schoolnight or weekend activity. I, therefore, decided to make it a point of trying as many restaurants in the South Bend/Mishawaka area. I have compiled 10 restaurants that are my go-to's. Hopefully, you will be able to try them when you visit or during your four years at Notre Dame!


1. JW Chen's

JW Chen's is a popular off-campus dining option for many students.The owner, Ms. Chen, is really hospitable and never forgets a customer. She makes sure your dining experience fits your tastes in flavors, meats and vegetables and will often make a custom dish for you. She makes sure you have bottomless rice and that you leave full and satisfied. This place is perfect for family-style dining with friends. Prices are more than a typical Chipotle burrito ($7) but don't expect to spend more than $20 in total for a typical meal.

2. Cambodian Thai

Cambodian Thai is delicious, and located in downtown South Bend. If you are a fan of pad thai and curry, go here. Prices are reasonable, and the food is authentic tasting and quite spicy. I recommend the chicken Pad Thai and Panang Curry with chicken. 

3. Bowl of Pho

For those cold winter days, Bowl of Pho will provide you with a giant bowl of hot steaming Vietnamese Noodle Soup. The prices, though a bit more expensive than the Pho in LA or Seattle ($5-6) are about $9-10. However, if you are craving this traditional soup, this place surely hits the spot. 

4. Volcano Restaurant

The Volcano serves hearty Italian and American fare. Make sure to get the mozzarella sticks and fried antipasto plate, which comes with calamari, mozzarella sticks, and gooey cheesey goodness. The salads are large, the pasta is fantastic, and the garlic bread is great for sharing with friends. This hole in the wall restaurant is great for a football game dinner or when family comes into town. 

5. India Garden

India Garden is great for a lunchtime calm ambiance. You can order dishes off the menu or go for the lunch buffet which allows you to eat all you can eat of many traditional Indian curries, salads, and breads. The prices for the buffet are reasonable, and it is a quick drive or uber off campus. Great for bringing small groups of friends. The food and service is wonderful. 

6. The Mark Dine and Tap

The Mark is great upscale dining located right on Eddy Street. I recommend the Salmon Teriyaki stir fry, but the burgers are fantastic as well. Plan on coming here for special occasions such as when your parents come to town, or if you are celebrating someone's birthday. The entrees are roughly about $20. 

7. Salsa's Mexican Grill

Salsa's is the perfect loud family and friends restaurant. They serve flavorful and relatively inexpensive Mexican dishes, and there are great deals for students during the weekdays (if you are over 21). They also serve bottomless chips and salsa. You must try their homemade queso and guacamole!

8. Bruno's Pizza

For a traditional filling pizza, Bruno's is the way to go. Not only are there many locations, the pizza is baked to perfection. Try all of their pizzas from a classic pepperoni to a deluxe meat pizza. You will not be dissatisfied. It's great for a weekend dinner with friends. The staff is friendly, and the atmosphere is welcoming. 

9. Ciao's

For a more quiet dining experience, I recommend Ciao's in downtown South Bend. The service and food are wonderful. I recommend the Chicken Marsala and Caesar salad. They do a great job hosting parties and large groups. The food is moderately priced. (*Sorry, I learned that Ciao's is now closed.)

10. The Emporium

The Emporium is a great date night restaurant. It is set in a classy vintage hotel and overlooks the River. It has great American fare and a wonderful range of food. Great for when the parents are in town, or if you want a quiet getaway by the river with friends or a boyfriend/girlfriend.

In no way is this an exhaustive list! There are many other places in South Bend that Notre Dame students rave about and love!