Five Hidden Gems in South Bend

Breaking out of the Notre Dame bubble

With another semester quickly rolling by, it is worth asking yourself how well you actually know the town you are living in—the world surrounding the Notre Dame “bubble.” Although South Bend may sometimes have the reputation of being small and lacking in things to do, the Rover is here to provide you with a list of fun and interesting places to go and experience.  

1. Merriman’s Playhouse

This venue is for improvisational and interactive arts. Located next to Merriman’s Piano Shop, this lively and swanky spot hosts jazz, creative, and improv performances by both local and visiting artists. Stephen and Merriman founded Merriman’s in order to provide a space for jazz music in the South Bend community. On Mondays from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., they have a jazz session free and open to the public. Check out Merriman’s Playhouse website for more information and a detailed schedule of events.

1211 Mishawaka Ave, South Bend, IN 46615

2. Idle Hours Bookshop

This bookshop started off as a street shop with a few books in 1998 but quickly grew into a full blown treasure trove of all sorts of books. There are classics, original copies, fictional works, religious books, and just about anything else you can imagine. Although Hesburgh Library may be at your fingertips, Idle Hours allows one to explore the past and purchase it for keeps.

212 S. Michigan St., South Bend, IN 46601

3. Langlab

Langlab is a multipurpose workspace for groups, businesses, and musical and intellectual experiences in the South Bend community. Langlab has many events open to the public, but perhaps one of their most famous events is the Wednesday dancing nights. On Wednesdays, Langlab opens itself up to anyone and offers guests a variety of music to dance to, such as salsa, mamba, tango, and cha-cha. Langlab’s Wednesday dancing is not a club- or bar-like environment, but rather a friendly atmosphere open to everyone. Find out about upcoming events on their website.

1302 High St, South Bend, IN 46601

4. The Local Cup

The Local Cup is a volunteer-run, pay-it-forward coffee shop. The coffee you order is free because someone has already paid it forward for your enjoyment. The Local Cup asks those who can pay it forward to do so. The coffee shop aims to support local producers and to provide a space for dialogue and community between all different sorts of people. To fully learn about The Local Cup, one must go there and be open to conversation and delicious coffee with the South Bend community.

1009 Portage (in the Near Northwest Neighborhood building)

5. Martha’s Midway Tavern

Martha’s Tavern was purchased in 1924. During the Prohibition era, the tavern was called “Midway Lunch” because it served chicken for 25 cents and beer for a nickel. Martha Van Holsbeke, the owner, knew how to sell beer and other alcohol undercover. Supposedly, the famous Chicago bootlegger Al Capone did business at Midway and would bring Martha a dozen roses. In 1930, the tavern was caught for selling illegal booze and was closed for nine months. When Prohibition was repealed, Martha’s opened once again, and the tavern remained unchanged since then. In 1988, Martha was inducted into the “Bartender’s Hall of Fame” for her unique accomplishments.  

Martha’s main attraction is the live music and atmosphere: stepping into Martha’s is like stepping back into the ’30s. In addition, many famous musicians have performed at Martha’s. The drinks, the music, and the old-timer atmosphere make this tavern a true hidden gem.

810 W. 4th Street, South Bend, IN 46544

Crystal Avila is is a senior majoring in film and television. If you would like to join her in venturing out to any of these South Bend attractions, email her at

Print Friendly