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Iowa City

  • m

I'm about to have several trips to visit the University of Iowa. What are the best independent restaurants there? I like ecclectic, especially rustic mediterranean, but am interested in just about anything as long as its genuine and not "heat & eat" of the back of a truck.

Local Ingredients?
Near the Campus?
Late night?
No TVs?

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  1. I don't get to Iowa City very often anymore, but I'll offer my input. There was also a post about a month ago about Cedar Rapids and Iowa City that you may want to search for.
    For Pizza, Pagliai's is an instituition in Iowa City. For tapas, Devotay is well regarded (and the owner sometimes posts here-hopefully he'll see this and add his input). Local ingredients, try Linn Street Cafe or Lincoln Cafe (in Mount Vernon). Those are 2 of the better restaurants in the whole state. Near the campus, Dirty John's grocery for a sandwich. Hopefully, some of the others can fill in the rest of the details for you.

    Dave R

    Dave R

    10 Replies
    1. re: Dave R

      I can't speak first hand, but I do have a friend in Iowa City that is married to a chef.
      She also spoke highly of Devotay ( 117 N. Linn St)
      Linn St. Cafe (121 N Linn)
      Sushi Popo for what was voted as best sushi in Iowa.(725 Mormon Trek Blvd)
      Red Avacado for vegetarian. (521 E Washington)
      Hamburg Inn for breaksfast. 214 N. Linn.
      I know a girl in college there, so I'll try to get you a run down on Pizza. Remember if you are there this week to pick up your Beat Iowa State button. It will get you a discount at many local eateries.

      1. re: Bobfrmia
        Brian Schwartz

        I'm a native Chicagoan and had lived in Iowa City for 4 years and can tell you that restaraunts aren't one of the best parts of Iowa City (for that matter the entire Iowa!). Nonetheless, I reccomend Big Mike's sub shop - real good subs, crisp, etc. Sub Shop is another good Iowa place. Also Hamburg Inn is a dirty little diner, not bad for late night chow. Red Lobster and Olive Garden are always good for franchises. STAY AWAY from Paglia's pizza, it's fair at best, I guess coming from Chicago I'm spoiled with pizza, but still could never find anything great about Paglia's pizza.

        1. re: Brian Schwartz

          Paglias Pizza is the best pizza around. It beats out most competition from accross the country. If you're in Iowa City it's a must.

          1. re: Mike
            Milwaukee Ben

            i'll second that emotion on pagliai's pizza--it's excellent. one of my all-time favorite pizzas. quirky because it used to be beer-free (pre-1983), then they got lowenbrau on tap. lowenbrau?? anyway, get the palace special and a pitcher of whatever strange brand brew they're serving now (andecker perhaps? olympia?).

            1. re: Milwaukee Ben

              It's been a few months since anyone posted here about Iowa City, so who knows, maybe I'll start the broth simmering again. The two best restaurants in Iowa City are Taste on Melrose and Takanami. The two partners, one the chef and the other the baker, who own Taste formerly worked for local restaurateur Jim Mondanaro before they came to their senses and went into business for themselves. The menu is something that any Midwesterner would relish, but a foodie would find it to be creative AND well-executed. Service is very good: knowledgeable, friendly, smart & efficient. The chef at Takanami used to work at Charlie Trotter's and is very imaginative. Takanami is Asian-American fusion with a full menu and a sushi bar. I have taken guests from major metropolitan centers there and they've been impressed.

              There's a little place called The Motley Cow which has about ten tables. It's raggedy-looking but the chef, who went to school at the UI, apprenticed in SF and came back. The entrees change every few days depending on what ingredients look good. They always have a nice selection of cheeses. Breads and desserts are really good.

              Linn Street Cafe has improved over the past few years since they made their menu a little more casual and lowered the prices. Devotay has flashes of brilliance and you'll pay dearly for the privilege. Atlas World Grill does a good job. 126 (named for its address) has its good days.

              I see from the posts previous that The Lincoln Cafe gets the compliments it deserves. See we8there.com for some reviews.

              1. re: Curnovsky

                Just FYI on your information so that its accurate, Eric is a good friend of mine and he makes great food but he never worked at Charlie Trotters. :) You should check out Formosa for some decadent sushi and the asian fondue (shabu shabu) is outstanding too. Service there has always been superb. Its on the first floor of the sweet new Hotel Vetro downtown.

                1. re: Curnovsky

                  I vote Devotay over Motley Cow every time. Beyond the food, the service at Devotay is unmatched in Iowa City.

                  Motley Cow Cafe
                  160 N Linn St, Iowa City, IA 52245

                  117 N Linn St, Iowa City, IA 52245

                  1. re: lost78

                    "The service at Devotay is unmatched in Iowa City"
                    I beg to differ. Devotay is the ONLY restaurant in Iowa City I've actually walked out of because of poor service, and I've done it twice. Both times we were seated and then no one ever came to our table--not even a hurried "I'm sorry, I'll be with you in a minute." First time we waited 15 mins, second time 10 mins before walking out. The place isn't that big, it's not like they couldn't see us. In my opinion, that's unforgiveable.

                    117 N Linn St, Iowa City, IA 52245

            2. re: Brian Schwartz

              My husband Greg and I have always loved Paglia's pizza...we live in Chicago and yet we come out to Iowa City at least once every 3 mos for our addiction to it's wonderful taste and great crust. And as for Iowa-it has some of the best cooks in the WORLD.

            3. re: Bobfrmia

              From an Iowa student.
              Thai Spice on gilbert.
              Old Chicago Pizza for deep dish pizza and really cheap beer.

          2. For Thai, I like Thai Flavors (I believe that's the name), corner of Gilbert and Burlington. Next door is Parthenon, which I haven't tried. My friend who lived in Thailand for several years took me to Thai Flavors, and the owners are actually Thai. I've also heard good things about Thai Spice, further down on Gilbert, but haven't been there.

            Hamburg Inn, down the block from Paglia's, is good for burgers and shakes.

            1. Hi

              I have been in and out of there recently several times and have many trips to come over the next year. I've hit a few good spots, based on comments and ideas here (thanks everyone!).

              We went to Linn Street Cafe first night, and then Devotay the next night. Had the duck entree at both, and I found the food better at Linn St overall. The duck at Devotay was too saucy, while at Linn St it was roasted well and the sides were more well suited. The bacon wrapped dates at Devotay rocked, though, and the service was great with a good breadth of wine choices. Either choice I think is good and the best food in town, so far, for me.

              Toward Corralville (I stay at the Hampton there), we've tried both Chinese places on 1st Ave at 2nd St and they're okay. Want to try the Vientamese place but haven't yet. The Vine, on 2nd, is good but pretty loud. The Beefstro in the hotel is dicey, though I like the grilled caesar salad. I've not been to the Power Co in a while but it was good. A little cheesey but a nice place to take clients.

              Colleagues mentioned some hole-in-the-wall place around the corner from the Sheraton, Italian I take it, that I'll be trying next trip too.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Patrick

                That little place around the corner from the Sheraton downtown is The Mill Restaurant. They have excellent Italian food, great antipasto I love the baked lasagna and incredible garlic bread. But more about the Mill. It has or used to have the greatest entertainment for miles around. Sometimes ecclectic sometimes just wild and wacky. Sometimes they will have singers or bands. I used to love going there when I was a student but haven't been there for a while. I remember the good old days of "Duck's Breath Mystery Theater" and its offshoots with Dr. Science and other bust- a-gut funny stuff. Always worth the trip. Susan in Cedar Rapids

              2. Pizza in Iowa City is a nonstarter as is Thai. Lots of mediocre stuff. For Tapas Devotay is fantastic. As mentioned Linn St is excellent (and next door to Devotay) with the best wine list in town. The best cooking in town is at Takanami, fusion with excellent sushi. Lincoln Cafe in Mt. Vernon is very much worth the 20 mile drive north of town. Other good bets are Motley Cow and Taste on Melrose, but they can be uneven. These are all within a mile of campus, none have TVs, are independently owned, and most use local ingredients.

                David, in Iowa City

                10 Replies
                1. re: David M

                  I see this thread is ancient, but I just gotta say -- is The Sanctuary no longer there? Used to be such fab pizza (at least to a lowly undergrad in the 70's!). Will continue my reminiscence with fond memories of the Sheep's Head Cafe (perhaps mainly b/c an old beau worked there), The Brown Bottle (for a big date), and some cool sub place - can't remember the name - Someone's Sub... ahhhhhh, those were the days...

                  The Brown Bottle
                  1624 5th Avenue, Moline, IL 61265

                  Brown Bottle
                  401 E Mill St, Plymouth, WI 53073

                  1. re: chinitav

                    Bushnell's Turtle, named after the first submarine.

                    1. re: puzzler

                      Oh thank you, puzzler! That was driving me crazy -- I kept thinking "Nemo's" and knew it was wrong. Is it still there?

                      1. re: chinitav

                        Sorry to report it's been closed for a while.

                      2. re: puzzler

                        I used to love going there. They had the best sandwiches and soup for lunch. I remember having some of the best bean soup of my entire life there. Truly memorable. Where did those folks go? I miss them. Susan in Cedar Rapids

                      3. re: chinitav

                        Sheepshead Cafe. Now there is a blast from the past. LONG GONE - 20 years or so - but what a wonderful funky place it was. Used to love going there for burgers and an occasional scotch

                        1. re: mander

                          Sheep's Head took over the building that Grace and Rubie's used to be in. What wonderful times those were. Petitioning the City Council for an alcohol permit for an all girl's restaurant. Afterall it was 1973 and it hadn't been done, to have an all girl's soup shop/ private organization. It even drew an article or two from big magazines. Some sneaky bastard creeping around the garbage cans for whatever was on the menu for the day. I was on the board of Directors up until it went under. But great food! Absolutely delish! 1973-1975 or so. Those were the days!

                          1. re: RubyBluebird

                            Ruby-- You might be interested to know that not everything re the Sheep's Head Cafe has perished...

                      4. re: David M

                        The Sanctuary has excellent pizza ....

                        1. re: David M

                          David: I disagree ... Try the pizza at The Sanctuary Pub. I recommend the Pizza Fontina. This bar also has an excellent beer list.

                        2. Hamburg Inn's been mentioned several times already -- it's been a local favorite for years.

                          IC is NOT known for pizza, with most pizza joints catering to the non-discriminating and in-need-of-cheap-eats student. Trust me, as an alum -- pizza would not be something I seek out on repeat visits to campus!

                          Since the campus district -- specifically on the Old Capitol side -- seems to have been left out of most responses, here are a few adds:

                          1) Panchero's -- 32 S. Clinton St. with another location on Riverside, has its HQ in Coralville, got its start in Iowa City. Fits both the late nights and cheap eats categories. Recommend avoiding it on Thurs / Fri / Sat nights after 10pm (unless you plan to observe inebriated hungry students). But they serve up decent on-the-go Mexican fare -- queso quesadilla and soft corn tortillas abound. If you don't plan on eating for 24 hours following your meal, they'll make you a giant burrito. Further digging provided the URL below -- apparently they're making homemade tortillas now -- why couldn't they have started about 5 years earlier? ;) Sadly, it appears they no longer serve tortas... how depressing...

                          2) The Cottage Bakery & Cafe -- 14 S Linn St., just off Iowa Ave. Great local coffeehouse and sandwich shop, making & selling loaves of homemade bread. Those alone could make a great meal. Their lemon poppyseed bread sells out daily. Generally frequented by the grad student / faculty set. Open for breakfast and lunch, they have a great selection of fresh fillings / cheeses to make a sandwich to suit your tastes.

                          And, while not a food recommendation, no visit to Iowa City is complete without stopping at Prairie Lights Books. It's regarded as one of the finest independent bookshops in the nation.

                          Link: http://www.pancheros.com/index.cfm?te...

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Mags

                            Am scanning the entire board for Twin Cities listings, but came across a past thread about Iowa City that reminded me of some additional options.

                            Again, in the Old Capitol area, a local not-to-miss is Micky's for a Conglomeration... (cholesterol city, but tasty)

                            Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                          2. I was born in Iowa City and lived there through high school. I still visit every summer and don't miss Hamburg Inn when I'm in town. Thai Flavors is definitely the place for Thai. They are very active in the local community and do speical nights were a portion of their profits are donated to a selected (usually progressive) charity or group. Great fried noodles, tofu and very friendly staff. Much cheaper than Thai spice. Pagliai's for Pizza-get the Pagliai's special (sausage, green pepper, and onion. I think everything else was mentioned already. Go Hawks!!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: jane

                              I just moved to IC, and this thread has been a lot of help, thanks everybody. One update though - I was told that Thai Flavors has just changed owners. I don't know what it was like before, but I left very unimpressed after last night's meal.

                            2. I live in Cedar Rapids just up the road from Iowa City and I love to escape to Iowa City where I went to the Big U for good food. Among my favorites:

                              Sushi Popo for Japanese
                              Hamburg Inn for burgers or Tenderloins (ubiquitous in Iowa but I have never seen them elsewhere) and fries, or breakfast
                              I love Pagliai's for Pizza, good memories from my college days.
                              I really like Mondo's in Coralville for a good lunch with clients.
                              There are a few great Asian restaurants around-- Aoeshe on S.Gilbert and two in Coralville on the same road that goes out to I80 in Coralville.
                              I have to say the the Motley Cow on Market Street is always good. Delightful, fresh, delicious, even great coffee with dessert. (So many places in Iowa have horrid coffee, apparently the farmers have to have weak coffee so they can hit the sack at 7 p.m.)
                              I don't know if the Airliner is still in business but used to be a great place for a beer, burger and fries. .

                              RubyBluebird in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: RubyBluebird

                                Hi All. A few observations from a food and wine fan who's spent a looooong time in I.C.

                                Pagliai's is good, 50s era pie. Tight ship, but get it to go--weird interior is mindful of a midwestern rec room circa 1983. And what's with the western imagery?

                                The Hamburg Inn. Well, I guess I'd miss if it were gone, but I'd rather eat at the hospital. Hamburg is a staple that serves to illustrate the fact that in 2006, there still is no good breakfast option in the I.C. area outside of my kitchen.

                                Sushi Popo. Haven't been there since Takanami opened a few years ago. Speaking of which, Takanami defies logic for the landlocked sushi jones. The entrees though at times a little klunky, can really satisfy. It happens when you take chances. And gratefully, they're figuring out wine. Kendall Jackson chardonnay days be gone forever!

                                Mondo's. Well, plenty of parking?

                                The Motley Cow Cafe seems to be enjoying a cult following and why shouldn't they? They feature truly local produce, a talented chef who understands restraint, and a menu that evolves to reflect seasonal change in a landscape where haut cuisine is largely about eating flavored butter to the Buena Vista Social Club soundtrack. In addition, they are mostly organic, very affordable (oddly cheaper than the Sysco emporiums), and have an astute wine list. There should be line out the door, but thank Gawd there is not.

                                Redhead. 10 min. up the road in Solon, this is generally good, Mason-Dixon comfort food. All homemade, quirky and lovable. There's a lot of heart in this place and that helps to offset some less than graceful moments on the floor. Patience, they say is a virtue. AND it's half the distance to the Lincoln cafe.

                                speaking of the Lincoln. This is good, but totally overhyped and put on the map by out-of-towners bemused by the concept of a reasonable restaurant ACTUALLY existing in a small Iowa town. You DO get your $$ worth (i.e. each entree is often 2 or 3 entrees rolled into 1) and you can bring your own wine, which, given the state of most local winelists, is salvation.

                                126. Under new ownership as of this summer. I suppose I'll retry as I'd long given up on its former inception.

                                Taste on Melrose. Solid, admirable, and well-executed. Bread made on-premise, (unbelievable that real bread in a restaurant is worth special mention) and usually good service. No real culinary earthquake here, just dependable and competent cooking.

                                Aeoshe. Been twice in the last two years. Two times too often. Get it to go if you must.

                                Thai spice. Easily the best Thai around. Sometimes I think of the Moo Pad Prik when I'm driving. If you have a party, reserve the private dining room, order as much as you can, pass and taste. Nice little wine list too.

                                Devotay. charming, but I don't get it. Very hyped, and self-promoted, but that said, it beats anything downtown, and features the best winelist I've seen there to date.

                                Linn St. Any comments from anyone here? I stopped going years ago, and it's a pricey roll of the dice. Still too much meat and Shiraz?

                                Airliner. yes, still in business. yes, still very avoidable. The facelift did little to alleviate the stale beer smell and the Ruben I had there was inedible--literally. On duty mngr. merely shrugged when I asked about the leathery, grilled(?!) corned beef. O college. Stick to Micky's.

                                other notes:
                                the Sausage platter at Venuto's
                                the tacos at that Taqueria out by Econo food (sorry, I can't remember the name.
                                Tempeh stir fry at the Red Avocado
                                sandwiches at the Prairie Table
                                all natural Brats outside of Tait's
                                depending on who's cooking, the bacon-cheddar burger at Micky's
                                the ruben at Shakespeare's
                                farmer's market
                                Yours in better eating, Kellog Sully, Iowa City

                                1. re: kellog sully

                                  kellog sully - The Airliner was my dad's beverage of choice when we lived in IC 1953-56.

                                  In the many trips I've made to IC as an adult over the past 30+ years, I've simply never had the desire to set foot in the place. Too many unhappy childhood memories of being dragged there for hours on end, bored to tears and sometimes frightened of the loud, drunken men.

                                  Somehow I'm not at all surprised that the joint still stinks of stale beer and the sandwich was lousy. Fits my image of the place.

                                  1. re: kellog sully

                                    All this talk about Pagliai's and no mention of the real pizza power house in IC, SAMS. I dream at night of SAMS deep dish. Wish I had a peice right now.

                                    1. re: kellog sully

                                      Just to add to the chorus in favor of The Motley Cow: I am from Boston, and was in Iowa City for one night recently (Sept. 2006). I had dinner at TMC and cannot recommend it enough. On a Monday night, the place was relaxed but cheerful and attentive, and the food was delicious. Flavors were adventurous and interesting without being wild or distracting, and everything was prepared skillfully. Ingredients stood up on their own, too (if only every pork chop I ate were that good!). The chef and waiter took a few minutes to chat with us, and were friendly as can be. They could've charged 50% more for the meal, and I would've happily coughed up the dough. A real find (and thanks to Chowhound for leading me to it!).

                                  2. Kellog,

                                    Thanks for the plug, we truly appreciate everyone who likes our food. And yes, I suppose I am guilty of shameless self promotion, but it's all about the love of the food (truly). I evangelize for local food and traditions of the table in various media outlets, and since I've had some success at it, my own profile has increased.

                                    I'm as egotistical as the next guy, but please believe (as the title of one of my columns says) "It's about the food."

                                    And on a side note to the pronunciation police above (daferawewer), Pagliai's is a block from my restaurant. The owners, Armand and Polly, are friends of mine. It's their family name and they pronounce it "polly-eyes," regardless of what anyone in Italy may think (where they'd use a soft, gutteral "g" anyway.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Devotay

                                      Fair Enough. Keep on cookin.' Best, Kellog

                                      1. re: Devotay

                                        yes, thank you. I lived in iowa city from birth to 20 years and I too can attest that it is polly-eyes. Yes, some people pronounce that 'g', but those in the know always look askance.

                                        also- Thai Spice is far superior to Thai Flavors, as much as I respect Thai Flavors community activism. Very watered down Thai. True, however, that service at Thai Spice often sucks. Good reason for takeout.

                                      2. Hi all,
                                        I have some questions for local diners:

                                        Anyone tried Saigon to Bangkok lately, or the "new" 126?
                                        How about Guido's? I stopped to sniff around and found the deli meats were Hormel. C'mon, guys. It's like a Jewish deli with Carl Buddig Corned Beef.
                                        Any word on the last Mondonaro Zeppelin, Joseph's?
                                        Still haven't tried Verde. Anyone?
                                        Finally, what's all the fuss about the Public House. The beer, I suppose, is better than it was, but I found them all to be innocuous and grainy.
                                        I love being an armchair critic. Kellog Sully

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: kellog sully

                                          I love Saigon to Bangkok. They have the best crab rangoons in the area. They're not on the menu, but will be made, no problems. Also the price is great. I go exclusively for the vietnamese food, of which is very good. I'm not as interested in the thai available and was not impressed with the pad thai.

                                        2. Kellog,

                                          I like your style - not holding back, especially your take on the burg. I don't agree with all your assessments (Lincoln is outstanding in my book) but I agree with the substantial majority. You might try Baldys Wraps for breakfast, if you haven't already. I am afraid that is the best IC can do. As for Taste on Melrose I have had some of the most horrible service I have ever had at a fine dining establishment there (e.g. ordered a particular white wine on the server's recomendation to accompany a particular dish. After wine is poured the server came back to say they were out of the dish. When I couldn't find a dish on the menu that I wanted that would go well with the wine, I asked them if they would take back the wine and allow us to order another to accompany a new dinner choice they said no.)

                                          Linn St is still a crap shoot. The same dish can be great one night and then lousy a week or two later due to poor execution.

                                          I like Joseph's. They do an excellent job cooking steak and have prime beef. There are some clunkers on the menu so you have to be careful though. The tuna appetizer is also excellent.

                                          Jewish Deli in IC? - we can dream. At least we have a good farmers market (which was excellent this morning by the way).


                                          PS Let's try to keep the Motley Cow a well kept secret.

                                          1. Good luck keeping Motley Cow a secret. David does a great job over there.

                                            As for a Jewish Deli, you'd have to go to Postville & Jacob's Table for that, but there are mighty good sandwiches to be had at Prairie Table and Tait's

                                            I wanted to throw in a mention for David's Place, at Linn & Washington. Odd place - it has typical bar food for appetizers, but the whole entree menu is outasight Ethiopian, realy good stuff.

                                            Too bad about Mander's experience at Taste. I know the owner, Christian, has much higher standards than that and I highly recommend that you give them another shot.

                                            Oh, and I agree about Baldy's, except I have a hard time getting out of there without ordering anyting but the Jambalaya wrap. It's an addiction. Get t with the Bass Ale.


                                            1. Thanks for the tip on David's Place. I've been hearing good things but have yet to go. I'll make it a priority now. Based on my two bad service experiences at Taste I won't be going back until I have to (e.g. work related dinner) but I will try to go with an open mind based on Kurt's recommendation. Yes indeed Taits and Prarie Table have changed the sandwich market in IC dramatically for the better in the last year.


                                              1. Hi,
                                                Thanks for the word on David's Place. I've been curious, but my interest was thwarted by the Lite Beer neons in the window. Also, I agree with KMF on Taste. I've heard stories of lousy service, but have never had that experience myself.
                                                Finally, in a previous post, I mentioned a "taqueria out by Econo Foods," and could not remember the name. It is La Reyna, and the chicken tacos are the Lord's own. (although, I think the Lord's arteries are probably hardening). Also, apparently Econo Foods is gone. O the nostalgia. Kellog

                                                5 Replies
                                                1. re: kellog sully

                                                  Just to jump in kind of late on this topic - I live in IC and can agree with many of Kellogg Sully's (this wouldn't be a reference to where you're from would it? Newton here) and KMF's assessments.

                                                  Comment on Guido's - went there once looking for smoked gouda after the Co-op's supplier went belly up. Very average lunch offerings, but they do offer a nice small dinner menu and are BYO with a small corkage. Not nearly as good as Lincoln Cafe (count me among the fans) but an easier drive home after a bottle of wine.

                                                  Thanks for the tip on the taqueria - we're always looking for something that can rival El Olmito in Muscatine.

                                                  And the Prairie Table filet mignon sandwich - wow!

                                                  As for the Motley Cow - shhhhhh! :)


                                                  1. re: kellog sully

                                                    Must strongly disagree regarding David's Place. As a lover of ethiopian food, I was very excited about the prospect of eating ethiopian when I came home to iowa, rather than in Montreal or Boston or Chicago. But David's was terrible- it was not remotely related to any ethiopian food i have eaten in the past. I have hope that maybe as they realize that iowa citians appreciate authentic food they will improve.

                                                    1. re: iowadina

                                                      Odd. While I've never been to Ethiopia and therefore cannot comment firstand on its authenticity, I found the food to be delicious and interesting at David's Place, as well as fun to eat. I do think it's odd that he has the "barfood" apps and the more tradtional entrees, but hey, if it works for his business plan, I guess I'm OK with that.

                                                      My only disapointment is in atmosphere. That location, which I considered taking when it was available, is capable of so much more. As it is now, it's what I call "the restaurant on the moon" - great food, no atmosphere.

                                                      1. re: iowadina

                                                        I would recommend giving David's Place another chance. As a huge fan of Ethiopian food, and someone who spent 3 months in Ethiopia, I used to travel to Chicago or Minneapolis just to get my fix, and was thrilled when David's Place opened in IC. After my first dinner there, I didn't go back for a year, I was so disappointed. The injera was crusty, the selection slim and not very flavorful. My husband talked me into trying it again and I have to say it has improved dramatically. The selection was better and the food was much better. We've been back several times since. I don't think the injera you get in the US is ever going to have quite that sour taste that makes Ethiopian injera so distinctive, but as far as American Ethiopian food goes, I am very happy with David's Place and glad to have it in town.

                                                        1. re: christyw

                                                          I think the collards are super, both times I've had them they just melted...

                                                    2. re: verde-
                                                      Having tried both verde and devotay several times, I would give a thumbs up to verde. Devotay has a cozier down home feel, but i prefer the food at verde.

                                                      re: breakfast places
                                                      Please try the bakery on summit street- Bakery Deluxe. Not everything is perfect, but their pecan rolls and cinnamon dunked pecan muffins are delectable. Every out of town guest we have taken there has loved it and requested a repeat performance. I think their coffee is great too.

                                                      re: 126
                                                      I think that 126 is a great place for lunch, and their service is quite a bit better than other places. Prices for lunch are very reasonable.

                                                      David's is cheap and tasty, and it's tasty vegetarian options make up for what it lacks in ambience.

                                                      I would second comments about redhead- sometimes the menu is a bit uneven (some things are great, others fall flat) and I would not recommend dessert. The desserts generally sound great, but I have been disappointed one too many times. That being said, they really do focus on using local in season ingredients, and their soups and salads have never disappointed.

                                                      Our favorite pizza place is a bit of a drive- Zoey's in Marion, IA. I'm not a fan of their deep dish, but their so-called new york style pizza is a favorite (note that this is a much thicker crust than true New York pizza). So if you are looking for something between pagliai's and deep dish, Zoey's wins hands down.

                                                      would eat at taste more, but the menu rarely changes, and I get bored.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: mingus

                                                        Hey, thanks for reminding me of Zoeys, I'll have to get up there. They used to have a store here in IC, and hte pizza was awfully good. I'll make the drive soon and report back.

                                                      2. I grew up in Iowa City and lived next door to the Pagliais for 8 years. I can assure you, they themselves call it "polly-eyes".

                                                        I love their pizza, as do most people I know who grew up there. Love-love, really love. For anyone perusing this thread, I think the fact that it is controversial should make it a must-visit so you can decide for yourself. Their entire menu fits on the front and back of a little table tent. This is because their ingredients are so fresh and well-done they don't need to mess around with too much stuff. I recommend the Palace Special and a pitcher.

                                                        1. Going on the assumption that ALL chain restaurants are terrible wastes of space, that really only leaves a few places that are worth eating in Iowa City, and for the most part i won't be talking about those at the moment.

                                                          I agree with Kellog on <La Reyna>. I have yet to try the carnitas but the tacos are quite nice. You may want to get them to go so you don't have to sit in a parking lot on boyrum street.

                                                          I don't think <Atlas> has come up in the thread, so i will set the record straight. If you like all of your food in burrito form this is the spot for you. Not wraps, burritos, they may very well have been ahead of the curve on the low carb diet, but really, a fish and chips burrito packed with coleslaw give me a break! After going for a couple lunches and being totally unimpressed i find it difficult to dine there for an evening meal. Please someone, anything good to say?

                                                          <Fresh Food Concepts> haven't been grasped yet at any of "The Mondo's" restaurants. These uninspired restaurants are: <Givanni's>, <Joseph's>, <Mondos Tomato Pie>, maybe a <Bonehead's> is floating around in Cedar Rapids and a host of smokey college town bars. I would lump all these in the same heap and put a tag on them that states: "OVER PRICED PUB GRUB". I will say however having been stuck in the Coral Ridge Mall, the <Bread Garden> was a sight for sore eyes. The <Bread Garden> has many bread choices and is very consistent in the quality, that is why they supply a good chunk of Iowa City's restaurants with their bread. However, being one of the few people to tour the back of many Iowa City Kitchens i grow very tired of seeing the bread delivery arrive from the Bread Garden in large clear Garbage Bags (food storage quality i am sure).
                                                          I will have to get back to this and maybe defend some of the statements i have made.
                                                          Maybe next time i will try to focus on the Food i like.

                                                          Electric Gib

                                                          PS Palace Special is the only way to fly.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: Electric Gib

                                                            Ah yes, Atlas. Menu brought to by, THC: Enhancing creativity since the dawn of civilization. And by, Sysco: Doing the work, so you don't have to. I must confess, and though I still find it bizarre, to liking the Buffalo Wrap. Fried chicken and mashed potato burrito topped with onion rings and blue cheese. Maybe once a year? The beers on tap are the usual cast of corporate drizzle, and the markup on the wine list should be reported to the Better Bus. Bureau, but the place doesn't seem to hurt for biz.
                                                            "Fresh Food Concepts" Tip: avoid places that emphasize the word "fresh." "Fresh chicken breast; fresh garden salad," etc. Seems like "fresh" ought to be a given? Was there a time when the use of fresh ingredients, like chicken breast, was some kind of food revolution?
                                                            Vive le Palace Special! K.S.

                                                          2. Just moved to IC from Chicago three weeks ago. Thanks to a temporary expense account and a bit of restlessness, I got out to just about every major restaurant in town. Still can't get used to the pace of life out here, though...

                                                            What I've liked:
                                                            -Motley Cow Cafe
                                                            -Lincoln Cafe
                                                            Is it any coincidence that all three of these places emphasize clean, contemporary American flavors. I would say only Lincoln can compare to a starred Chicago restaurant--obnoxious weekend waits included--but the other two more than hold their own. Motley Cow in particular is a true gem.
                                                            -Thai Flavors and Thai Spice were both fine.
                                                            -I like Takanami as well, but I would refer you to Frank Bruni's review of Japonais for discussion on the pan-asian conundrum rather than

                                                            What I haven't:
                                                            -Verde: Cute room, but the menu is a mess: way too many things going on on it to be effective. Food was either too timid or oversalted.
                                                            -Formosa: Pretentious, and the rolls were off(I haven't tried the shabyu shabyu though). Service botched my order; what did come was drowned in way too many conflicting ingredients, with sauces to boo. They even messed up yellowtail jaw.
                                                            -Linn St. Cafe & 126: My pet peeve are "nice" restaurants that deliver entirely average food for $20+ entree prices. Both remind of places in Highland Park (say, Mimosa or Timbers) that cater to the crowd who loves that sort of stuff. Count me out of that.
                                                            -Givanni's: I thought I ordered a pretty simple meal, but th kitchen over complicated things. The carpaccio was semi-cooked, and a linguini with mushrooms was overly salty (canned?)Odd room--what's with the fluorescent lighting?
                                                            -Atlas: see above for a much better description than I could offer.

                                                            I'd appreciate any other suggestions about where to go...there's a ton of bars that serve food here, but I don't know which ones are worth seeking out. I also still need to hit India Cafe and Masala.

                                                            so Prairie Table serves food?

                                                            1. Bcawn--
                                                              You'll get used to the pace in IC--your'e still suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. Pretty soon, you'll find yourself gently rocking on your front porch, quoting thornton Wilder, and growing quietly senile. Think of IC as a bathysphere--Chicago's only a few endless hours away.....the Indian restaurants are decent lunch options, but like anywhere, the food off the menu at night is contingent upon who's doing the cooking. Lot's of reheating, but not bad....they COOKED the Carpaccio at Givanni's? What a riot. Did you tell them it wasn't Steak-Um?... I've mentioned it already, but Redhead in Solon can be really good. It can also be really weird. Good luck w/ that. It's worth a try....Unless you are chronic carnivore, the Red Avocado (vegan and organic) can really be great. Before it's too chilly, grab a bottle (or 2) of wine and sit out on their patio....somehow, Pubgrub is like pizza in IC--mostly terrible (please everyone, this is NOT provocation to start another thread about Pagliai's). One would think that w/ the number of bars, someone could pull off good grease. It ain't haut cuisine, but it is a genre that is constantly overlooked and usually poorly executed.

                                                              Thanks for the word on Verde and Formosa, two places I have yet to venture into. Anyone else have a perspective on these two places? Bestest, KS

                                                              3 Replies
                                                              1. re: kellog sully

                                                                The pepper jack burger from Shakespeare's, sided with tater tots and cottage cheese and served on a chewy kaiser roll -- why, by the way, is there nowhere to get a fried egg and cheese on a good kaiser roll, preferably grilled in a lunch truck? -- is a perfect Sunday brunch, with either a good bloody or a mug of Lite so cold its top inch is a beer slurpee. The Wazmo's garlic and jalapeno wings there are also archetypal. And although a single item may not constitute "grub," the George's cheeseburger -- the only item on the menu, save some microwave pizza and occasional chili -- is perfect at midnight with a whiskey.
                                                                There's much to discover here, and much of it happens after midnight.
                                                                Who's heard about the Formose late-night deal? As a member of the service industry, I've long wanted good late-night food -- and by good, I mean reasonably healthy because who wants to eat pizza or a burger at midnight regularly? -- but I hate that Vetro concrete floor and the contrived decor at Formosa. Something about the space makes me not want to enter it. Am I being unreasonable? Is it worth it in any way?

                                                                1. re: kellog sully

                                                                  my girlfriend and i had a great time at Formosa. the service was great, friendly, and knew what they were talking about. i also don't like schmoozie service that just wants a great tip. i actually like to be entertained with my guests when i go out and they did a great job of it. the food was delicious, i can totally see how they won best sushi in town two years in a row! i also hate trendy restaurant music, they always play great eclectic beats and throw down a good show in comparison to most bars and clubs in town. plus, the daily drink specials definitely don't hurt at all. i give it many many many thumbs up!

                                                                  1. re: bmagic

                                                                    Sushi is good at Formosa, some of the special rolls are very good, and if you're into the bar scene, I hear it's great. However, I think Oyama is still the best if you're just looking for good sushi (see recent posts about Oyama), but I'm sure they're not open too late. Also, ctscorp's comments about the decor at Formosa are not too far off...luckily one doesn't have to sit on the floor, but the benches are as hard as concrete. Also, the tables are very wide to accommodate the hot pots, and I always feel like I'm sitting 298 miles away from my husband. It's not very comfortable or intimate, although I get the feeling that they're trying to be both. Maybe some pillows would help??

                                                                2. Lots of good ides from Iowa City gourmands. I would agree with those who detailed good experience at Verde, Motley Cow, Devotay, and the Lincoln Café, these establishments seem to have invested in the philosophy of flavor, style, and sustainability. In addition, I was happy to see the mention of La Reyna (don’t forget to ask for their pico), but I would include the fare from El Paso, and the warming bowls of PHO at Saigon to Bannock. It was the mention of pub grub, however, that caught my eye. Pub grub, the grease that oils the joints of life, nothing could be finer that the art of the deep fryer in combination with and ice cold Newcastle. After an exhaustive search in Eastern Iowa, one place rose to the top of the fryer basket like a well done tater-tot, Shake spears. As any Eastsider knows, this little Shake spears and its head cook (don’t ever call him a chef) consistently put out the best pub grub around. The tenderloins are the best, yes I said best, I have encountered and the Ruben and patty melt are done just as well. Across the board, Shake spears takes an otherwise overlooked genera and raises it to a pleasing experience. This is compounded by the kitchen itself, go ahead and treat yourself to the hand battered chicken breast sandwich, then be amazed at the miracle that was crafted in the kitchen that rivals your old easy bake oven.

                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                  1. re: madinmissoula

                                                                    venuto's world bistro...anyone?? i thought this locally owned european style restaurant was fantastic,mediterranean night was by far the best in my opinion, although as some of you may know, it has just closed down for good. tear. i hear the new proprietaires are re-opening in a few months as another italian restaurant. for the love of god...why!?!? i hope there are others mourning this loss as i am.

                                                                    1. re: pau

                                                                      So sorry to hear that Venuto's closed. I used to go on occassion - I liked their bison burger and fries. But the wait for your food could be excrutiatingly long - 45 minutes at lunch doesn't work for most of us. The only place in town that made the Motley Cow look fast.

                                                                      1. re: pau

                                                                        I took my husband there on a "hot date" this last summer and it was delightful. We shared the 5-course and still had leftovers for the next day. Everything tasted wonderful, they made great coffee, and we were treated with a little vocal talent by one of the waitresses. Wonderful all around.

                                                                    2. It is a shame when a locally owned, ecclectic restaurant goes under. Sadly, the only way to pay the rent downtown is with Anheuser-Busch--not with belly dancing and pommes-frites...for a really nice bison burger and fries, try Redhead up in Solon. The bison comes from outside of town at Jordan Creek Farm, and you can get it with Cresco Blue or Gruyere. Great lunch, but look out driving home with a food coma..to Venuto's!

                                                                      1. I am almost embarassed to say I have never been to Redhead. Now I definitely have to go. Cresco Blue on bison, oh my!

                                                                        1. It seems really wierd, Was I the only one who constantly had horrible service at Venutos? I tried three times only to be ignored once and served almost inedible food the other times. Doesnt really surprise me w/the closing.

                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                          1. re: rozz01

                                                                            Yeah, I was surprised they lasted as long as they did. Some of the worst service I've ever had, and the food always had way too much grease and/or fat. Good meatballs do not a successful restaurant make.

                                                                            1. re: rozz01

                                                                              Wow, as a Venuto-regular I can say I never had poor service or a bad dish. I will miss the wonderful beer on tap in a great location. Graze is a massive disappointment unless I need dry ice in my martini...

                                                                              1. re: lost78

                                                                                I wish I had had the same experience.... Sat for 20 minutes in a near empty restaurant waiting for someone to stop chatting and take my order... still gets to me

                                                                            2. Pub Grub?

                                                                              Try The Sanctuary on Gilbert street for a comfortable atmosphere, decent food and
                                                                              an outstanding beer list. Live music on the weekends.

                                                                              Pizza Fontina and artichoke bruschetta are good choices.

                                                                              1. The Sanctuary? This used to be a very cool place, and then it turned 1990 (which, by the way, is the last year that over half of the hundred beers available there were ever rotated).
                                                                                The menu suffers from an identity crisis and could not be executed without the aid of a couple of microwaves. The wine list reads like the Ramada Inn, O'Hare restaurant in 1985.
                                                                                The service, (was anyway) a disaffected and frustrated lot, seems bent on illustrating how over-qualified they are, by simply not serving--but then I'd be a bit cranky too if I'd been forced to watch Dave Moore eat his harmonica 300 times--KS

                                                                                1. "La Reyna" serves great Mexican food..it's actually authentic!! They're on the south side of Iowa City, Keokuk St, off of HWY 6. It's a little grocery store (tienda) that, in the summer, had a taco stand in their parking lot. They've now expanded and have seating inside for about 30 ppl or so. If you go, ask for the Pico de gallo salsa.....

                                                                                  1. Perhaps I'm sentimental, but I don't think the Sanctuary can be beat for late night atmosphere, and I think a visitor from out of town woult truly enjoy it. The service I have recieved in the dozens of times I have gone to the sanctuary for gin gimlets with chips and salsa or pizza has never been anything but pleasant.


                                                                                    I would highly recommend it.

                                                                                    1. So I was getting X Mas presents at the Dollar Tree the other day when I happened into Jimmy Jack's for lunch. The genius of simplicity. These guys need to turn this into a franchise.
                                                                                      Price point, efficiency, format, execution.
                                                                                      One of my new favs for lunch....KS

                                                                                      1. I was in town for Christmas and ate at Cafe Verde, a newer tapas restaurant. While the atmosphere was quite lovely, the food was very hit and miss. Great soups and salads. But, for instance, the pulled pork flautas were served with thick, gloppy bbq sauce clearly squeezed straight from the bottle. The "onion haystack" tasted like onion flavored wood shavings. Of course, there is always the additional problem that for, at least my 6'5'' athletic husband, its impossible to be sated without paying absolutely exorbitant prices. And no, we are not the type who need all you can eat buffets to feel full.

                                                                                        Has anyone been to Cafe Z on the east side, which has apparently been open for years?

                                                                                        1. Nice to know the family pronounces it Polly-Eyes.
                                                                                          Anyone who is truly familiar with languages should know that there is considerable diversity with respect to pronunciation in many languages. You don't need to be an expert to see that even within our own country. The USA has considerable diversity with respect to pronunciation from Boston to the deep south to Minnesota to name a few places. If the "g" is virtually silent in "Bruno Magli", it should provide a good clue that the g is also silent in Pagliai's. Another hint is when you see the same exact "agli" letter sequence in both. Sorry to be picky, but I hope this person knows their food better than their languages.

                                                                                          Thanks to everyone for the great food suggestions. It is always humourous to me see that a restaurant that one person raves about is someone else's least favorite. Over the years I have noted that some people that are quite capable of identifying bad food, but are not capable of identifying good food.
                                                                                          Just wanted to share a food find for you travelers. Although there does not appear to be a Chipotle mexican fast food restaurant in Iowa City, (yet) it is a sleeper. Had a friend rave about it for 12 months and ignored it because I knew it was a chain. If you happen to pass one, be sure to do a u-turn and give it a try! All fresh ingredients. Burritos just bursting with individual flavors of meat, chipotle pepper, sour cream, corn, cilantro and lime. Wow! Spicy and mild salsa and 4 types of salsa total. Highly recommended: burritos with chicken, steak or barbacoa. Add the rice, sour cream and corn for sure. Guacamole is the best in the world, highly flavored with cilantro. They also have limes by the soda fountain. Skip the chips and margaritas and stick with the beer. Cheap too, expect to pay $5-$6 per person. Will not taste like the burritos you normally have. Expect to see more of these! The one near my home in Minnesota is always packed at lunch and dinner time and the long line is indicative of the food quality and is worth the wait. Good food is worth the wait. Another sleeper for you travelers: if you ever see a Claim Jumpers restaurant, also make a u-turn. This is a small west coast chain that often has a line and is almost always packed.
                                                                                          I visited one in the San Diego area and everything on their menu was fabulous--mud pie, salads, soups, breads, beef ribs and filet mignon. Have eaten there several times. Wow.
                                                                                          Iowa City Visitor.

                                                                                          9 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: daldrich

                                                                                            We have our own mini-chain here in Iowa City that blows Chipotle's doors off. If all you're after is a quick, well-made, and very LARGE burrito, then Panchero's is the place to go. It is, no doubt, the reason Chipotle hasn't even tried to move into the area.

                                                                                            Though as I've said elsewhere, La Reyna is the best mexican in town.


                                                                                            1. re: Devotay

                                                                                              Yes, Panchero's is quick, and for late-night or downtown grab-n-go, not bad either. But with the number of awesome, authentic taquerias in town and immediately around town -- Columbus Junction, Conesville, Atalissa -- we'd damn well better never see a Chipotle in this area. Even if Bush hates all the immigrants, we can support them here, and have America's best Mexican in the process. So good.

                                                                                            2. re: daldrich

                                                                                              I'm going to stand up for Panchero's also. (plus I don't understand the random Chipotle side track). But come on - the fresh tortillas? Hands down, work it. Even if the filling can be off, the tortilla alone makes it worth it. Whenever you go in there, everyone is chopping veggies or cooking something else. It must be half way decent, as I've not only eaten at 2 am post - bar closing, but also for a normal lunch. :)

                                                                                              1. re: DCLindsey

                                                                                                Oh they're fine for what they do, and my teenagers are positively addicted. It's just I like the genuine article at La Reyna better than the Americanized versions Pancheros peddles. Head to ead with Chipotle though (which IC does not have), Panchero's kicks Chipotle's burro.

                                                                                                1. re: Devotay

                                                                                                  Yep. You are so right. Forgot to mention that I recently moved to DC from Iowa City. I'm constantly defending Iowa restaurants here so I think I'm just a bit defensive! :)

                                                                                                  1. re: DCLindsey

                                                                                                    Why can't they offer cilantro? There's not enough in the pico.

                                                                                                    1. re: kellog sully

                                                                                                      Good call, Kellog. Have you mentioned it to them? I'm not in there much, but I could tell my daughter to do so, she loves the place.

                                                                                                      Just theorizing: As a fast food joint, they'd probably find cilantro to have too short a shelf life.

                                                                                                        1. re: kellog sully

                                                                                                          Well, shorter than cooked chicken, yeah.

                                                                                            3. Er, to return to conversation not involving subsidiaries of McDonalds...

                                                                                              So it's been four months and I've done relatively competent job canvassing the areas for eats. All things considered, I've been pleasantly surprised: I've found two really good restaurants, and there's more than one place to sate a Southeast Asian fix. Good enough for me, even if I have fever dreams about TAC Quick back in Chicago.

                                                                                              Some observations/commentary that I hope people can shed some light on:

                                                                                              1) I've noticed that service tends toward the laissez-faire side around these parts. I don't know whether it's because of the usual age of the servers or because I've heard--and seen--that Iowans can be lousy tippers, but I never appreciated good service until I started eating out here. It's actually starting to drive me crazy.
                                                                                              2)Much as I appreciate many of the chefs in the area learning their misos and chipotles, I'd much prefer they learn how to cook food before they try to impress with edgy menus. Takanami is the most egregious violator, but I've several meals where about 3-6 ingredients could have been dropped if it meant that the protein on the plate was cooked right. Now I understand why everything people eat here is fried.
                                                                                              3) What kills me the most is the salad/soup course that absolutely-has-to-be-requisite-in-order-for-the-restaurant-to-placate-people. Yeah, it's that annoying. Please, chef from Devotay, enlighten me: why must I be served a tired greens salad or a limpid soup that I don't want? at Devotay, at Motley Cow, at Lincoln Cafe--same deal everytime, and the mesclun salad or portabello creme soup pales in comparison to the entree offerings. Why not knock $2-3 off the cost of the entree? It actually prevents me from ordering an appetizer that attention was put into, thereby depriving you of a larger tab. I don't get it. Maybe someone else does.


                                                                                              My favorite place in the area is Lincoln Cafe, which doesn't need my love but gets it anyway. The chef's food can be precious and overwrought--he has this thing, much like the Lonesome Dove Bistro in Fort Worth, with putting 60 different things in a dish--but he can seriously cook, and his love for foie gras and offal makes me smile. Chicken stuffed with pig jowls? That kills. Sometimes all the pieces don't work, but he had these fried oysters in my dinner tonight that were, in spite of being an afterthought, a katrillion times better than the really excellent ones I had at Kinkead's in DC last month (and those are some highly touted oysters). I'd be there every night if he'd dropped the price of entrees $5 or so--my favorite equivalent place in Chicago, Scylla, is several dollars cheaper--and got service in order. Still, the real deal.

                                                                                              I also really appreciate the Motley Cow, which is in the same spirit as Lincoln but is like the scruffy DIY knockoff. I really like how Michael--that's his name, right?--cooks seafood, and the price is more than right. You just want to root for this place.

                                                                                              The choices for thai are abysmal; I also don't eat Chinese and Italian here (after a horrendous dinner at Givanni's), and really have no plans to visit a steakhouse, either. Any advice that will change my mind?

                                                                                              Indian is surprisingly good: I prefer Exotic India in Coralville, but I was more than happy with Masala until I discovered the former. And Saigon to Bangkok has been the great surprise: a really rich and complex pho, along with solidly executed Vietnamese dishes. Me likee.

                                                                                              Verde and Formosa are horrendous. Still need to get to Red Avocado and the Readhead. I'm not much of a sandwich guy, but I'm told that Prairie Table and New Pioneer should be tried.

                                                                                              Anything else?


                                                                                              5 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: bcawn


                                                                                                Well, assuming that daldrich was replying to ctscorp and not to me, I'll reply to you bcawn.

                                                                                                We (and I can only presume other restaurants) serve the soup/salad option because a VAST majority of our guests want it/expect it. If you don't, then by all means, let us know and we won't serve it to you. Glad you like the rest of our offerings though. And I'm with you on TAC Thai Quick, by the way - stunning.

                                                                                                Oh, and McDonald's divested from Chipotle 2 years ago.

                                                                                                1. re: bcawn

                                                                                                  As a chicago transplant myself, I thought your summary was spot on.

                                                                                                  I've been jonesing for dim sum but there is none to be had in the entire state of Iowa (Cafe Su in Des Moines does not do Dim Sum... they have a selection of appetizers which is not quite the same).

                                                                                                  I liked Granite City in Cedar Rapids. They do a good brunch buffet on the weekends, the highlight of which was an eggs benedict bar... first time I'd ever seen such a thing, but it was oh so tasty.

                                                                                                  Even though Iowa is famous for good meat I'm not sure if any good steakhouses exist. Bit the bullet, broke the piggybank and went to Joseph's in Iowa City some time ago and was very disappointed. I ordered the porterhouse, medium, with the pepper crust. I get a steak that is closer to medium-well, hidden under a mountain of shoestring onions, without the pepper crust. After pointing it out, the waiter offered to take it back and have the chef sear it again with the pepper crust, by which time my steak would be closer to well-done. Thanks, but no thanks. And then the waiter gave me lap full of crumbs as he cleared the table.

                                                                                                  Aoeshe is not bad - try the Korean bbq which you can cook at the table. Three Samurai is a pricier, but an enjoyable Asian joint with decent sushi. I'm not sure what all the fuss is about Takanami - great ambiance, but I can't eat or taste ambiance.

                                                                                                  For Mexican, I recommend Los Cabos. I'm a serious taco addict, and they get my vote after trying every Mexican pplace in town 9and even West Liberty). El Paso also makes fantastic tacos, but there's no place to sit down. Folks on the board seem tolike la Reyna... El Paso is just around the corner and not as greasy (just greasy enough).

                                                                                                  About local Indian fare - Exotic India is ok. IMHO, India Cafe was better. Have been reluctant to try Masala (I'm Indian, so I consider myself somewhat of an authority on the subject of Indian cuisine).

                                                                                                  I'd love to hear about any other great finds you stumbled across in the area.

                                                                                                  1. re: caliking

                                                                                                    Well, I think you paint with a broad brush when you say there ar e no good steakhouses in Iowa. Josephs is a pretty new restaurant and basically it's a concept restaurant that the Mondos folks want to see go big. You can get great steaks in Iowa if you look around. It might be fair to say there are no good steakhouses in Iowa City / Cedar Rapids. Dunno. But I can name several steakhouses that rival anything I've had in Chicago. Archie's Waeside dry ages their steaks and cooks them perfectly. They are prime cuts that melt in your mouth. And their wine celler is steller.

                                                                                                    You are right about Cafe Su. The ol' dim sum myth/legend has been floating around for quite sime time. Frankly, I'm not crazy about Cafe Su anyway.

                                                                                                    1. re: caliking

                                                                                                      I'd have to agree about the lack of worthy steakhouses. I did have a prime rib at Ruthie's at the casino in Riverside that was delicious and really well cooked, but they're super pricey.
                                                                                                      I got so distracted by the mudslinging daldrich (where'd he go, anyway?) that I missed talk about Asian, so I'll give my plug now: Oyama. They're in the Sycamore mall parking lot, and they are, I think, the best sushi in town, and really reasonably priced. They don't do as many fancy-pants things as Takanami by any means, but for some buttery salmon nigiri, a generous portion of spicy seaweed salad, or light, never-greasy tempura, they're the place to go. And the service is super nice too.
                                                                                                      And hey, keep quiet about El Paso -- I don't think they can handle the volume, and that burrito has saved my hungover life on too many Saturdays! So freakin' delicious.

                                                                                                      1. re: caliking

                                                                                                        Thanks for the tips re: tacos! I sure hope the places you recommend are still open. I've tried tacos from 3 places so far since I just want to get a decent carne asada taco. I'm starting to think there aren't any around here.

                                                                                                    2. I quite enjoy Joseph's. The servers can be quite amateurish but are educable in my experience. Indeed, like you, I once encountered some push back when I asked to send a steak back but I insisted and got my rare steak instead of the medium rare to medium I was served. Of course, one shouldn't have to persist like this.

                                                                                                      The tuna appetizer is quite nice. The steaks are the best in the area and they allow me to bring wine from my own cellar(corkage $10). The only place that competes steakwise in IC is the Motley Cow but the quality of the meat there varies.

                                                                                                      Before Joseph's I used to go down to the Bryn Mawr outside Ainsworth for steak but it has been a while.

                                                                                                      1. Seems like the thread may be morphing into one about steaks in IC/C'ville/CR? :)

                                                                                                        If anyone has any good recommendations for steaks/steakhouses in the area, let's hear them.

                                                                                                        I'm dying to show up my friends from Chicago who claim they have the best steaks over there, when the cows probably came from over here!

                                                                                                        1. Mander, Bryn Mawr is still cooking, but you might also try the Shamrock, a roadhouse right in the town of Ainsworth. It's a place where everyone knows your name. Steaks are hit and miss, but when they hit, it's top notch.

                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                          1. re: DrWine

                                                                                                            Thanks for the tip on the shamrock. Will definitely check it out.

                                                                                                          2. The comments here have been helpful, particularly with the Mexican options beyond La Reyna. Think I'll give Aoeshe a try now that it's gotten some love.

                                                                                                            So do we have a consensus on a worth-a-drive steakhouse in Eastern Iowa? Something other than a Mondo's owned restaurant, I hope.

                                                                                                            Kurt, couple of points/questions:
                                                                                                            1) I have to say, as much as I may have enjoyed what I ate the two times I've been to Devotay, my order was botched both times. It's one of those things that's not your fault--you didn't take my order--but has prevented me from returning to your restaurant.
                                                                                                            2) Glad to hear you've been and enjoyed TAC. I was back in Chicago this past weekend and stopped by...had my usual crispy en choy (I have a crack-like addiction to it) and tried both the pork blood soup and the grilled pork neck. Both were revelatory.
                                                                                                            3) Do you know what's going into the Venuto's space?

                                                                                                            I'm going to try and hit the Redhead this week; I'll post back on it.

                                                                                                            1. Has anyone tried Rube's grill-your-own-steaks? A friend of mine mentioned it and I've been intrigued, but its a 1hr+ drive from IC.

                                                                                                              A little pearl: if your hankering for some grilled beef try Metro buffet near the Sam's Club in Cedar Rapids. Metro is an Asian buffet place with sushi, Chinese dishes, Teppanyaki, etc. My fav place for quick and dirty Asian food... beats most take-out places in IC. The best part is that the Teppanyaki table has steaks (kinda like thin ribeyes) which they will grill anyway you want them. A dash of garlic salt and you have quite a tasty morsel. And of course its a buffet, so you can go back as much as you want. Not necessarily the best quality steak, nor the best ambience, but a great way to get your meat fix when you need it. The Teppanyaki table is pretty decent and they have a good selecion of dinner items to choose from.

                                                                                                              I've been thinking of trying Redhead and Cafe Dodici. I guess I'll wait for bcawn's report :)

                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                              1. re: caliking

                                                                                                                I was raised near Rube's original location in Montour, although I haven't eaten there in several years and some things may have changed. As you mentioned, it's a place where you grill your own steaks, and in fact it really doesn't even have a kitchen. The steaks are (or were) great. Several cuts, sizes, and thicknesses are available - all of high quality - as well as ham and salmon I think. You pick your own out of a large cooler and take it to the large grill in the room where your table is, so it helps to know a bit about meat selection (and of course how to grill to your preferred state of doneness). The only side dishes are foil-wrapped baked potatoes you pick off a platter at one end of the grill and a typically bad salad bar (iceberg, radishes, cottage cheese, macaroni salad, etc.) along with Texas toast for buttering and plopping on a cooler spot on the grill. The service basically consists of taking drink orders and the atmosphere is pretty much non-existant - fake wood panelling, not a window in the place, checkered table-cloths (cloth?). Still, it's a great road-trip destination for a group of friends - the steaks are really quite good, the booze flows freely, and the social atmosphere around the grill makes for a lot of fun.

                                                                                                                There are a few reviews on the web with more info. Haven't been to their Waukee location, so I can't comment on what it's like there.

                                                                                                                By the way, I'm glad to see La Reyna gettting props here. It's makes my taste buds so happy to have a reasonably authentic Mexican place in town.

                                                                                                              2. Having lived in IC during 1987-1991 I've thoroughly enjoyed reading this thread and I'm happy to hear there are some better eating options now than when I was there. Good Mexican and sushi didn't exist then. I'm surprised to hear Aoeshe is still around. At the time it opened it was the only "Japanese" restaurant and it was mediocre at best.

                                                                                                                So what happened to The Kitchen? I recall the great homemade pasta and sauces but was sad when it moved from its original Dubuque St location to a larger more sterile space. Also is the State Room still operating?

                                                                                                                Is Rube's in West Branch?

                                                                                                                7 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: hopkid

                                                                                                                  Hi Hopkid - The original Rube's is in Montour, IA (just south of Marshalltown) and the expansion is in Waukee, just outside of Des Moines. The cook your own place in West Branch may be LB Steakhouse, but I haven't been there in so long (since college) I'm not sure it still exists.

                                                                                                                  The Kitchen closed many years ago - I have fond memories of the all you can eat Monday deal when I was in law school. I miss that and Bushnell's Turtle and Great Mid for ice cream. But the dining scene is SO much better now that I don't complain too much! :)


                                                                                                                  1. re: iowagirl

                                                                                                                    Yup, it was LB's I was thinking of. And we did love the soups and sandwiches at Bushnell's Turtle as well. I miss Fry's BBQ as well (I know that's long since closed) and a good pork tenderloin sandwich. Is Dane's Dairy still out on Hwy 6?

                                                                                                                    1. re: hopkid

                                                                                                                      Dane's Dairy is still there - My grandparents used to live within walking distance, and when I used to come and stay a week in the summer, we'd walk the dog every night, go to Dane's, and they would always give him a "doggy dish" of vanilla. They've done some renovations and it's not hidden by the cornfields anymore, but still the same ice cream!

                                                                                                                      1. re: iowagirl

                                                                                                                        Glad to hear Dane's Dairy is still in business. I was sad to hear that the Dairy Queen had been damaged by the tornado. Is it gone for good?

                                                                                                                        So it looks like I'll have to try one of these fancy new places in town when I come to visit in August. Maybe two!

                                                                                                                        1. re: hopkid

                                                                                                                          The Dairy Queen (on Riverside) was literally blown away by the tornado, but they rebuilt and are back in business. Or will be once the weather warms up. In fact, they even received special zoning permission to recreate and re-erect (?) the old style sign.

                                                                                                                          Definitely some choices to make when you're in town again!


                                                                                                                          1. re: iowagirl

                                                                                                                            Glad to hear that! I loved that old-style signage they had. The owner once told me that when he retired he was going to give the sign to the Smithsonian.

                                                                                                                            1. re: iowagirl

                                                                                                                              here's the DQ at 526 S Riverside Dr before and after the April 13th Tornado.

                                                                                                                              The owners, Scott & Tracey McWane, have indeed rebuilt, and reopened last summer for the last 6-7 weeks of the season without their sign.

                                                                                                                              The new sign is now in place (no photo yet) and they will reopen for 2007 on February 13th.


                                                                                                                  2. Just got back from The Redhead, which is at the corner of Hwy 6 and Main Street in "downtown" Solon. It's another one of those "only in Iowa"--or, put another way, "not in Chicago"--restaurants with that ramshackle, unpretentious vibe and a New American menu. Conceptually, it's not any different than either Motley Cow or Lincoln Cafe with the whole printed-menu-with-sandwiches-chalkboard-with-gussied-up-specials dealy...with one exception: the food.

                                                                                                                    The thing that stands out about the Redhead is how brawny it is--ironic, I guess, considering it's entirely staffed by females, whereas Motley is the most effeminate and is staffed by men. The menu, both the printed one and the specials, is almost entirely comprised of meat: pork, steak, and elk were on the specials board. And, save for the salad (the best gratis salad yet) and the button mushrooms that were not listed in the item description, there isn't a vegetable in sight at this place--everything, all the time, was starch. I left painfully full, which I haven't felt in a while.

                                                                                                                    I think Kellogg referenced this place as being "Mason-Dixon comfort food", a phrase with more cultural/social meaning than geographic--it's definitely hearty food, but it's definitely not southern cooking. I suppose I'd call it Iowan, but based on what I had, I don't know if I'd give it any more superlatives than Applebee's...though I'm sure Mastercard is happy I chose this one.

                                                                                                                    I suppose it would help if I told you what I ate: a "delmonico" steak, which came plated with a hunk of sun-dried tomato mashed potatoes and that. The thing was rather crudely thrown together on a blue plate straight from the 1950s--I presume bought at a Goodwill, which is sort of cute but is not a rationale for the lack of plating--and then topped with the aforementioned button mushrooms. That's it. And, trust me, that's what it tasted like: a slightly fatty sirloin--though described as ribeye--cooked to the preferred temperature and served with chunky mashed potatoes. It's a $13.99 meal at your local "casual neighborhood restaurant" chain, but you can get it for a steal at the Redhead for $25!

                                                                                                                    That got me thinking about Iowan restaurant economics, something I still haven't fully grasped yet. I don't care about price--so far as you deliver. But I couldn't help but be a bit incredulous while staring at the chalkboard: $18 for two pork carnitas? Even Rick Bayless doesn't charge that much for the equivalent dish at Frontera Grill--and I highly doubt this place tops that, though admittedly I did not try it. But I can tell you that my $25 steak wasn't even in the same universe as meals I've had in the past two months at Tango Sur (an Argentinian steakhouse in Chicago) or Les Halles (a beef-focused brasserie in NYC), and the steak dishes I ordered at both of those places were several dollars less. If you, BRING IT. Lincoln Cafe does, and they still overcharge (it was $30 for an entree the last time I was there); Motley Cow does, and they charge about $20.

                                                                                                                    To Redhead's credit, the field greens salad served is better than any other place in the area, showing considerably more care than the usual "sherry vinagrette" and such (the dressing was honey & cinnamon--while gloppy like sweet & sour sauce, it surprisingly worked); the bread came with a delicious blue cheese spread; and the service was friendly, earnest, and relatively helpful (a first!). Dessert looked appealing in a diner-esque way--you know, big hunks of cake--but I was too full to consider it. Besides, why are you serving cold berry soup with mango ice cream when it's 4 frickin' degrees outside?

                                                                                                                    Back to the Motley Cow tomorrow.

                                                                                                                    1. Just as a point of reference from my previous post: I had skate wing at MC last night, and it was $18; David's steak dish--a ribeye--was $20.

                                                                                                                      Ctscorp, I had the parsnip puree...the soup certainly captures the essence of eating a root vegetable, but was pretty one-dimensional. Either the amount of truffle oil needs a more liberal application, or he needs to add a texture contrast.

                                                                                                                      The skate, however, was really excellent: pan-fried, served with small slices of sweet tomatoes, and a ratatouille on the side. This place executes more consistently than just about any restaurant I've been to on a regular basis.

                                                                                                                      has anyone been to taste on melrose? I keep meaning to go.

                                                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                                                      1. re: bcawn

                                                                                                                        Thanks for the tip on Redhead, further confirming that I don't need to go out of my way for it. Minor nitpick: Hwy 6 and Main in Solon? Try Hwy 1 and Main.

                                                                                                                        The Cow has been really pushing that parsnip puree. Mine had a fair bit of truffle oil and it was still one dimensional, as you describe. I agee that adding texture migh work. ON THE OTHER HAND, the lamb chops with roasted fennel, feta and white beans that I had that same night (1/19) were stupendous. I love skate I'll have to check if they will have it for a while.

                                                                                                                        I have had horribly uneven experiences at Taste.

                                                                                                                        1. re: mander

                                                                                                                          Had the skate a week ago at the Cow - quite nice!

                                                                                                                        2. re: bcawn

                                                                                                                          Yes. I liked Taste. We had a little cheese sample to begin with - came with some
                                                                                                                          sort of port and fig jam that made wonderful things happen in my mouth. Quinoa and veggies were in a very balanced broth. So good and healthy also.
                                                                                                                          * Service in general is not great in IC, although the nicer places do a good job. I think 126 is very good in this regard. Especially since the change in ownership, It use to be snooty - but now it has a sophisticated but friendly vibe, and the food is really yummy. We usually just get starters, salads and deserts. Although they do a good job with pasta and my husband always loves the steak.
                                                                                                                          * I'd just like to chime in - about soup - the sunchoke soup at Lincoln is really very lovely. Like everything else. The best around these parts - by far.
                                                                                                                          Also - as average as Linn Street is - the Lobster Bisque is stellar.
                                                                                                                          * Also - Devotay does strange things that make me mad. For example, a really fine smelling Lamb Stew. Expensive, huge portion. It comes out of the kitchen about 700 degrees. Why? And why would you put broccoli in it - when it's so obviously going to be boiled to a lifeless, nasty gray-green pod. And everything else about it is just great, which makes it more annoying. If their were several mistakes you could just give up on them. But the place is so darn cute, the wine is good and eating out there is more fun than a lot of places in town. Also - if anyone from Devotay is listening - any possibility of more main dishes in the $12 - 18 range? It seems like you spend 9 for a sandwich (terrible tasteless bread) or $25. Unless you go the Tapas route.
                                                                                                                          * The scene at Giovanni's reminds me to much of Miami Vice - what with the neon lighting. It's so really, really lame.
                                                                                                                          * The only thing lamer than Giovanni's is Graze - where the food is an absurd although slightly amusing upmarket version of pub grub. Very greasy. Nothing subtle going on. You won't find many veggies here. In fact, everything is so deep fried it's hard to imagine what it looks like back there. They must have a huge wall of deep-friers going. Yuck.
                                                                                                                          * I've only ever had amazing food at Motley Cow. It is pricey, but unlike Devotay, they don't make mistakes. They would never put broccoli in the lamb stew or serve it at 700 degrees. The deserts are very nice and the vibe is just lovely.
                                                                                                                          * I like Takanami for the Sushi and rolls, but the more complicated dishes are just that - complicated. Not so fabulous. The requisite salad is boring. It's true about boring salads in Iowa City. Also - what's with the beets and blue cheese. Could that be over one of these days? I love it but good god could someone think of some other things to serve w/ blue cheese? Apricots? Figs? Fennel?

                                                                                                                          * The Red Avocado has lovely salads. The last two times i went there it seemed especially good - something has changed there. I had a raw plate their a few months ago that was excellent. Not too much, but some really nice, balanced flavors. Some healthy places just kill you with one dominant note - usually garlic. Not so at Red Avocado. And you feel so good after eating there.
                                                                                                                          * I like the Margaritas at Saloon, but I've only ever had lunch stuff there. Pretty average. And lame, overly sauced coleslaw. Are there any winners in terms of main dishes for dinner? I'd like to try the brisket, but I'm from Texas and I'm really picky about my brisket.
                                                                                                                          Also - please reply if you have gossip about Graze or just want to trash it some more. It's sooooo fun! Also - if you are avoiding it b/c you think it must be so bad you need to go tomorrow. It is bad but in a really funny way. There is even some dry ice involved in the presentation! That's how you know it's faaannncccyyy!

                                                                                                                        3. I gues what I like about that parsnip puree is how clean it is -- as much as I love Lincoln Cafe, their pureed soups are always, always, always LOADED with cream and butter and that low-grade truffle oil that you can taste hours later. But I can see one-dimensional; I guess I just happen to like the dimension!
                                                                                                                          Thanks for the tip, too, on Redhead, which I have been meaning to try, and I'll second (third?) the unevenness of Taste.
                                                                                                                          I do have to say, though, that for as long as the Cow has been open, there have been women working there -- a pastry chef, several servers, a few bartenders -- and women have been very influential in its shaping, its decor, its overall aesthetic... although, yes, the genius behind it all has always been a man (first Tom, then David). But I would hardly agree that it's staffed by men.

                                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                                          1. re: ctscorp

                                                                                                                            It hasn't always been a male majority at the Motley Cow, but for now it's sort of like the mess kitchen on a UBoat--not to say the service is bad. The food is the best in town.

                                                                                                                            1. re: kellog sully

                                                                                                                              Erm, having never been on a Uboat, I don't really get what you mean. The size? The crowdedness? Has David been wearing one of those cute outfits like they wore in "Anchors Aweigh"?
                                                                                                                              I like the metaphor, I just don't get it. Curious.

                                                                                                                          2. I haven't been here long enough to know--heck, I can't even get the state highway numbers right--but in my half dozen or so visits to Motley Cow, there has been the same crew of two male waitstaff, David, a male sous chef, and the dessert/appetizer guy. For all that, the soup is parsnip puree.

                                                                                                                            In comparison: Redhead has two female chefs and hunks of beef with gristle. Hard not to notice.

                                                                                                                            My curiosity has been piqued by Soleil in Coralville...think I'll give it a whirl today and see what's up.

                                                                                                                            1. I had a wonderful dinner at Soleil's. The menu is the perfect size, so you don't feel like you are drowning in probably mediocre options. The food tasted fresh, was full of flavor, interesting, and, to top it off, all seemed hopelessly healthy. Soleil greets and chats with all the diners. I was worried he was going to push some of his spiritural guru weirdness on us, but he absolutely did not. (If you're confused, you'll understand once you get there.) My friend took one of the ginger drinks. Let's just say its hardcore. Overall, its just a really nice, comfortable place to be, and a very cool little addition to that strange corner back there- that little ethnic magnet with the Indian rest., mexican grocery, middle eastern grocery and cafe, etc.

                                                                                                                              1. Hey Dina,
                                                                                                                                Don't forget the real taste of exotica back in that corner of Coralville, Happy Joe's. Taco Pizza and birthday parties!

                                                                                                                                1. Plus the church in the same strip mall!

                                                                                                                                  Soleil's was closed--at 6:30--when I got there on Wednesday; I ate at Exotic India instead. Perfectly Acceptable Indian, with good butter chicken and surprisingly tight desserts. I like it.

                                                                                                                                  I'll drink the kool-aid of Soleil's sometime this weekend, presuming he actually opens his restaurant for dinner.

                                                                                                                                  1. I saw a flyer about Soleil's at the Indian store... sounds like it might be worth trying.

                                                                                                                                    On another note: does anyone know where to get sushi grade fish in the area? New Pi has some kind of freeze-&-thaw variety, but I'm looking for something like Dirk's in Chicago. Any recs would be highly appreciated.

                                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                                    1. re: caliking

                                                                                                                                      I have some friends who asked a chef at a local restuarant to order live lobsters for them. You might try that. All the restaurants in the area have access to whatever anyplace in Chicago has; it just has to be cost-effective for them, so you might have to get a larger portion. And it may be illegal to distribute as retail. Hmmm. I'd imagine New Pi could order from Fortune Fish, though -- they're the high-quality purveyor to restaurants. Maybe a special order?

                                                                                                                                    2. I guess I'll try that. I thought of asking one of the sushi places in town if they would sell me some sushi grade fish. I don't think I would be able to order from any place directly to be delivered to me. Oh well, the search continues.

                                                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                                                      1. re: caliking

                                                                                                                                        If you ever go to Des Moines, there is a fresh fish market called the Waterfront, that routinely has their fish flown in. Technically, I think they are in WDM, and not far from a Penzey's Spice outlet off of University. Make a day of it and have lunch at Star Bar while your'e there--this message has not been brought to you by the Greater Des Moines Tourist Board. Imagine a fresh seafood retailer in IC.....

                                                                                                                                        1. re: kellog sully

                                                                                                                                          I would just add that Waterfront's seafood is excellent. They also have a sushi bar, and serve lunch and dinner at very reasonable prices.

                                                                                                                                      2. Iowa City had a fresh fish market years and years ago (like 20 years), on the Coralville strip (okay, so I guess that technically means that Coraville had the market). Then it turned into a Dairy Queen - not sure if its still that, or what. In any event, there is precedent.

                                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                                        1. re: iowadina

                                                                                                                                          That spot was a gourmet shop back then. Did they do fresh fish too?

                                                                                                                                          It is still a DQ, by the way.

                                                                                                                                          My advice for fresh fish is to either pay the shipping with EcoFish.com, or get in good with the guys at HyVee or the co-op, then get your fish ONLY on Tuesday and Friday (That's when the Fortune truck is in town from Chicago.

                                                                                                                                          During the season (About late March-Oct) There's fresh (never frozen) gulf shrimp from Fabian Seafood in The DQ lot on Riverside Drive. Steve Fabian has been selling there for over 25 years. Wonderful, sweet shrimp, and often crab, oyster, and crawfish. Early and late in the season he has beautiful red snapper too. www.FabianSeafood.com

                                                                                                                                        2. You are all making me nostalgic for IC. Certainly a lot of Iowa alums and/or Hawkeyes on this board.

                                                                                                                                          1. Going to the Motley Cow tonight. Any tips on what is good on the menu of late? I haven't been in over two weeks and am hoping for some new treats...

                                                                                                                                            14 Replies
                                                                                                                                            1. re: mander

                                                                                                                                              Sorry, been outa town for a week & a half. But Dave always makes great food, so your good to go.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: Devotay

                                                                                                                                                Had a great steak with a very novel side: pureed brocolli. By the end of the meal I decided I liked the brocolli but it took a while to get used to the texture. My wife had the goat cheese and tomato sandwich which was delicious.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: mander

                                                                                                                                                  Good Day--
                                                                                                                                                  Two reasonably good lunches this week in old IC:
                                                                                                                                                  The buffet at Exotic India in the subregion of ethnic restaurants in C'ville. The fresh naan, brought out after seating, was a nice touch, and clearly identifiable flavors emerged from each offering, as opposed to creamy, ketchup-infused sauces and dried out chicken I've had consistently at other spots.
                                                                                                                                                  Secondly, La Reyna. I have said it before, and I'll reiterate--this place simply rocks for lunch. I need to get over there for dinner now, and try the Carnitas. I could eat my weight in their tamales. bestest, KS

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: kellog sully

                                                                                                                                                    Everybody has to go to La Reyna. Keep supporting them cuz they're sorta hidden away back there on Keokuk st. The chicken tacos are amazing and Kellog is right about the tamales, they rock. Also, you can get Mexican coca-cola there - made with sugar not corn syrup - tastes LOTS better, believe me.

                                                                                                                                                    And here's a chowhound insider tip - Carmen makes the tamales fresh on thursdays, so go then to get the best ones.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Devotay

                                                                                                                                                      I just wish the had 1 thing w/out meat in it. Great store though..

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: rozz01

                                                                                                                                                        I don't have the whole menu memorized, but I can tell you that their chips with guacamole is fantastic and very filling. Hope this helps, and I also hope you told Carmen that you'd like to see a vegetaian entree on her menu. She is very eager to please and will do what she can.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: rozz01

                                                                                                                                                          I went there with several vegetarian friends, and Carmen said she'd make ANYTHING on the menu (minus tamales, of course) vegetarian. And she was right. So ask her, and she shall oblige :-)

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: monou

                                                                                                                                                            I finally went over there and got the rajas. Gotta admit, It was nuts good... Guac was great too.

                                                                                                                                                          2. re: rozz01

                                                                                                                                                            We were there for lunch last weekend, and ordered the veggie burrito. No meat, but lots of wonderfully seasoned veggies - peppers, onions, avocado, some cheese and crema. It was SOOO good!

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: iowagirl

                                                                                                                                                              I guess that I only tried to go to the stand, gave up due to the fact there was nothin' there. Will try again..

                                                                                                                                                          3. re: Devotay

                                                                                                                                                            Just finished the leftovers from last night's dinner at La Reyna and had to comment here. I tried the camarones a la diabla - 12 large shrimp covered with a spiced tomato/onion/pepper sauce and sided with rice. It was incredibly good. Great shrimp and a sauce filled with flavor and heat (on the edge of my heat tolerance... actually, perhaps just over the edge). Most expensive thing on the menu at $13, but well worth it.

                                                                                                                                                            I've had three weekend dinners there and 2 of the 3 were outstanding, the third very good. Oh, and their guacamole *is* excellent.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: squarepeg

                                                                                                                                                              I must not be having the same luck that other folks are having with la Reyna.

                                                                                                                                                              Went there yesterday for tacos. The waiter got my order for a steak taco wrong and brought me just the steak (carne asada). The other tacos (al pastor) were okay. Service left much to be desired. The restaurant is a tad on the sparse and dingy side as far as decor goes. The outside taco stand had not opened for the summer yet.

                                                                                                                                                              My faves for Mexican food are still El Paso (if I need a quick taco fix and don't have time to sit) or Los Cabos. I agree La Reyna might have more variety in terms of items on the menu, but overall Los Cabos wins for being a nice place with very tasty food and good service.

                                                                                                                                                              I do love La Reyna the grocery store, though. Especially since they stock El Yucatero hot sauce!

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: caliking

                                                                                                                                                                Thanks, caliking -- I thought I was the only one. I went to La Reyna for lunch a couple weeks ago, and while it tasted fine, it was super greasy and it took FOREVER. I know, I know, they're new, blah blah -- so I'll forgive the service, but I can't forget the way that steak torta tore up my gut for three days after I ate it. Unbearable. And the "legendary" tamales were dry and flavorless. I'll stick with the adult cat-sized burrito with lots of salsa verde from El Paso as well -- at least they're consistent. And I just love that eating one is like an archaeological dig: you never know what's going to be in the next bite (and it will ALL be delicious).

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: ctscorp

                                                                                                                                                                  Los Cabos wins hands down...we went to La Reyna for lunch with HIGH expectations (bad for people from San Diego used to the most incredible Carne Asada burritos EVER), and were really disappointed...it was not only nothing special, it was not good at all. Oh well, so much for great Mexican in Iowa City...but really, what were we expecting??

                                                                                                                                                  2. This may qualify as a sub-thread, but since we've been talking about Mexican food, I think it's time for another "Taco Tasting Tour".

                                                                                                                                                    My last one explored the West Liberty area, but IMHO, none of the taquerias were able to beat El Paso for the basic steak taco. El Tapatio (I think that was the one right next door to the tortilla shop) came close. That Tour took about 4hours, roughly 8-9 tacos, and a delicous stop at the Wilton soda shop.

                                                                                                                                                    This weekend I am planning on hitting Columbus Junction. Is the CJ La Reyna still open? Any recs would be appreciated.

                                                                                                                                                    And of course, I will post a report of the CJ Taco Tasting Tour as soon as the results are in.

                                                                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                    1. re: caliking

                                                                                                                                                      Has anyone tried Graze in the former Venuto's/Gringos locale? Burlington's chicken lip emporium unleashes itself on IC. Tenders, fingers, popcorn, now lips? Very creative marketing. I guess such marketing has worked wonders for tomato bisque and potato puree...KS

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: kellog sully

                                                                                                                                                        I know it's cheap for me to diss, especially having never been to Martini's, but the guy behind Graze has hands down the most tired, least interesting menu I've ever seen. Is this what "Food Guru Experience" means in IC?

                                                                                                                                                    2. Should be interesting to see Panchero's and Chipotle go head to head, given their locations 50 yards apart. Both will be a two minute walk from my office.

                                                                                                                                                      7 Replies
                                                                                                                                                      1. re: mander

                                                                                                                                                        Beng familiar with both operations, my money is on Pancheros (judging purely by my children's preferences). However, I am pleased to point out that Chipotle, unlike any other big chain (that I know of) buys its meat from Niman Ranch - which means almost all the pork is from Iowa, is deep bed or pasture raised, and contains no hormones or sub-therapeutic antibiotics. Y'all know I'm no fan of the big chains, but at least they do that.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Devotay

                                                                                                                                                          Has anyone heard of a guy who sells shrimp/seafood from his truck in IC during the summer? If so, where does he usually park?

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: caliking

                                                                                                                                                            Hi... Do a web search for Fabian seafood. They will put you on the mailing list to let you know when they are in town; It comes w/a nominal coupon too. I've only tried the crawfish and oysters, but supposedly its the shrimp that really rock. It seemd that they are coming every two weeks....

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: rozz01

                                                                                                                                                              and it's actually every 3 weeks, & that sometimes stretches to 4.

                                                                                                                                                            2. re: caliking

                                                                                                                                                              Last time they were here, it was May 29. If they have snapper, you MUST get one. So fresh. So good. Shrimp's good, too. They're in the parking lot of the Dairy Queen on Riverside.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: ctscorp

                                                                                                                                                                Snapper rules in the gulf have changed. Now it's by quota and not by season, so it's a crap shoot each time he comes whether he'll have any. Get there early to have the best chance. He opens at 11 am on those Tuesdays when he's at the DQ - 526 S. Riverside drive (yes, it's the one that was hit by a tornado last year).

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Devotay

                                                                                                                                                                  Thanks for the info everyone. I just signed up for Fabian's mailing list and can't wait to go visit their truck.

                                                                                                                                                                  Also, I had promised the results of my taco tasting tour. The skinny: Of the Columbus Junction taco joints, Rey De Reyes wins for completeness - horchata, excellent tacos, served with lime and radishes on the side.

                                                                                                                                                                  Santa Ana (next door to Rey De Reyes) wins for character - older gentleman proprietor, 5 kinds of homemade salsa, home-kitchen style setup, slow whirling ceiling fans, etc.

                                                                                                                                                        2. There's a new Mexican restaurant in Coralville -- Plaza Jalisco next to 965 south of Gus's. We had one of the lunch specials yesterday, Carnitas De Res for $5 ($9.95 on the menu) -- Top sirloin strips cooked with green pepper and onions, served with guacamole, rice, beans, tortillas. Main dish was like fajitas without the sauce and sizzle pan. Everything was quite tasty. We'll be back to try more.

                                                                                                                                                          It may be a bit hard to find, but worth it. From 965 turn west on Oakdale Blvd.; go one block then south on Coral Court. Go about 1 block and turn left into one of the clusters of storefronts. If you know where Gus's is located, Jalisco is across that parking lot on the south side. There is a sign on the restaurant (visible from 965 if you're southbound).


                                                                                                                                                          Plaza Jalisco
                                                                                                                                                          2401 Coral Court, Suite 2
                                                                                                                                                          Coralville, IA 52241

                                                                                                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                          1. re: puzzler

                                                                                                                                                            Good to know considering the lunch we just had at La Reyna. The Queen is Dead perhaps? Stale, rancid, greasy. Tamales, formerly the best around, were dry and odd smelling. The interior was still frozen, and the pork was possibly rotten. Even the chips y salsa were over the hill. And this was the signature dish? I used to have stellar food out at this place in the past, and can forgive the vicissitudes of a restaurant that lapses here and there--that's the way of it. But this wasn't just "not up to the usual snuff," it was weird and bad and I hope the ownership can fix what appears to be gravely wrong if they want to be in the biz. KS

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: kellog sully

                                                                                                                                                              We've always found La Reyna to be a real crapshoot. Quite nice sometimes and fair-to-poor most times. Seems like Carmen has a few good recipes, but nobody there knows how to run a restaurant. We stopped going some time ago.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: puzzler

                                                                                                                                                                The question is: what kind of Mexican restaurant is it?
                                                                                                                                                                Is there cheese on the beans?
                                                                                                                                                                Is the default red salsa brick-red or tomato-red?
                                                                                                                                                                Is there goat or tripe on the menu?

                                                                                                                                                                La Reyna did not prove to be worth the drive from Cedar Rapids, though I would certainly return occasionally if I lived there. We'll give the new place a try if it passes my test.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: cali2ia

                                                                                                                                                                  Re: Plaza Jalisco - we've waited a while for it to open (we wouyld drive by every Sunday afternoon to see if it had opened yet). When it did open we stopped by for dinner. Wife had the steak taco dinner which ws okay. I had fajitas of some kind which were also okay. Overall, we felt the food was somewhat pedestrian. We might go back, since there seemed to be many seafood items on the menu.

                                                                                                                                                                  Lately, Iguana's (in North Liberty on 965) has been scratching my itch for Mexican food. Sun-Fri (I think) they have a buffet that is really quite decent for a pretty low price (~6$). Their other items are quite good. Had carnitas for lunch a couple of weeks ago that was fabulous (waiter said it had just finished cooking). Chicken mole was also very good. If you ask for their hot sauce, they bring out a "tomato - cream pasta sauce" colored condiment that is extremely tasty.

                                                                                                                                                                  Much as I would love to patronize and support a new Mexican restaurant in my neighborhood (I could probably live on steak tacos), Plaza Jalisco is bound to face stiff competition from Iguana's in terms of taste, items, and decor (Plaza Jalisco's interior weirded me out a little).

                                                                                                                                                                  I've heard that Los Portales has tripe on Sundays for those who crave it.

                                                                                                                                                                  As far as La Reyna is concerned - shop there, but don't eat there. Service is sketchy and the food is hit-or-miss. IMO, it suffers from being poorly managed/run. The grocery store is great... the restaurant is not.

                                                                                                                                                                  And then there is Los Cabos. Folks tell me that the location is jinxed and that any business doesn't last long there. Their steak tacos are the best in a 20mile radius (El Paso is my actual #1 but you have to eat their tacos on the run.). I do hope Los Cabos will last.

                                                                                                                                                                  Oh well... maybe Plaza Jalisco will grow into something better.

                                                                                                                                                          2. I'm new to this board, and it looks like a great resource for good food in Iowa City. I've got a question for all you experts. I'm hosting a dinner party (about 20 people) for my mom's 70th b-day party, and would like to have it at a restaurant to avoid a lot of work for me. Most people will be from out-of-state, and some are rather skeptical of Iowa City's restaurant offerings. Having lived here for a long time, I believe we have many good and a few great options, but I've never considered any for a private dinner party. Any suggestions? We need a private room, or at least a sectioned off area of a restaurant. I can go either way on having kids there, depending on what restaurant we choose. I've thought about Atlas, but I've never been crazy about the food the few times I've been there. 126 has told me they do private parties. I like their food, though I think it's over-priced for dinner. And Cafe Z had said so they can do a private party -- though I've never been there, I hear it is good. I see from their website that Verde's has private party accommodations as well. I've also never been to Verde's, looks like the reviews on this board are mixed. Aren't they in a location that was a dive bar for years? Does it still smell like stale cigarette smoke? I'm never been crazy about the Mondonero's restaurants -- not terrible, but nothing special, certainly wouldn't do anything to change the skeptics' views of Iowa dining. Thanks for any suggestions.

                                                                                                                                                            1. One of the places that I thought would have gotten a nod under the grub fare was Oasis- I've always enjoyed their pita "sandwiches" (with all the extras) for a good cheap lunch.
                                                                                                                                                              Recently went to Devotay and really enjoyed the pumpkin bisque.

                                                                                                                                                              1. What do you guys think about Great Nile. I sorta prefered their falafel ...

                                                                                                                                                                7 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                1. re: rozz01

                                                                                                                                                                  I just had their lunch buffet the other day and it was tasty. The staff is friendly too. If you like your hummus and baba lean toward the citrusy-side, then you'll love it there.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Devotay

                                                                                                                                                                    Why have I never heard of Great Nile? I thought I'd eaten everywhere in Iowa City! Tell me more... although the owners of Oasis are dear friends of mine... but tell me more anyway!

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: ctscorp

                                                                                                                                                                      Cuz it's brand new. It's on Gilbert, in that new construction behind the Kum & Go. Most interesting thing is that one of the owners, the husband of this husband-wife team, is just back from working as a translator in Iraq.

                                                                                                                                                                      Like I said, the baba and hummus are very good if you like the citrusy type. And their falafel is, I don't know why, donut-shaped. Haven't yet had the opportunity to try the reguilar menu, just the lunch buffet, but I will go back.

                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: Devotay

                                                                                                                                                                      Ive had the falafel twice, the first time it was as bad as the Mill's. The second time they were better than Oasis. It was a whole different creature..

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: rozz01

                                                                                                                                                                        I thought the food at Nile was quite tasty. Having grown up with my Egyptian grandmother's cooking, I appreciated the fact that they offered *middle eastern* grape leaf rolls with meat, rather than the cold, rice-only Greek variety you're usually stuck with. Worth noting that the hummos had little or no tahina in it. However, their tahina sauce was very tasty. you can easily mix the two for a more typical hummos. The cooks are Sudanese, which might explain some of the nuances. The falafel was light and crisp and seemed to be made with strictly chickpeas. I have a slight preference for the heartier taste of falafel made with fava beans, but I guess it's just what you are familiar with. The pita bread was nice and very thin - so much better than the big fluffy "pita" you get stuck with at the store.

                                                                                                                                                                        I'm wondering about the Vietnames place in North Liberty - called TVN, I think? Any feedback?

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: iowadina

                                                                                                                                                                          Don't know anything about the Vietnamese place, but I'm really interested, love that stuff! Has anyone been to Verde on Gilbert lately? Any good?

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: iowadina

                                                                                                                                                                            I ate at the Nile for the first time the other night, and really enjoyed it. The grilled chicken and vegetables were delicious, as was the pita and baba ganoush -- it's quite citrusy, as Kurt (Devotay) already pointed out, and I actually preferred it to the baba from Oasis (and I'm a hardcore Oasis fan!). Next time I'll get the chicken shawarma -- it looked delicious, and it's a total deal at $7. The woman who cooked our food was wonderful, too. P.S. If you like French fries with your hummus, the ones at the Nile are unexpectedly tasty: well-seasoned and super-crispy.

                                                                                                                                                                    3. Anyone tried the Aladdin on the Coralville strip? Middle-eastern place.

                                                                                                                                                                      14 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: sigerson57

                                                                                                                                                                        TVN in North Liberty closed over a year ago. :( Egg Roll House is now in its spot. TVN was the best Vietnamese chow in these parts - Phong Lan in CR is quite good as well. Saigon to Bangkok is so-so. Skip Mekong if you can.

                                                                                                                                                                        On a tangent - the carnitas by the lb at El Paso is awesome! If you want it for a meal try Iguana's in NL on Saturdays.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: caliking

                                                                                                                                                                          Iowa City has some great dining.
                                                                                                                                                                          Givanni's downtown is great Italian, with atmosphere
                                                                                                                                                                          Linn St Cafe is a little higher end, great food
                                                                                                                                                                          Best Pizza in town, or lunch Wig & Pen in Coralville, it's a pub just West of the Uof I sports complex
                                                                                                                                                                          Also, in nearby West Branch is Champagne's for Cajun(8 miles East)
                                                                                                                                                                          Good Mexican food at El Dorado in Coralville or El Ranchero Hwy 6 Iowa City
                                                                                                                                                                          Bread Garden
                                                                                                                                                                          Great catered food or carry-out from Haight's Meat Market

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: hillsy191

                                                                                                                                                                            I'm sorry, hillsy191, and I hate to be picky or seem rude, but Givanni's is not even remotely Italian. The simple fact that its name would be unpronounceable in Italian should be a dead giveaway, but if that's not enough, the messy sauces, lack of fresh/local ingredients and assembly-line menu would make my (very real) Italian relatives run in fear. Tasty? Perhaps. Italian? Not in the least.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: ctscorp

                                                                                                                                                                              Geez, not even *remotely* Italian? Now that is a stretch.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: icdave

                                                                                                                                                                                How so, icdave? Does the presence of "pasta" make them Italian? Hmmm... invented by the Chinese. So how are they Italian?

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: ctscorp

                                                                                                                                                                                  I would say the on and off presence of dishes like gnocchi, ravioli, risotto, ossobucco, and various Italian sauces and cheeses would qualify Givanni's at least as "remotely" Italian, and certainly American-Italian. And "Italian enough" for somebody just trying to recommend some of their favorite restaurants in town. Like you I would not classify this place as bona fide Italian cuisine, but I do consider the pasta they serve much closer to Italian style than Chinese.

                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: caliking

                                                                                                                                                                            Iguana's is in Hills. Is there one in North Liberty too? Don't think so....

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: ctscorp

                                                                                                                                                                              Hi ctscorp - there is an Iguana's Grill in North Liberty, right on 965 (I work at the Oakdale campus, so NL is an easy shot for me). Not sure whether it's related to the Iguana's in Hills - I couldn't find any info either way.


                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: iowagirl

                                                                                                                                                                                Interesting.... Thanks iowagirl! I'll have to check it out. I know the one in Hills is the same as el Ranchero and el Dorado, so I wouldn't be surprised if they're related.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: ctscorp

                                                                                                                                                                                  That's what I thought, and the menu sure reads the same, but I didn't want to make a claim and offend anyone! :)

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: iowagirl


                                                                                                                                                                                    Went to Phong Lan in Cedar Rapids today after a long time. I understated how great that place is if you're jonesing for good Vietnamese food. Pho portions are large and very filling. Try the com dia or vermicelli dishes too.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: caliking

                                                                                                                                                                                      I have only seen one mention of Oyama. This place has, in my humble opinion, the best sushi in Iowa City. I have been to takanami, 3 samurai, sushi popo etc. many times and Oyama beats them all hands down. If you go tell Darren that Adam sent you.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: dr.unterbrunner

                                                                                                                                                                                        I'm with ya - my favorite spot in IC for sushi as well.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: dr.unterbrunner

                                                                                                                                                                                          You guys are so right, great for sushi...but...the tables are really uncomfortable. There's no place to really put your legs under the table, and for some reason that really annoys me. Food great, atmosphere not fantastic, but fine.

                                                                                                                                                                          3. On a personal note, ya gotta give it up to IC. Here on Chowhound's midwest board, I searched back 10 pages and could find but 1 thread that had even 1/2 as many posts as this Iowa City thread. We got game.

                                                                                                                                                                            Also just wanted to let everybody know that our new neighbors are moved in, up and running across the street. Stop into the Motley Cow Cafe for dinner and welcome them to the neighborhood.


                                                                                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Devotay

                                                                                                                                                                              I agree. This thread is still going after three years and five months. That's a modern Olympic record.

                                                                                                                                                                              Proudly posted from IC, the Berekley of the Midwest (or is Berekley the Iowa City of the West Coast?)

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Devotay

                                                                                                                                                                                Went there the other night- the cranberry ice cream topped "funnel cake" dessert was delicious, and the organic pepperoni pizza reminded me of growing up in NJ (and for pizza, that's a compliment!)
                                                                                                                                                                                Has anyone else been since the move? New dishes to try?

                                                                                                                                                                              2. Does anyone have any good suggestions for brunch on Easter?

                                                                                                                                                                                1. I've lived in IC for 4 years now, and these are a few of my favorites.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Sushi: Three Samurai! Don't listen to this Sushi Popo nonsense. Three Samurai on the Coralville strip (in Clocktower Plaza) is the best sushi in the area. We went to California last year and were disappointed by sushi that was more expensive than this stuff and not half as good. Reduced priced rolls all day Sunday and Wednesday. Warm atmosphere and good service.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Pub/huge world beer list/nice dinners: The Sanctuary. If you like to sample interesting beers, this is the place. They have a small menu of various hearty dinners (the Coq au Vin is fantastic) using natural ingredients at very reasonable prices. Pretty good pizza too, and good service most of the time. I suppose we enjoy the atmosphere most though.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Thai: Thai Spice has a better atmosphere and more elaborately plated food than Thai Flavors, but as a whole the people of Thai Flavors are friendlier and more attentive. Thai Spice feels more opulent, but you would probably be satisfied with either. Thai Spice yellow curry is like liquid gold. Mmmm..

                                                                                                                                                                                  Mexican: Los Cabos on the Coralville strip. Small place with a nice atmosphere (minus the relatively non-intrusive TVs) and fantastic service. The food is fresh, delicious, full of flavor, and for the most part not drowning in grease, like some Mexican restaurants in the area. The portions are big and the prices are reasonable. We go here more than we probably should, because I have a feeling this is what Mexican food is supposed to taste like! A wonderful family-owned business. PS: Panchero's is unbelievably over-rated.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Italian: The Brown Bottle is our go-to, although I haven't tried Givanni's. Stay away from Mondo's in Coralville! Over-priced beyond belief and absolutely tasteless. Good Lord.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Chinese: Unfortunately I haven't found a nice sit-down Chinese restaurant in the area. Anyone else found one? For greasy takeout Taste of China on Linn Street is my standard.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Soup/Sandwich lunch: The Bread Garden. Consistently yummy. Good dessert too.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Ice Cream: Dane's Dairy. Blows Culver's and DQ out of the water. And its locally owned and made with local milk.

                                                                                                                                                                                  And a note on Pagliai's: Not to start a hailstorm here, but I'm not sure what all the fuss is about. Perhaps I haven't been in IC long enough to understand the community fervor about this pizza, but I personally thought it was cardboardy, tasteless, and ridiculously overpriced. I'd rather eat a Sanctuary pizza, and it isn't even their specialty.

                                                                                                                                                                                  7 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: lizzie0709

                                                                                                                                                                                    Kill two birds with one stone: for a great beer selection and quite decent pizza - Old Chicago.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Re: Italian, I'm not a fan of Brown Bottle. Tried Biaggi's in CR and was disappointed there as well. Still hopeful about Givanni's (have not been there yet).

                                                                                                                                                                                    Dane's Dairy sounds like a definite must-try!

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: lizzie0709

                                                                                                                                                                                      First, a belated welcome to our humble hamlet, it's certainly nice to have another thoughtful, food-minded member in the community. That said, I respectfully disagree about the Brown Bottle with its wan, flabby noodles and garlic bread circa 1975. But, then you did say best "Italian," and there really is no Italian restaurant in IC. Also, the last I knew, The Sanctuary, agreeably easy on the eyes, was run by the Sysco Kid and the beers are often stale.
                                                                                                                                                                                      For good pie, the Motley Cow wins without hesitation--for those who don't know, they now have a pizza/bread oven as well as an expanded menu. Great spot. I have also had good luck with Wig and Pen East for delivery pie. Service is good, as are ingredients. Their menu is posted on their website.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: kellog sully

                                                                                                                                                                                        Thanks for the welcome.

                                                                                                                                                                                        I totally agree with you about the Brown Bottle. I have good luck with it sometimes, but I do leave feeling overcharged and undersatisfied sometimes. It's the best we can find in Iowa City though, sadly. :(

                                                                                                                                                                                        Although the Sanctuary isn't "natural" per the Red Avocado, etc, they do use free-range chicken and there are vegetables on my plate when I get a dinner. The food tastes clean and unSysco to me, and I'm organic vegetable-loving, generally healthy eater that's eaten plenty of Sysco-based slop in my younger days...but maybe the atmosphere woos me into a false sense of satiation (?) We've had good luck with the tap beer too.

                                                                                                                                                                                        I haven't tried the Motley Cow pizza, but I surely will soon.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Rock on Dane's! My dog just found another reason to love car rides.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Anyone have a Chinese food recommendation? I'll even take a decent buffet...

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: lizzie0709

                                                                                                                                                                                          Can't vouch, but I asked a Taiwanese student where she and her (Chinese and Taiwanese) friends go when they want "authentic" food, and she recommended Szechuan Village in Coralville -- I think it's on 12th Street. Anyone want to be the tester? Report back? I just haven't had time to eat there... I've been too busy eating that damn lamb sausage pizza at the Motley Cow. FYI, while the Sanctuary is pretty, and Woody is (sort of) trying, I've been in the kitchen, and there are a few too many microwaves for my liking. It just doesn't seem necessary, to me, to eat there when there are so many better, fresher places blossoming with each passing week... but then, I don't drink beer, either, and the wine list there is pretty lame....

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: lizzie0709

                                                                                                                                                                                            Mekong in Coralville also has a Chinese menu, which IMO overall is better than Jade Sisters and Szechuan Village.

                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: lizzie0709

                                                                                                                                                                                          Dogs are welcome at Dane's on the west side. Each dog gets its own small dish of soft-serve.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: sigerson57

                                                                                                                                                                                            Also true at the DQ on Riverside Drive

                                                                                                                                                                                        3. If you're willing to drive, twenty minutes northwest of Iowa City you'll find Oxford, Iowa and Augusta. This restaurant specializes in Creole comfort food. They have everything from crawfish beignets and shrimp po' boys to grilled ribeyes and hearty burgers.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Augusta was opened two months ago by a foursome of Iowa natives and former New Orleans residents. Head chef Ben Halperin worked with chef Susan Spicer in her famed New Orleans restaurant Bayona.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Dinner options range in price from $7 to $24. They have a limited wine list and a selection of six beers on tap.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Their Sunday brunch was enjoyable and filling! The crab cakes eggs Benedict were skirted with house-made sausages, cheesy grits, and a pancake. The coffee was strong and rich; a perfect match to the savory breakfast food.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Quality is high on the list at Augusta. The owners make everything: the bread, mayonnaise, pickles, pies, etc.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Oxford is a bit off the beaten path, but the trip to Augusta is worth it.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. I am also a fan of Augusta in Oxford, it really is a menu of down home comfort food, but also the Chef has nightly specials that are really good. My mom had the smoked duck with Orange sauce last time we were there and we want to make it out on a Wednsday for their Pizza night, which I hear is really good. My Aunt and Uncle ate their Saturday night and said the Walleye was very taste ( I am not a fish lover, so will take their word for it) THeir Sunday brunch is reeeeallly good and a great price most entrees between 6$ - 10$ Prime rib melts in your mouth, and my favorite is their French Toast. ( and of course a side of biscuits and gravy) you do get 3 sides and there are alot to choose from. The Mimosas are nice too.

                                                                                                                                                                                            25 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: chowzy

                                                                                                                                                                                              Phat Daddy's in Marengo has good brunch on Sundays as well.(buy the spice rub available at the counter - its awesome for grilling).

                                                                                                                                                                                              Szechuan village is decent - probably the best Chinese grub in these parts. There are 2 menus... the regular kind of fold-out menu and a small menu in a vertical holder on each table. The small menu has some of the spicier items.

                                                                                                                                                                                              Ting's Red Lantern in Cedar Rapids was better than some Chinese places around, but one would be better off going to Szechuan Village.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: caliking

                                                                                                                                                                                                I really enjoy Jade Sisters, which is right across the street from S.V. Great ingredients with pan-asian options!

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: lost78

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Just wanted to revisit the sushi discussion briefly:

                                                                                                                                                                                                  For quality of sushi alone, I think Oyama is tops. However for overall performance (ambiance, bar, service) I think 3 Samurai is a great place, especially if you go on "happy day" which is Wed & Sun. $2 sake bombs, select rolls and sashimi for $1-$2, plus the rest of their menu.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Went for dinner last night and everything was excellent. I highly recommend the hamachi kama (tuna cheeks with a sweet-savory bbq sauce), and the seared white tuna appetizers. They had a new roll on the menu (had some tuna and crab, towards the bottom of the list) that was really quite good - many different flavors in the same roll that came together very well.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  I think they have some sort of special on Monday now as well.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: caliking

                                                                                                                                                                                                    I think Oyama is the best all-around place for sushi, but I do agree about the ambiance at 3 Samurai. Also, their salmon is the best around. I don't know why, but their salmon just blew us away. It's funny, coming from L.A. (a.k.a. sushi land), I'm shocked at how good the sushi is here. I would even venture to say that the salmon here (at a lot of the places around here) is better than any we ever had in L.A. HOWEVER, the tuna in L.A. cannot be beat. Here, it's pretty tasteless, and we've tried every place in town.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: lizzy69

                                                                                                                                                                                                      3 samarai has a relatively new chef & menu, both big improvements. There's a white tune app that's outa this world, and their ramen (yes, ramen) is amazing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      For sushi, as I think i mentioned somewhere above, I'm an Oyama guy. As for atmosphere, I'm a sucker for the giant fish tank at Takanami - could stare at it for hours. I find their sushi tasty too.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Devotay

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I strongly agree with the endorsement for Oyama. Check out their Bento box lunch specials.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: kellog sully

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Not to insult Devotay.. But Oyama's Teriyaki Tofu Bento is One of my favorite lunches in town. Totally Swell Eats!

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: rozz01

                                                                                                                                                                                                            None taken, we agree (except I don't eat much tofu).

                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: lizzy69

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I hadn't tried Oyama in quite a while, so I thought I'd give them a shot on some take-out rolls. Never again. The salmon was so grisled and fatty that I couldn't even get my teeth through it--which stimulates a mighty gag reflex with raw-textured fish. Then they overcharged me $4 on a $15 check, which is pretty gutsy. Half my takeout plate was pickled ginger and the other half was garbage. Waste of money. Three Samurai, I love you.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: lizzie0709

                                                                                                                                                                                                          I have to 2nd you on Oyama. I read a lot of love for the Oyama, but I just don't get it. Three Samurai is the best I've had so far in this area.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      3. re: caliking

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Hello all new to the site, but wanted to drop some knowledge on you all, have worked in iowa city restaurants for quite some years now and would like to share some of the insider information . . .
                                                                                                                                                                                                        Sushi -
                                                                                                                                                                                                        Three Samurai, Oyama, Takanami, Sushi Popo, Konomi, Aeoshe, Formosa. All quality spots with hard working chefs. The variance of fish quality really depends on the diligence of the managing chef and the turnover of the restaurant. To a traditionalist, none of these places really even serve "sushi". I mean how discernable can that salmon taste with all that cream cheese, wasabi and ginger in your mouth. Also sushi is not meant for to go boxes so please don't judge a restaurants sushi quality from a to-go box. Any restaurants food will always lose quality when packaged and transported. There really is no "best sushi in town", we all have varying tastes, some may like sweeter rice, more vinegary, lots of wasabi? dipped in soy? The flavor of maki's in this area can be broken down to two flavors: spicy sauce and eel sauce. In terms of execution, who is the most consistent? It varies really. . . Takanami used to be the most progressive with their sushi but under new management its reverted back to a three samurai "happy hour" type place. The service also is poorly managed. The sushi chef at Aeoshe is probably the most experienced and more traditional, but I don't believe that they do enough sushi business to be able to keep up the quality. Formosa has great ambiance and Joe is a great chef and owner. I personally don't care for that much cream cheese in maki's but some do. Their toro (tuna belly) is pre-sliced and thawed to order, whether this practice is a reflection of the chef or the rarity of customer base is arguable. But you gotta thank them for offering the option of toro. However the menu itself is quite similar to the big city chain "Ra", compare menus i dare you. I've had great and poor meals at Oyama but i give them props on the creativity of their menu. Sushi Popo i have not visited so I cannot say. Three Samurai is the epitomy of burn and turn sushi. Its lively, but the menu lacks inspiration and the kitchen is not that clean, but teppanyaki is fun and the sushi average. Konomi has great sushi chefs, clean and fast, maki's and nigiri's just taste better coming from asian people.
                                                                                                                                                                                                        Overall understand that sushi in the midwest is clearly execution of the chef and those under him, the majority of the fish is broken down and frozen immediately after being caught in the boat out in the ocean. Even if fish comes from japan it is frozen, packaged, and rarely do many restaurants actually use fresh fish for their sushi, with salmon being the exception and readily available. However this is a common practice all over the world, so don't dismiss frozen fish as a whole, this practice makes the fish less susceptible micro-bacteria forming in the fish over time. As a customer be inquiring, know where your fish comes from, where is the rice from? did the chef intend his rice solution to be sweeter or more tart and for what reason? how did he learn sushi? If they have seasonal fresh fish as a nigiri special - GET IT, this is advantageous not only for the restaurant that sells it but you may see them offering more fresh varieties in the future. Find a spot that you like, am comfortable with, and trust. Consistency is key. But understand that he fish is pretty much of the same quality as most of the restaurants go through similar vendors, its up to you to judge the execution of the chef to your own taste. Good luck and happy eats!

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Abalone

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Why not, let me add to the sushi debate.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          A necessary qualification is that I have been spoiled in NYC, and have become somewhat of a sushi-snob. So here:

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Oyama - have only visited once and was disappointed by the quality. The appetizers were tasty and creative, but the sashimi and nigiri were below par.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Popo - just okay. Not worth the drive to the west side.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Formosa - right after they opened I had a couple of really good experiences there, but my last 3 visits were so bad that I never went back. The sushi was just not good, and if I remember correctly, a couple of pieces were even too cold. Brrr.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Takanami - the best I found so far, though I have to say that it varies. Their salmon is delicious, but the tuna and yellowtail can be completely tasteless at times. Still, one of my favorite lunch spots, and the place where I will most likely go for sushi.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Aeoshe, 3 samurai - have not tried their sushi. They're on my list.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          There's also a new place at the old capitol mall. BEWARE. That must have been the worst sushi I have ever tried in my life. I took one bite of each fish and threw the entire thing straight into the garbage. Literally.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          I'm surprised so many people swear by Oyama. Maybe I was there on a bad night?

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: nogaboga

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Upon further dining, go to Konomi, best chefs, best fish, everything minus the white tuna comes in fresh, head on, the chef breaks it down himself. Wonderful seasonal nigiri specials, the aji was amazing.
                                                                                                                                                                                                            Easily the best sushi in iowa city/coralville

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Abalone

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Husband and I went to Konomi last week upon your recommendation and had a wonderful meal. One surprise was a beef roll that was out of this world, and the "Captain Crunch" roll was also outstanding. The tuna was much better than at other IC sushi places, and the salmon was really amazing. Nice bar, beautiful and comfortable restaurant, place was packed on a Tuesday night, which is always a good sign. All in all, best sushi experience we've had in IC. Thanks for the rec!

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Abalone

                                                                                                                                                                                                                So finally, 3 years later, I made it to Konomi.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                Not sure what to say here. The texture of all the fish was excellent, probably the best in town, but they were all also completely lacking in flavor. I'm not sure what would make raw fish so tasteless. Definitely not my new sushi spot.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                My 4-year summary of my sushi experiences in IC is as follows:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Oyama - used to be my go-to place for a while, but no longer, following one very bad experience. I didn't get sick or anything like that, but had lunch there one day a couple of months ago and all of the raw fish on my plate were cold, tasteless and stringy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Takanami - the sushi is okay, still think most of it doesn't have much flavor. Won't go there for dinner mostly because of the intense smell inside the restaurant in the evenings.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Popo - my safe and boring choice - nothing exciting, but also have not had any disappointments yet.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Konomi - see above

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Formosa, Kicchen - I wrote about those before. Have had very poor sushi in both places.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                At least there are a couple of places with okay sushi. I still have not been able to find a passable Thai, Vietnamese or Chinese place in town.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: chowzy

                                                                                                                                                                                                      I'll second (third?) the recommendation for Augusta. Both times we've went there have been very enjoyable. The food is incredible (simple, yet delicious, and my, do you get a lot) and the price is very reasonable for this area considering everything is homemade. The atmosphere is lovely: a historic storefront decorated warmly, with low lighting and nice music. The owners/waitstaff are great, very friendly and welcoming. You MUST try the cherry amaretto bread pudding for dessert. I would drive the 10 miles just for that! I'd be willing to pay a bit more for some dishes if their meat was organic/free range, but they will make a yummy veg option upon request and they do have some seafood.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: lizzie0709

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Any thoughts on the new Bread Garden location?

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I think Tait's failed because they were competing with NewPi but were more expensive. Have not compared prices at Bread Garden vs NewPi, but I must say that the Bread Garden Market is impressive. I like the fact that that you can grab a snack, and a beer and sit outside (the patio section) and people-watch on the Ped Mall... or take it out to the Ped Mall if you don't have beer/wine. Great way to spend a spring afternoon.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        On another note, its nice that they have Boar's Head products at the deli, but they're a little lazy - they have only Boar's Head products at the deli. i don't think I'll hold it against them though :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: caliking

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Some of the prices are considerably lower on grocery items. The Kalamatas are super cheap comparatively. They lowered the price on most if not all of the breeads also.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: rozz01

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Went to Blackstone last night and was impressed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            For appetizers: asian flatbread and saganaki (I had to remind the server to say "opa!" when she lit the flame :) ). The flatbread appetizers are pretty good. The saganaki was nice and lemony.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            The wife had the the seared ahi with broccoli on the side, I had the salmon with mac/cheese on the side. The ahi was plated beautifully and they did a good job of getting the sear right. My salmon was done the just the way I like it as well. I would have liked some cheddar cheese in my mac though.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Service was also very good. Our server was pleasant, attentive without being intrusive, and gave us good cause to tip her well. The cocktail list was innovative and I wish I had more time to sample more of them!

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Overall, a nice dinner out.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: caliking

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Their mac-n-cheese is good (especially the bacon!), but basing it on swiss cheese loses points with me, also. Cheddar (or a mix with cheddar dominant) would win me over.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: caliking

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Been to Blackstone on a couple of occasions--pretty standard fare, flanked by commercial beers on tap and a DEAD wine list. It's basically a locally owned Appleby's. I stuck to sandwiches after my first dismal experience, and the whole group I dined with was either disappointed or unenthusiastic--save some $$ and eat at Shakepeare's if you want pub grub.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: kellog sully

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  ...anyway, wait until everyone figures out the Motley Cow does Sunday brunch. Fab menu, and if one must, Bloody Marys. This will definitely lighten the traffic load on highway 1 to Mt. V. Sundays.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  tips: anise spiced doughnut holes
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  breakfast pizza

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: kellog sully

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Do you know if they do A Saturday brunch too?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: kellog sully

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Hi -
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Long-time lurker here - but I had to reply about Blackstone. I went to Blackstone with a couple friends a few weeks ago. The flatbreads were decent, the margaritas were awful, the menu is overall pretty ho-hum, but I was curious about how they source their beef. The menu indicates they proudly serve "Creekstone Charbroiled Angus Beef Burgers." I checked it out online and Creekstone guarantees the following: no antibiotics, no added hormones, no growth-promoting drugs, no artificial ingredients, 100% vegetarian fed, and humane animal handling practices. They're probably corn-fed, and not entirely local, but overall not a bad option...If you know otherwise - like if I'm being a total chump - or if you have other recs for burgers that are more locally and responsibly sourced, please let me know!


                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. How are all the restaurants doing in Iowa City with all the floods? I was especially wondering about Devotay.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: wekick

                                                                                                                                                                                                            The following in Coralville appear underwater -- looks like 4 feet to 7 feet in some cases:

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Wig & Pen
                                                                                                                                                                                                            Saigon to Bankok
                                                                                                                                                                                                            Taco Bell
                                                                                                                                                                                                            Taco Johns

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Iowa City (surrounded by water and cut off):
                                                                                                                                                                                                            Village Inn
                                                                                                                                                                                                            El Ranchero

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Devotay is a lot higher elevation (50 feet vertically) than the flooded areas, so I wouldn't expect problems.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: puzzler

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Iowa City is accessible, though from Highway 80 you have to take the Highway 1 exit (North Dodge St) rather than the Dubuque St. exit to get there. The restaurants downtown are on high ground as is the New Pioneer Coop. As for restaurants, I am surprised that 126 hasn't received attention here. Not inexpensive, but superior food and excellent service. The best in the area and as good as many of the better known restaurants in New York City.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. Has anyone been to Tuscan Moon in Kalona? Not strictly Iowa City, to be sure, but I've heard and read good things, despite the limited menu. Also, anyone know how they source their meat and poultry?


                                                                                                                                                                                                              5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: AliceBarbaraMarion

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Have not been to Tuscan Moon, but I did try 2 new (to me) places recently (both near the Coralville Mariott)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Onomi: sushi basically. Their appetizers were a little different from the standard starters, but why on earth would a sushi/japanese restaurant call them "tapas"?? I know tapas was in in vogue in our parts not too long ago (now replaced by "flatbreads"), but seriously. The sushi was not impressive - would still go to Oyama for sheer quality or 3 Samurai for overall dining experience.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Vesta: Liked this place better than Onomi. Service was pleasant and great. I didn't care for the sides that came with the duck breast and there was no problem replacing them with the sides of another dish. The duck breast itself was okay - couldn't taste the chile rub - Lincoln Cafe does it better (best in these parts). Was very disappointed with the bread basket - $3 extra for foccacia, french and 2 other. All tasted the same in terms of flavor and texture - bland. If you must charge extra for bread at least provide decent bread - HyVee's bakery would have been better. The wife got the rack of lamb and it was stupendous - definitely the highlight of the meal. Beautifully done with a horseradish and parsley slaw of sorts. Very very good. We had the spanish meatballs with pomegranate marmalade appetizer, which was also tasty. Decent beer list and they have tried to put together an innovative cocktail/martini menu. I would probably take visiting friends to dine here.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: ctscorp

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I stand corrected... unimpressive enough that I couldn't even remember the name.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: caliking

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      It's probably because the K is so stylized that it looks like a graphic slash, so all you see is Onomi -- another case of getting so clever with fonts that communication fails.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: puzzler

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Hee hee... the only reason I even know the name is that it's a bunch of guys who jumped ship from Takanami, and we've been laughing at how similar the names are....

                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. Hi all - I have often stopped by and checked this thread in the last few years, but have never signed up until now! I am an Iowa Citian for the last 11 years and plan to stay. One of the things that I love about Iowa City is the fantastic selection of restaurants and good food relative to the size of our little city. And I am clearly in good company, as this thread has lasted and lasted!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                I thought that I would just 2nd (or 3rd or more) the delight that is Motley Cow brunch. My partner and I went last Sunday and it was both laid back and delicious. We had no problem getting a table at 10:30 or so and had coffee and a basket of fresh spiced donut holes in minutes. The donuts were tasty indeed, as was the breakfast pizza that my partner ordered, and the omelet that I had, but far and away the best thing on the plate was the toast made from home-made bread and the home-made lemon curd that came with it! We will be going back again so that we can try the hotcakes WITH that delicious lemon curd.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                We are also currently loving breakfasts at the Leaf Kitchen - crepes, omelets, and a great salad sampler among a constantly evolving menu of great eats in a cozy space. Definitely another one to check out.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Did any of you make it down to Taste of Iowa City? Seemed more like a student event, so we didn't venture out, but I would be curious to hear if there were any stand outs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                15 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: ickitty


                                                                                                                                                                                                                  PRAIRIE TABLE IS CLOSING!!! Why didn't anyone tell me?!?!?!?!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Just happened to see in the paper that they were closing... went by there today - everything is being sold at 40% off. The place was picked bare... even most of the racks/shelves have been sold... the glorious cheese case had only 3-4 lonely cheeses. Where are IC foodies going to go? New Pi and BG Market are decent but not in the same league.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Oh what sad times we live in... the war in Iraq... the economy... and now this.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  On a more uplifting note, apparently a new Indian restaurant is opening next to Hu-Hot. The owner is the lady who used to run the Indian Mix store (which was flooded).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Went to India Cafe today and was not very impressed. The onion kulcha was ok, the paneer makhani was passable but too tomato-ey. The lamb kofta was strange - weird pasty masala with bits of some kind of lamb sausage/hot dog thrown in... huh?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Also, I hear a new diner type joint called Blue Bird is opening... not sure when. The chef/owner from Pairie Table will be working there.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: caliking

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Bluebird is opening where Mautz Paint used to be, on Market adjacent to John's and the Foxhead. It's being opened by Tommy Connelly, who also owns Tobacco Bowl.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: ctscorp

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Is this going to be a 24/7 diner? There are only so many George's burgers one can eat at 1 AM.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: nogaboga

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I don't know, but I don't think so. I'm sure Tommy would tell you if you went in the "Bowl" and asked.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I wish I had a limit on George's burgers! ;) Those things are killer -- although have you noticed the smell in there's less appealing now that it's *just* beef and fat and not beef and fat and cigarettes?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: ctscorp

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Tobacco does have its merits at times.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: ctscorp

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I don't think it's less appealing, it's just less "George's". The place had a distinct smell, and now it's gone.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Still my favorite bar in town, no doubt (followed by the Club Car and The Hilltop, as long as you don't touch their food).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: nogaboga

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The Club Car drink specials are stellar... gotta agree with that.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: nogaboga

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Sign on the door says Bluebird is opening Sat 11/29 from 12-8 with a limited menu.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: bjstewart

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              So I checked out Bluebird for breakfast on as Sunday. Food took forever, which was fine as were were warned it would -- I understand new restaurants need to work out certain kinks. But when it arrived, it was cold, shoddily prepared and not particularly tasty. I had an omelet -- it was paper thin and full on musty tasting veggies that weren't the ones the menu said they'd be. Friends had lukewarm huevos rancheros. Coffee was good... service ok... so I'm not planning on going back any time soon, but I'd love to know if someone has a good experience....

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: nogaboga

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              We tried Bluebird this Saturday for breakfast and found it both good and bad. My 13 yo stepdaughter ordered the french toast with whipped cream (I tried to talk her into the grilled bananas, but ...) and a side of bacon. Hubby had the Popeye omelet with the addition of swiss, and I had the Huevos Epsteinos - eggs over easy on top of polenta with smoked pork green chili covering all.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The French Toast was fine - basic, every day french toast, but it's one piece to an order - priced at $4.95, so not a surprise, but stepdaughter was happy for the side of bacon!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Hubby's omelet was tasty, and the vegetables (spinach, tomatoes and mushrooms) seemed fresh - his complaint was that the cheese was melted on top of the omelet, instead of incorporated within. I thought that it might have been an afterthought since it was an add-on, but then we saw other omelets served the same way. His rye toast came a few minutes later, and was really just warm bread - no crunch at all.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              My Hueveos had good flavor and the eggs were perfectly cooked, but it was served cold. The eggs, the chili and the hasbrowns were just plain cold. The polenta (really rich and cheesy, very tasty and comfort food like) was warm, but the dish really suffered from the temperature. I should have sent it back, but we had waited a while for the food to come, and everyone else's food was hot, so ...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The coffee was really good, and i think they have some potential, but really need to work on the timing issues! I think my breakfast was sitting for a while waiting for the french toast and the omelet. It was quite busy, and they have lots of wine bottles and beer bottles displayed - I'd like to see a lunch/dinner menu.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: iowagirl

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Hi all!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Went to Bluebird this morning and had a great experience, I'd like to report! Coffee was good, my eggs benedict was outstanding, and the other dishes at the table (veggie omelet, pancakes) were also apparently great. Prices are good, service was great, and the food came quickly and was hot. We went because Leaf kitchen is closed until the 6th, and I'm glad we did.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: lizzy69

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  While I've not had bluebird breakfast, I've had bluebird lunch and dinner. The dinner was nothing to talk about. It was unacceptable. I went with three other people and all of us were disappointed with our meals save the one who ordered a salad (honestly, you can't mess up a salad if you're a restaurant). I had meatloaf, which I had at lunch on a different occasion, and it was dry unlike the prior time. It was disappointing, and the vegetables it came with were really greasy. Definitely not worth the cost.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  On the other hand, the lunch is actually decent, foodwise. That'll explain itself in a second. The first time I went, my friend's strawberry was moldy (!!) and he was less than impressed. This was when I had the good meatloaf. The second time, my friend and I had decent meals. The patty melt I had was completely serviceable. Actually, that's something Hamburg Inn does really well. The one at Mickey's is better though. Moving on, the problem this time was the fact that we were INVISIBLE to the wait staff. They didn't refill our drinks, and when we finished, we had to wait for about 40 minutes or so to get a check. We, literally, stared at our waitress as she talked to some elderly group after we finished for a solid 20-25 minutes. We tried to flag her down, but still no response. I'm all for talking to customers, but you've also got to watch the floor. Both of us actually had places to be and didn't appreciate this hold-up; I ended up being about 25 minutes late because of it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  So, with those experiences, I'm hesitant to recommend bluebird to anyone. It's doing well, so all the power in the world to them. I'll just go elsewhere.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          3. re: caliking

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I tried to go by last week, since thet were the only place in town that carried my favorite mustard. It was too late, wanna cry!!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: caliking

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The Indian place that opened by Hu-hot is pretty bad. My boyfriend is from India so maybe my expectations are high....but when I see food being warmed up in the microwave.......no way!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: ickitty

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I agree with the bread at Motley Cow- My friend's were in town from Chicago (major food lovers) and they were extremely impressed with the bread. The sausage gravy grits were delish.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            3. Has anybody been to Short's yet? That's the burger bar located where Baldy's used to be. I was just there for a first visit, and have to say that I walked out disappointed - the burger was okay, but nothing more, and for a place that serves nothing but burgers, you expect the burger to be incredible. I liked everything in my bun better than the burger itself (no. 4 on the menu - the Dundee: egg, Canadian bacon, garlic aioli and mushrooms). The burger itself was very bland and slightly on the dry side, and the fries were not exciting at all. Altogether, I'm very unexcited. Anybody volunteering to change my mind?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: nogaboga

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I've been there twice now. Both times I had one of the bean burgers (different toppings each time). It was FABULOUS both times! The fries were fair to middling. The first time I went, my lunch partner got a burger and claimed to love it. The second time, a different lunch partner had an experience similar to yours--great toppings, very bland burger. I've yet to have the real thing there, but I wholeheartedly vouch for the vegetarian options!!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: nogaboga

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  No, I'm not going to change your mind. I walked in with the same sort of expectation: getting a really good burger at a reasonable price. The beef didn't have enough flavor for me. It wasn't dry, but it seemed like they didn't season it or something.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I went twice. Got the reuben burger the first time. I didn't think it was worth the 9 dollars. On the goading of a friend who likes the black bean burgers (apparently, those are very good), I went again, got a different burger, and still wasn't particularly impressed. I thought it just wasn't worth the price, simply. It was very blah; I left disappointed and, the second time, still hungry. I wouldn't go back again on my own accord.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: nogaboga

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    After several experiences, I've concluded that the service is consistently good, and the burgers are consistently acceptable. I completely appreciate their business model of offering nothing but burgers and fries. But: while obviously made from freshly cut potatoes, the fries are, without exception, abysmal.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    How is that the staff doesn't notice that they are limp and greasy? All of them, all the time? Fries are tricky, but not impossible: fry twice.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. Does anyone know of a place to buy fresh curry leaves in the area?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: FelixHolt

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      There is a new Med. Market in Coralville across from the post office at 10th AVE and 5th street. You might try there.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: FelixHolt

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I've also seen them at the Great Wall by Aldi's and the Dojo off of Waterfont. Chong's used to carry them in the old days when they had that sweet gigantic cooler room...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: FelixHolt

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Chong's definitely has them... my boyfriend and I went all over Iowa City one day looking for fresh curry leaves and finally found them there!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. Anybody know where to buy orange flower water? Thanks -- ABM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: AliceBarbaraMarion

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I've seen It at Great Wall and at that little middle-eastern shop across from the Coralville post office... dunno if thats still open...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: AliceBarbaraMarion

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I know for a fact you can get it at Chong's in Coralville. Was just in there a week ago and saw it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. Hi all! I'm moving to the Quad Cities from Charlottesville, Virginia in August (my s.o. moved there last August). Cville is a town that encourages being completely spoiled when it comes to food. I've been reading up on the Chowhound about food in the QC, but truth be told, except for Frieda's in East Moline, the best food I've had in the area is in, you guessed it, Iowa City. (So far, I've just eaten at Devotay and Saloon, and blown a couple hundred dollars at New Pi.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Anyway, I love your 244 replies to this thread! Does my heart good. Does anyone eat out in the QC and have favorites there? There are some threads on Chowhound about the QC, so I don't need encyclopedic responses, but if you have any place you love, I'd totally love to hear about it! (And I promise I'll keep driving to IC when I need a great meal!)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. Hi all,

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Family is in from out of town, and they want to take us out for dinner. Looking for a place in or around Iowa City that has good entrees between $15-$20 other than Devotay (went there last time, they want to try a new place). One Twenty Six, Motley Cow, Linn Street Cafe, Vesta, Givannis, all a little too expensive (their entrees are between $20-$30)...other ideas? Taste on Melrose?? Tuscan Moon? Red Head? Augusta?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Thanks for the help...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. I just found this site and have been trying to get caught up, but got lost around Sept 2006. Basically I've been in IC for 8 years, but my boyfriend is new to the area. Being from Northern California, he is a bit spoiled when it comes to food options (apparently Sacramento and San Fran were both close by). We have managed to find a Mexican place he approves of (El Super Burrito in CR...I highly recommend it...$10 got us a plate of fajitas that we had to struggle to finish together...and then we were soaking the grease up w/ the tortillas...mmmmm), however a reasonably priced Italian place or real Deli is something we're still looking for. If anybody has any suggestions for reasonable and authentic, I'm taking any and all suggestions.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. If all you chs could have one last meal in iowa city, where would it be and why?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    15 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: danamarie

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Hey Dana Marie (I once had a roommate named that...you never lived in San Diego, did you??)...I would go to Devotay, without question. First of all, we've been at least 15 times and have never had anything short of a great experience. Secondly, my husband and I had our first meal there when visiting Iowa City for the first time, and at that very lunch decided to move here! Kurt does a great job with the place...the food, decor, service, all wonderful and relaxed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: danamarie

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Ah, excellent question. I went back in my mind to locate the yummiest edible I have had here in the last couple of years.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        The winner: Takanami has a "chef's sashimi combination" (or something like that) dish which is just to die for. The menu includes 3 possible combinations, each composed of three pieces of sashimi with a matching sauce, spices and vegetables. It's all very small and pretty expensive for an appetizer, but the flavor combination is fantastic. I had it about a year ago and can still taste it if I sit back and think about it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Lizzy69 - I have to challenge your Verde choice. Last time I was there, I received two different back-to-back dishes in the exact same sauce (red peppers). In my book, that's a big no-no.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        So - one vote Verde, one vote Takanami.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: nogaboga

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Nogaboga, I think you mean Devotay as far as Lizzy is concerned... I'm going to have to second your dissent on the Devotay choice. I've eaten there a few times and it has always been mediocre at best -- too salty, not creative, far too expensive for what it is, and by no means as local as they pretend to be. Takanami has been good in the past, but with all the chef/management changes, I'm not too fond of it anymore. That sashimi combo *was* really good, though....

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Sadly, I think if I had to pick my last meal, I'd leave Iowa City. I consistently have great meals at Motley Cow -- although maybe not last-meal-worthy -- and at Lincoln Cafe. The rest of the food in the area is good, and extremely satisfying on a day-to-day basis, but ultimately not too inspiring.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: ctscorp

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I echo CTS- in general, I find IC's food to be lacking. Ditto with Devotay; I was less than thrilled the two times I went there. Never been to the lincoln Cafe, bit Hva eheard good things.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: ctscorp

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Of course, I meant Devotay. Sorry for that slip. Thanks for the correction.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: nogaboga

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                It's been a downward trend for awhile, It's sad too cause I miss the days when that white sangria was such a treat at Devotay... It was like a Scooby Snack.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: CookSteve8

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                We really like Devotay too. I always have had a good experience there. we pass through when traveling and always stop there.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: CookSteve8

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  "No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the american public."
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  --HL Mencken
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  and now, haiku:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  mom and pop tired schtick
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  food service truck double parked
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  dining depression

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: CookSteve8

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    To each their own. While I have great respect for Kurt and what he does for the slow and local movements in IC, I have never really got his own cooking. Perfectly fine but I'd much rather go to MC, LC or Simone's.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: mander

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Did you hear that Simone (who's also wonderful by the way, and sells her bread at Devotay) is taking this year off? No dinners at the farm this year. Dunno what that means about her fougasse at Devotay.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      And could yo please expound on "I have never really got his own cooking"? I don't think I follow what you mean.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: CookSteve8

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I have to admit I moved from IC 1.5 years ago so I hadn't heard that. Some of my best meals in the area have been at the farm.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        As for Devotay, he cuts too many corners for my taste and the food can be inconsistent. When I've pointed this out to him he has said "few people notice". So fine - to each their own but not for me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        That said the food is good and his prices are indeed fair.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: CookSteve8

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Taking the year off? How sad! I celebrated my birthday there last year over lamb and a lot of red wine. Now where will I go this year?..

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: CookSteve8

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        We can agree to disagree -- I don't choose to spend my money at Devotay because of the style of the food, which, as I said, I find too salty, uncreative, and fat-laden to be enjoyable. I should let you know, though, that every restaurant I've ever worked in has been booked on Valentine's Day -- that's absolutely no sort of coup. I'd bet Village Inn would have been booked if they took reservations....

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: ctscorp

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Last nail in the food coffin - I went to Takanami yesterday and looked for that one dish I mentioned in my last reply. It's called "Fusion Sashimi", and out of the 3 variations that used to exist, they took out the one that I liked and left the other two in the menu. Ha!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I'll have to offer another competitor then (and I'm focusing on individual dishes here and not the entire place) - the duck confit appetizer at 126. I don't know when they have it on the menu, but I happened to have been there when they did, and it was delicious.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. Has anyone heard of this new place called Chef's Table that's apparently on Washington? I heard about it a few weeks ago and I'm not sure if it's open yet but I was wondering what the deal was with it? Any thoughts?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Mangojane

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Eric, the former chef at Takanami, is heading it up. Based on his track record and work ethic, it should be something to look forward to...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Mangojane

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          This is a new "continental" restaurant, occupying the space formerly housing Prairie Table, next to the Englert. The last time I walked by - admittedly, a couple of weeks ago - the windows were still covered with brown paper. It will be a nice place to dine before the theater/concert, if it works out.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Mangojane

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            When Eric is given free rein he can be extraordinary. It will be interesting to see how he strikes a balance between great food and running a profitable place. Lord knows people like me are pulling for him.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. I happened upon the CHOW site in google and after reading a number of the postings for Iowa City, felt I needed to 'sign up' so I could add a comment.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Now, I may have missed it -- didn't read through ALL of the postings -- but in the many I did read, I saw no mention of the Mekong restaurant. My husband and I have long been fans of this family-run operations which, until last summer's major flooding, was located in Coralville, and reopened several weeks ago in Iowa City on Riverside Drive, near the Village Inn. (Oh, the landmarks we use.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Anyway, we've always thought this restaurant was not as widely known as its food quality and price point deserved. The restaurant is owned by a wonderful Vietnamese immigrant family who came to the area in the 70's. They offer Vietnamese, Thai, and Chinese fare - both vegetarian and non. We've had only one meal there over many, many years that disappointed -- a mock duck. Otherwise, we've found the food to be consistently well prepared, flavorful, and generous of portion size for the price. Their curry shrimp is "to die for". Their mid-day lunch special runs about $7.50 for the same quality of food as the dinner meals, but a more limited selection of dishes. I typically find their lunches enough for 2 meals.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Although the new Iowa City restaurant has a more upscale look than did their original Coralville one, much of the wait staff -- who really get to know the 'regulars', and vice versa -- has come back, helping to maintain the warm, family-friendly atmosphere of their former place.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            For a wonderful meal, served by friendly, local folk, at a bargain price, I can't recommend the Mekong highly enough.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Moon Gal

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Hi Moon Gal,

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              You are sooooo right, we really liked that place. Coming from San Diego and L.A. where there was really good Thai, we were happy to find Mekong and so sorry to hear that it had been closed due to the floods. I just heard the other day that they had relocated...they should get the word out! Looking forward to going back soon!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: lizzy69

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I am looking for good Pho, I hope I find it there!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I had the best doughnut at DeLuxe Bakery on Summit St. They only have them on Saturdays. They are always packed on Saturdays, but its still an essential in our house to have pastries once a week there.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Their coffee is killer too, if you are a coffee snob, they have a GS-3!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. Hi, new chowhound here. Love reading all the posts and I learned a few things. I'm not going to be as critical as some because I don't know as much but thought I would share my experience with my family at Redhead in Solon. I had a ribeye medium rare with zucchini and squash on the side. My meal was fantastic and their buttermilk bleu cheese dressing on the salad is great. My wife had the Buffalo chicken soup which she liked. We've gone to this place many times and have yet to be disappointed. Looking forward to trying many of the restaurants listed on the site and for those who like mushrooms, morel season is almost here and I can't wait to get in the timber.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: mtvernonfoodie

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Redhead has heart, an element that is completely omitted, if even considered, by most.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. Just wanted to give a mini-report on Linn Street. Went there for the first time the other night for a friend's birthday dinner, and we were seriously disappointed. I know that it's one of those restaurants that's gone down hill in a big way in the past few years, but they could at least have the decency to lower their prices to go with the sub-standard food! They served trout mousse with crackers (not homemade, just a step up from saltines), the scallops were fishy and terrible, the beans that came with my husband's lamb were literally crunchy, the salads looked like they came out of a dumpster, and my side dish just tasted like over-cooked soba noodles drenched in sesame oil. For all this, we got a bill that required us to take out another mortgage on our house. I would NOT recommend this restaurant, it was one of the WORST meals we've had in Iowa City. Spend your money elsewhere...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: lizzy69

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  ...and when I dine at Linn St., it's like being transported to another place and time: the restaurant of a Ramada Inn, circa 1983.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  This part of IC (Northside) has so much potential as a reasonably good food destination. It would be nice if Linn St. could hold up their end of the bargain. Long propped up by pharmaceutical dinners and U. schmoozing, I suspect the economy might do just that. Good luck, I truly want it to be good.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: kellog sully

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I keep doing the rounds of Linn St. - Devotay - Motley Cow, and keep waiting for the magic to happen. It's not that their food is not good - it IS good - but it's not *exciting*. I guess that I just want to be excited.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The last place to excite me was Takanami - way to go with those chef's special rolls. Some simply melted in our mouths.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    As for the redhead, now that it's motorcycle season again, I'm definitely going to pay her a visit. Kim is the sweetest person and I can't believe I'm yet to have eaten there.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: nogaboga

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I have to admit, I really would be hesitant to lump Linn St. with Devotay and Motley Cow. I know there are some on this board who are not the biggest fans of Devotay, but I adore that place, have never had a bad experience. Motley Cow is also a fantastic place...Linn St. was bad on so many levels that I seriously couldn't count them. Must get to Redhead soon!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. My wife and I decided to try out the Sanctuary Pub this past weekend and it is my new favorite place to grab a beer, some good pizza, and enjoy. The fact that they had one of the best beers in the world on tap (Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar) had sold me on the place already. We ordered a pizza that had cilantro-pesto sauce, jalapenos, green peppers, tomatoes, and it was very good. The pitcher of brown ale was great and has my mouth watering to get back their again soon.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: mtvernonfoodie

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I also enjoy the Pizza Fontina at the Sanctuary ....

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. Did anyone else check out RiverFeast in Iowa City this weekend? The only thing that stands out for me was Oasis and they gave out a sample of their falafel, pita bread, and hummus for free. It was delicious...but then, I was a fan of Oasis before I got that sample. Their baklava was not that bad either. Otherwise, I'm a little bit hesitant to try some of the places there based on what I tasted.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. Has anyone tried Vesta in Coralville yet? Any good?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: lizzy69

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        My wife and I tried it around the time it opened and thought it had a lot of potential. It was ok, but it was still early for them so I'm guessing it has improved. The meatball appetizer was very good.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. If I can chime in on this whole Augusta thing, I think they don't have brunch anymore (at least that's what I think the sign on the door said), which is sad because it had been raved to me immensely. I went there for dinner last night with a friend. She got the crawfish beignets, which she found to be too doughy. I think her conception of the beignet was off, but I thought they were sort of strange; reminded me of a modified hush puppy. Still good though. I wouldn't want a whole order of them, but that's personal preference. I got the gumbo, which was more like soup as in it was thin. It also wasn't particularly spicy, which disappointed me. For entrees, she got the po'boy. The shrimp wasn't very well seasoned, i.e. it had no zip of any sort. She did like the sweet potato chips, though. For myself, I got the night's special which was crab encrusted walleye, which was actually amazing. I thought the carrots were a bit too buttery, but the grit cake was stellar. The consistency was right, and they were buttery like grits, not carrots, are supposed to be. In the end, while I think my friend is a bit too snobbish about eating, I would go back again. I thought my meal was good. It was at least worth its cost, which is all I really ask for in a meal.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        In regards to other eating, I live by the linn st. places, so I've now eaten at all of them. Linn St. was alright for lunch. I thought they were being too ambitious in their concepts. If they went back to basics, they'd probably be pretty good. The waitstaff when I went was good. Our waitress chatted with us, and that was nice. Devotay is Devotay. This is a love or hate place. I've never seen people either gush or seethe so fervently with passion about a restaurant ever. I'm indifferent. I thought the tapas I had were quite good. The paella was unpleasant, to put it mildly. But, I'm not going to sway you one way or another. Go and experience for yourself. Motley Cow is amazing. After I left from Augusta, I was struggling to remember a good meal that I had in Iowa City, then it popped into my head today: the lamb sausage pizza at motley cow. It is fantastic. As well, the sunday brunch is actually really good. I'm southern, so I know biscuits and gravy. While I thought the gravy could have been a little thicker, the biscuits were superbly done and the overall meal quite nice. Pagliai's has a cult following I don't really understand. Thought the pizza was sort of average, not really worth the price. I'd rather just get pizza from the wedge. 126 is not so choice. I went for lunch. The ambiance was uncomfortable and my crabcake sandwich (I don't know why I do this to myself; I grew up eating crab in md/va/dc, i.e. crab country) was not particularly flavorful or interesting. Also, Lou Henri left a lot to be desired. The meal was average, but the atmosphere made it so much worse.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I'm interested in Lincoln and Redhead, so I guess I'll be firing up the dream machine for a couple of drives in the near future. As well, I'll be checking out El Paso. I've been to La Reyna. I thought the burrito I had from there was good, but the torta was greasy and not so hot. I went for dinner. I got fajitas, and they weren't particularly good. They weren't even average. I'm willing to take suggestions on good mexican restaurants in this area. There have to be some given there is an actual population here. Also are there any jamaican restaurants closer than Cedar Falls? Why has there not been a shout to Mama's on this thread? It's not a pure deli, but it's the only place where I have gotten a really good sandwich in IC. I have yet to be disappointed by it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        6 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: acespeed

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I'm in a general agreement with you about the lack of decent choices in IC. Have you tried the Chef's Table? I had a nice experience there.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          My one comment though is about the 126 lunch. I mean, it's my default lunch place! I am yet to have found a better lunch menu in town.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: nogaboga

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I'm sorry, but to say that there are a "lack of decent choices in IC" is a bit goofy. I have now lived in five states, - north, south, and east, and I defy you to find more than a handful of towns of Iowa City's size in this country where the choices even come *close.* Ithaca, NY is one city I have lived in that does measure up, but believe me, it is a diamond in the rough. While I am sure there is still much to be desired in the restaurant "scene" in Iowa City, I would encourage you all to count your blessings.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: iowadina

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Haha. I didn't realize this was a scientific comparison of IC and its peer group. Yes, IC is great compared to other towns its size, and even compared to many larger towns (I've been to places three times the size of IC with fewer decent food options). My agreement with acespeed about the lack of choices was completely non-scientific.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              And I do think that the fact that other towns this size do worse, does not mean that we shouldn't aspire to do better.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: nogaboga

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I should clarify. There are decent options in iowa city, especially given its size. The fact that I can make comparisons between places is a massive improvement for me. That said, there are only a couple of places that make you sort of sit up and go, holy mother of god, that meal was incredible. I want there to be more of those types of places. I still want a stellar, inexpensive burger in this town. I don't know if other people want this, but I certainly do.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: nogaboga

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              126 lunch is awesome. One of the best steak sandwiches I've ever had.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            3. Greetings all! Does anyone know who makes those fantastic water carafes they put at every table over at Motley Cow? I called the restaurant and the woman I talked to wasn't sure but suggested I check Libbey. I went through their entire listing and couldn't find them...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Thanks everyone for your comments, I've been checking in with this list for ages!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: LifeB

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                They are Libbey, and they have the same ones at Taste on Melrose. I'd call Taste, as it has far fewer employees and the owner is accessible. He can tell you where he got them -- although I'm pretty sure they came from a restaurant wholesale supplier at both places and you therefore might have to buy a whole case.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. Have lived in Iowa City since '98 and have been checking this thread for the last few years but never posted before today. Wondering if anyone has tried the new BBQ place in Iowa City - out by the Herbert Hoover Highway exit? Looks like it's more of a bar than restaurant, but always looking for good food to add to our list - we do love Jimmy Jack's, but they have such a small selection of sides....

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Also, tried Bluebird for the 2nd (and last) time today. Had gone earlier on and tried the chicken salad at lunch, which I found passable but uninspiring. Today we went for breakfast and had horrible service (though with a smile!) and truly bad food including greasy and undercooked hashbrowns, underseasoned omelets, and corned beef hash that was nothing of the sort. So sad, too, because Iowa City could really use an upscale diner. Ah well.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                What else have folks eaten lately and loved?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. Why, hello! I just relocated to Iowa City from Chicago (Windy city resident for 8+ years) and am in desperate search of decent dining. I was thrilled when I found this website and promptly made a detailed list of places to venture and try out. (In Chicago, I was a pretty dedicated Yelper, and sadly Yelp here isn't as used.) Thank you to all who contribute!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  My first venture I decided on Devotay- by the masses it seemed it have decent reviews. I was pleased to find out that the night I went (Tuesday) was half price wine night. The wine selection was decent and our waitress was friendly and very helpful with our selection.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  We ordered the cheese tray, scallops, mussels and paella (seafood fan). While the cheese tray left much to be desired, the seasoned almonds on the side were the best thing on the cheese plate. When it came to the tapas- OVER SALTED, OVER SEASONED. After our first bite of mussels, we were overwhelmed by salt and cumin. Every other bite had to be with bread to cut the salt. The scallops where not bad, though I would not go back for just those. The paella is tomato based, not a saffron bed. I liked this rendition if it wasn't for the mass SALT poured into the dish. By our FIFTH glass of water, we were done. As my boyfriend put it, "I'll eat it...because we paid for it and I'm starving." We told the waitress of our struggle, and she kindly thanked us for our input and was very apologetic. She mentioned that they have a new cook, and we were not the first to say this to her.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  While my boyfriend swore this place off, I think I would come back to give it another shot. The atmosphere is adorable and cozy. The dining crowd is electic and warm, and the staff very friendly and kind. I just hope that customer feedback gets to the new chef for the sake of future diner's kidneys.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  P.S. The night of the dinner, we woke up in the middle of night, parched, and downed ANOTHER glass of water.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  8 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: missytee

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I had a similar experience the last time I ate there, which was over a year ago. I'm not sure if the new cook thing is valid. The waitress new the food was to salty (she asked if it was salty), but they still served it. For such a long standing place this seems like bad quality control.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: corneygirl

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Yep. I haven't been back there in more than a year myself. The atmosphere is fantastic, but I always end up disappointed by the food.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Has anyone tried either Hearth or Orchard Green?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: nogaboga

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Neither one yet. Hearth's menu looks good, but expensive for flat breads - pizza whatever. Taste on Melrose is doing a pizza menu that looks good, and more affordable. I just heard about Orchard Green (ad in the paper), but I'm not sure what they are about.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: corneygirl

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Went to Orchard Green last night with hubby. The space is gorgeous - used to be the back room of the Brew Works, and looks absolutely fantastic as a high-end restaurant. Our server was attentive and knowledgeable, our fish and steak were cooked just right, and altogether we had a great time. The food is prepared in a rich and heavy manner, as you would expected from a French restaurant, so I would recommend ordering a light appetizer.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Can't wait to go back and try the duck and the scallops.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: nogaboga

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Oh, and I have a Takanami-related issue that I need to raise and verify.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I was complaining to a friend of how, whenever I go to Takanami for dinner, my clothes end up with a very strong food-smell. I will usually even have to air my jacket for a few days before I can wear it again. My friend said that it's because the place is in non-compliance with some law about a vent that should be installed over the fryer and they don't have it, or something like that. Does anyone know what this is about? (By the way - I love their food and will keep eating there. This is not an attempt to discredit the place!)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: corneygirl

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Hearth has 1/2 price wood-fired oven flatbreads from 4:30-6 on week nights. They are definitely a meal! They also have breaks on some of the other "appetizers" and on wine. A pleasant spot to relax after a day's work.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Iowa_Smitten

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Not exactly half price. They shave $2-3 off the price. Same with the drinks - not really a happy hour, just a slightly-less-expensive hour. I think that at the moment, nothing beats the Happy Hour deal at the Orchard Green lounge, with its $5 menu.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          3. re: nogaboga

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I finally went to Hearth and was definitely impressed. My husband and I shared 5 appetizers and one entrée, and I have nothing bad to say about any of them, especially considering the low prices. I'm excited! I think this is a great new option in town.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. I had a great bowl of chili Verde with smoked pork at the Bluebird for lunch today. The flavors were complex and smokey. The chili was very meaty. The more I eat at this place the more I like it. I'll admit I ate the Rubin several months ago and felt it uninspired.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: BillyBlastoff

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          anything involving the pork/green chili combo is great. All their other food I've found overpriced and bland. We went for dinner and spent well over 50$ on the meal and both left a lot of food behind because it was flavorless. If you're waiting in line to get into bluebird on a saturday or sunday morning, walk across and eat at Banditos for breakfast. You'll never go back.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. Has anybody tried Her Soup Kitchen?

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: corneygirl

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Haven't tried eating there yet but the hosted an event at Muddy Creek and served some great small dishes...soups, sandwiches, etc...was very good so intrigued about give the place a try.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. I went to Orchard Green and had a pretty spectacular meal. Have others found this to be the rule with this place?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. Just heard that Taste on Melrose will be closing Feb 14, which I think is too bad. We haven't eaten there very regularly, but every time we've gone we've enjoyed it. It was also a great place, in nice weather, to walk to from the hospital for lunch.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Gilgamesh37

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Will miss it for sure!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I heard it was going to be a lunch place.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: jamit

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  San Diego Chargers and former Iowa field goal kicker Nate Kaeding and a few buddies are going to occupy the building with menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner Prices ranging from 9-15. No name yet. It's the same trio that own the gourmet burger joint downtown. I would think this could be a gold mine with the hospital right down the street and virtually no other eating choices.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. Anyone been to Chez Grace in Coralville on the strip?

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: jamit

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  A friend went and told me it was truly awful and ridiculously overpriced. I'd be interested in more input, too --

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: jamit

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I went last night and was very pleased. The lamb loin was excellent, very tender and flavorful without any gaminess.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Being seated by and served by the Chef was a wonderfully unique experience. I will absolutely dine there again.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. Ate at Orchard Green for the first time last night (intended to eat at Devotay, but after being seated in the hot, very stuffy, very LOUD dining room and given water, no waitstaff spoke to us for 10 full minutes, at which point we got up and left) . Ate downstairs in the lounge and it was terrific. Quiet, almost empty, same menu as upstairs (with some additional items, like sandwiches and chicken wings). DH had the Cucumber cocktail which was outstanding (and the sort of drink that goes down so easy, you could get loaded without meaning to). We split an appetizer, each had 2 drinks, I had the scallops (really good, and the polenta was especially good, and I'm not usually a polenta person) and DH had the bouillabase, which was more saucelike than souplike, but also wonderful. And we got away for $100 including tip, which I thought was tremendously reasonable. Upstairs is lovely and elegant, but I really enjoyed the lounge atmosphere. Wait staff were attentive without being intrusive, and very nice. We'll definitely go back.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Gilgamesh37

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I know I've said this before, but after 10 times there... nothing has ever gone wrong, except me spilling a very pricey cocktail!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. Any new restaurants or new restaurants to be in the Iowa City area?

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: mtvernonfoodie

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Stella opened up where Taste on Melrose used to be, I haven't tried it yet. I have heard mixed reviews, but I intend on trying it after the holidays. Banditios is a newish mexicanish place that takes up both the old Motley Cow location, and the nasty pizza place that used to be next door. It's mid-priced (10ish entrees - dinner for 2 with alcohol and an app is a little over $50). They get local meat, cook their own beans (not from a can) etc. I think the food is really good, and it fills a niche (I was extremely underwhelmed with the food at Saloon).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Motley Cow Cafe
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        160 N Linn St, Iowa City, IA 52245

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: corneygirl

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Banditos breakfast is only on the weekends and starts a little late, but it's very good. I ate at Stella for lunch and thought it was ok, but I haven't been back.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: mtvernonfoodie

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I'm looking for a new brunch place. Anyone try Red's in North Liberty for brunch? The wife and I ate at Motley Cow a couple of weeks ago and had to retire the restaurant from our list. We were told they had a new omelet chef who could not make an egg white omelet. The service was way too laid back and the wife's cheese grits were not right. Too bad. We used to go there a couple of times every month and a half or so.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Anyone try Mondo's saloon in the ped mall for brunch?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Mondo's Restaurant
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          309 S Fremont St, Shenandoah, IA 51601

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Motley Cow Cafe
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          160 N Linn St, Iowa City, IA 52245

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: BillyBlastoff

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            You used to go there often and then one "off" experience made you not go back? That's too bad. I had a great egg white omelet there just last Sunday, so perhaps the chef figured it out?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: ctscorp

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Actually the wife took a business associate last week for dinner and had no complaints. I plan on going back for lunch soon to try the award winning pastrami.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I have been going to Bluebird for egg white omelets and have not been disappointed. I still don't get an omelet chef who can't do an egg white omelet...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Consider my empty "no more Motley Cow" threats the words of a diner scorned..

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Motley Cow Cafe
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              160 N Linn St, Iowa City, IA 52245

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Iowa_Smitten

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Red's Ale House (alehouse?) in N. L. (former owners of Sluggers which was zapped by 08 flood) is open and serving good food with great beer. The brunch, while decadent, has nothing on the Iowa River Power Company brunch, which includes Mimosas and runs only a few dollars more.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Redhead in Solon is closed, and now is a decent mexican placed called "El Sol."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. If anyone is looking for a sandwich place, try NoDo. It's in that weird space outside but inside the Ace Hardware on North Dodge. The sandwiches are solid and the guy who runs it is pretty nice. Has anyone else eaten there yet?

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: acespeed

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I love it! Hard to not order the C and P, but when I have managed to I've been pleased as well. I haven't been up there for a while, I'm due for another trip.