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Apr 3, 2009 05:52 PM


Thought Chowhounders might like an update on Iowa City. We moved here in 1994. Here goes:

CAFE DODICI-In Washington, IA 45 minutes but worth the drive. Maybe the best restaurant in SE Iowa. Italian. Small but beautifully decorated. Owners moved here from Italy.
THE SALOON-Very unique Mexican food. Try shrimp fajitas. The best.
VESTA-Next to the Marriott . Try the lamb shanks. The best restaurant in town.
BREAD GARDEN-Great for sandwiches and soups. Try Tuscan tomato soup.
JIMMYJACKS RIB SHACK-Lots of BBQ at the right price.
HAMBURG INN-Every college town has one. Hangover food and plenty of it.
PAGLIAI'S-Pizza is a very personal thing but this place is an icon in Iowa City.

THAI SPICE-The name says it.
TAKANAMI-Fusion Japanese. Pretty good. Nice atmosphere.
MOTLEY COW-Big on fresh, local ingredients. A little noisy.
MICKEY'S-Fun casual place. Big college hangout. Also noisy.
LA REYNA-A little family Mexican place on a side street. Fresh Mexican food-not out of a can.
IGUANA'S GRILL-In North Liberty. Good Mexican
GRAZE-A cocktail lounge with nice small portions. Very creative. Nice atmosphere.
GIVANNI'S-Good Italian
BOB'S YOUR UNCLE-Decent casual food. I like the pizza.
AOESHE-Big menu. Korean, Japanese, Chinese. My favorite bento box.

DON'T GO!!!!
OX YOKE INN-Near the Amanas. All the Amana restaurants are alike--meat, potatoes
and overcooked vegetables
LOST PORTALES-From an El Paso can.
LINN STREET CAFE-Used to be good but same menu since 1994 at least.
JOSEPH'S-An overpriced steak and chop house with ho-hum food
IOWA RIVER POWER-The most beautiful restaurant location in Iowa City and the worst food.

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  1. What a great, succinct, list! Favoriting for my next trip to Iowa City.


    2 Replies
    1. re: The Dairy Queen

      Don't forget Augusta in Oxford. Great food, everything from scratch, local, etc. Great classic food, with a Louisiana spin.

      1. re: The Dairy Queen

        Don't know how I forgot the Bluebird diner. Right around the corner, and in my opinion much better than the Hamburg. I gave up on the Hamburg after a wimpy soup and grilled cheese ran me $10. Bluebird has diner food with a twist, and homemade desserts.

      2. No Devotay? New Pioneer deli?

        1. Jordan, I agree on New Pioneer. Love the sandwiches. Not so Devotay. Devotay has its following but I'm not too impressed with the tapas. Also it looks to me like it could use a good once-over with a broom. corneygirl, the consensus on Bluebird is not good. I've eaten there once and had the meatloaf sandwich. It consisted of a big slab of meatloaf with some kind of tomato sauce. No taste whatsoever. It drew a big crowd when it started off but the crowd has dwindled. When we were there the service was atrocious and the word is that it has not gotten any better. Anyway...that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.

          2 Replies
          1. re: DHM

            I'd give Bluebird another try. New places take a while to find a groove. Ribs, steak, and breakfast are all great. I've had a real nice ruben, and salads for lunch. I'll take a house cooked corned beef sandwich over some Sysco from the Hamburg any day. At least wait till June when they've had 6 months to get it straight and try again.

            1. re: DHM

              I had one bad experience at Bluebird (ice cold eggs and green chile) but great coffee, and one decent lunch experience - an interesting chicken salad on a croissant. I think it is inconsistent at best, but I'll give it at least one more try. I hated Graze and have mixed impressions of Saloon - we really enjoyed it on summer night on the patio with several cocktails, but I found my two lunches there really mediocre, so the good experience may have had more to do with the weather (and the cocktails) than the food. I hate the new Bread Garden - seems like nothing is fresh anymore. LOVE Oyama for sushi and Thai Flavors for my Thai fix.

              There's definitely some good food in Iowa City, and enough diversity that we can all find our faves!

            2. I like your list, DHM. Went to Linn Street last night for a friend's birthday dinner, had never been before. I could write pages on how disappointing it was, but suffice to say that the meal was not NEARLY worth the money we spent. For sure on the "Don't go!" list (service was great though). I would put Devotay on the "highly recommended" list too, love that place. Agree with ctscorp, would also add Oyama to the "highly recommended" list for sushi. About Bluebird, have only been once, but had a really tasty breakfast there...blew away Hamburg Inn...we won't even go in there anymore. What's with the syrup there anyway?

              1. There's a HUGE and frequently-updated discussion of dining options in Iowa City, at