Visiting Iowa City for an Iowa game, tailgating is only the beginning

ICWhether looking to revisit some old college haunts, catch a ball game or rage at a hardcore show, Iowa City has all this to offer and even some highbrow activities to amuse the sophisticate in the crowd.

It’s rare to find a city of 60,000 people that has so many cultural opportunities at its disposal. Art, music, fine dining, shopping and sports all combine to make a visit to Iowa City worth taking. Still, this remains first and foremost a college town at heart. Alumni from the University of Iowa will recognize new buildings going up on campus, but the core downtown area remains relatively unchanged.

Unlike many college towns, Iowa City doesn’t undergo a radical turnover of bars and shops with each outgoing class or generation. Those familiar with IC will recognize veteran watering holes like the Airliner, Deadwood, Joe’s Place, George’s and the Sports Column. They’ve all been around for more than 20-years and several considerably longer.

There’s also a different kind of vibe that runs through this city. Dating from its days as a 1960s counter-culture hot spot, through to today, this is a politically engaged community. The IC is a bastion of individualism and independence, and this is recognizable in the number of small business proprietors in the downtown area.

Co-existing with this activism is Iowa City’s reputation as a party town, and the University of Iowa being the premier school in the Big 10 Conference for taking its after-hours recreation seriously. The cocktail culture here is well steeped in tradition and this is a drinking destination.

Iowa City doesn’t offer much of a skyline like Minneapolis or Chicago, but it has a free-fire party zone downtown that’s hard to match for college atmosphere.

Iowa City delivers over 70 bars, clubs and restaurants, essentially on the University of Iowa campus, and all within a five-block radius. The party can go all night and if it’s game day in the morning, no worries, Kinnick Stadium is within walking distance from downtown.

Below are some of the more notable dives, cocktail lounges, eateries and otherwise I recommend. Come to Iowa City and unwind, especially on Thursday nights or game weekends. It’s a fine place to get your drink on, catch a show and meet some free-spirited individuals. And hey, if you end up having too good a time, no worries, the UI Hospitals and Clinics are world class.

* See also:  Iowa Hawkeyes Named No. 1 Party School in America


best-bars-deadwoodThe Deadwood – 6 S. Dubuque Street 319.351.9417

Welcome to Iowa City’s official living room. The Deadwood welcomes all takers, just be ready to hold your liquor. Residents here drink early and often. A favorite for locals, and a slightly older crowd, often you can find most of the staff there whether they are working or not. This place brings in every type of high-powered mutant misfit imaginable. The place is dirty, smelly, politically incorrect, defies convention and is arguably the best bar on Earth. It’s all about atmosphere; come in to watch “The Simpsons” and stay for the jukebox. The clientele have impressive musical taste. Angry hour begins around 4:00 and stops when the bartender says. Pints are $1.75. Pool tables are in the back – there’s no telling what all goes down in there. A visit to the restroom is a great opportunity to pick up sone needed philosophy.  The walls are filled with hard-learned lessons and sexual smack. Lagers and shots are the way to fly here. Once liftoff has been achieved, jump in the photo booth to immortalize whatever mistake you’re about to make. On game days the Deadwood is open early and staff makes free chili.

The Dublin Underground – 5 S. Dubuque Street 319.337.7660

This downstairs gem is sometimes overlooked. With its Irish theme, this is a given stop on St. Patrick’s Day, but any day will work. It’s not very large but there’s sufficient room for a bar, a few tables, a pool table and a fish tank. The ales are always fresh and if you order a Guinness check the foam for a shamrock before taking a sip.

808 – 121 Iowa Avenue 319.351.0044

This is a relatively large restaurant and club. It’s mainly recognized as a place to dance and get loose. Daily specials are available on food and drink. The profile for this place goes up during football season because they open early for tailgating and beers are $1.

Fox Head Tavern – 402 E. Market Street 319.351.9824

Welcome to a dive. This is a total locals hangout and one where drinking well, or excessively, is taken seriously. Known to be frequented by literary types, plenty of stories and plans get hatched inside this joint – they just rarely can be remembered the next morning. Come late, this place barely has a pulse until 10:00 p.m. The Fox Head is a great late night hang. The silliness is expected and nobody will give you a second look.

George’s – 312 E. Market Street 319.351.9614

This is a classic dive. Open since 1939, George’s is just the place to leave life behind for a moment and enjoy some strong drink and casual conversation. This is a cash only bar, no credit. There is live music occasionally and a well-stocked jukebox, with tons of local music from the regulars around town. A small kitchen offers cheeseburgers cooked in a toaster oven that come wrapped in wax paper for the asking at $3.50. Do yourself a favor and order one. Bowls of chili are also available for $4.00 during the winter season. The pints of LaCrosse Lager at $1.75 are hard to beat. And you can still get cans of Hamm’s for $2.25. George’s is a scotch and whiskey bar, no foo-foo college shots here.

I.C. Ugly’s Saloon – 210 N. Linn Street 319.337.4335

This cozy saloon is tucked in next to the venerable Hamburg Inn. If some sports or bad television are a suitable backdrop to a few drinks, Ugly’s is a good stop. There’s plenty of booth space to relax and the music isn’t overwhelming. A limited menu is available and pool or darts can be played in the game room. Cup night on Monday is especially affordable, and Ugly Hour runs weekdays from 4:00 to 6:00. This is a C Shift-friendly bar as well, open from 7:00 a.m. Monday – Saturday and 8:00 a.m. on Sunday until 2:00 a.m. daily. If you need to tailgate or haven’t been to bed yet, come by and get Ugly!

Joe’s Place – 115 Iowa Avenue 319.338.6717

A Hawkeye tradition since 1934. Joe’s Place is the gathering point for all things Hawkeye related. It’s one big mixing bowl, everyone is welcomed at Joe’s. The inexpensive beer flows freely inside. Since expanding next door and adding the beer garden, Joe’s can seriously blow out on big nights. There’s no telling what might be witnessed amongst the tables. Service is never a problem, even with large crowds. Pool is a nightly attraction. Generation after generation continue to enjoy Joe’s Place. Drop in, it’s always friendly.

One-Eyed Jakes – 18 S. Clinton Street 319.351.0557

Jakes is a Thursday night special, particularly with the underage set. It can have a slightly older crowd on weekends. This is one of Mike Porter’s properties. He also owns The Summit, Vito’s and Sauce. The party is at the top of the stairs.

The Industry – 211 Iowa Avenue 319.337.9107

This is the newest live music venue in town. The Industry took over the space previously occupied by the Que. It has two stages with bars on each floor. The one upstairs can accommodate 133 people and the main stage downstairs holds over 500. This is a large space and is only open Thursday through Saturday.

The Mill – 120 E. Burlington Street 319.351.9529

The Mill has been cranking up the amps since 1962. This is a folk/blues club that is split into two parts. There is a front bar, with booths, well-stocked jukebox and pool table. No cover needed up here. Check out the full menu, much is comfort food and has a home-cooked sense to it. The pizza is notable. The live venue is through the hall in the back and also has a full bar and seating. The menu is available back there as well. The crowd tends to be slightly older and trending on the folky-side. The Mill is a favorite with Democratic activists and a literary haunt. The tone is super relaxed, with the musicians being the main attraction. Friends gather here to see friends play. Mondays are open mike night and a pub quiz is hosted Sundays. Happy Hour is 2:00 to 6:00, with 3.50 pitchers of PBR – a favorite beer of the house. The Mill also has a delivery option.

The Picador – 330 E. Washington Street 319.354.4788 or

This is the best live music venue in the state. Formerly known as Gabe’s Oasis, and still essentially the same, this is not a big venue, in fact it quickly turns into a sweaty free-for-all, but it books the most consistent run of on-the-edge, experimental and recently made bands around. Partly due to Iowa City’s location, it’s at a crossroads for touring acts and equidistant to St. Louis, Kansas City, Madison, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and Chicago. There are two floors and the downstairs bar can be accessed without paying admission for whatever act is playing upstairs. The beer garden is open in the summer. The nightly drink specials are solid and well intended to get folks lubricated. A lot of the shows are all-ages/general admission. The Picador is essential to the high school and college crowd, and shots will be flying off the bar. Strap it on and be ready to rage.

The Yacht Club – 13 S. Linn Street 319.337.6464

The Yacht Club appears unassuming at street level, located in a building that dates to 1918, but descend downstairs, here is where the fun begins. This looks like a basement and is, with exposed pipe work and low ceilings, but when filled to capacity it’s a vibrant atmosphere in which to watch live music. The Yacht Club is popular with the jam band crew, think the Grateful Dead or Widespread Panic, also with bluegrass/new-grass pickers and reggae fans. Grateful Dead night is still hosted on Sundays. Recently an upstairs bar was added, that is rather chilly during the winter but will come in handy during the summer months. Every Monday is the blues jam, with $1 pints 9:00-1:00 a.m. Come tap into that hippie spirit and float away on the good vibrations.


DC’s – 124 S. Dubuque Street (on the Ped Mall) 319.358.9575

This is a common college hangout, but DC’s focuses on sports a lot and that chills down the crowd enough to make games watchable. They do get their drink on here. DC’s is home to the 40-ounce beer stein. Happy Hour is Monday – Friday, 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., with domestic steins $3.25 and imports $4. These puppies will get the job done and you can see them working their magic around the bar. DC’s also offers specials on wings and its fishbowls. The Friends After Class runs from 11:00 a.m. till 9:00 p.m., with fishbowls in all flavors only $4. DC’s has the best screens in town for sports.

Sports Column – 12 S. Dubuque Street 319.356.6902

Expanded from its original location, the Sports Column can turn it out any night. In the summer the windows swing open wide and the college mating ritual is on full display. This is a festive location to watch any sporting event but especially Hawkeye’ games. Full kitchen service is available. Happy Hour runs 2:00 till 9:00. Specials include $1.50 pints, $4 pitchers and $2 LITs. Strap on your drinking cup this will get bumpy.


Donnelly’s Pub – 110 E. College Street (on the Ped Mall) 319.338.7355

This is a chill spot in the afternoon to have pint and some conversation, maybe even get some studying done. University professors mix with graduate, undergrads and local professionals. The food can be questionable, but in a pinch it will suffice. Happy Hour is 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. weekdays. Specials include $2 domestic pints & 2.50 for ½ dozen jumbo wings. They make a better than expected martini and the price is right.

Fitzpatrick’s Brewery – 310 E. Prentiss Street 319.356.6200

Check out the best wings in town here. Fitzpatrick’s has a mix of older and younger patrons. Lots of people drop in on their way home from work for a pint or two. Sports are always on the big screens, with pool and darts rounding out the atmosphere. There is a sand volleyball court open in the summer for tournament and pick up games.

Micky’s Irish Pub – 11 S. Dubuque Street 319.338.6860

This is a pub in every sense. Popular with working professionals for lunch, it tends to go younger as the evening progresses. It has one of the best pub menus around, the wings and cheese fries are decadent, and the sandwiches are solid. The wait staff is super friendly. The infamous Micky’s After Class specials run 2:00 till 5:00 p.m., and bring cheap eats along with $2 domestic pints or margaritas. Check the bartenders if you need a special drink, they pour many. The black and tan here is out of sight. If you’re looking to close a Thursday or Friday night strong try $2 you call it 10:00 till close.

Pints – 118 S. Clinton Street 319.351.9898

Opening night is Superbowl Sunday. Pints is a gathering spot for sports and music fans. This former House of Aromas coffee shop has been gutted and revamped into a pub atmosphere. The drink collection will satisfy many and games are also available. There is no kitchen on-site but Pints encourages its patrons to bring food inside and stay. They even offer delivery assistance.

The Sanctuary Pub – 405 S. Gilbert Street 319.351.5692

I’ll give you 130 reasons to come here, beer, and a lot of it, in bottle or draft. Plan to take a moment sifting through the menu options, that’s half the fun. Several of these brands are European and have a higher proof than U.S. beers and come in larger quantities – god bless. The roster of distilled spirits is discriminating as well. Take a look at the food menu, there are many choices, but the pizza is a fine bet, different from most others. The Sanctuary does host live music and chooses to showcase local talent. Come on a Monday and all pints are $3. Open 4:00 to close Monday – Saturday; closed Sunday.

TCB – 114 E. College Street 319.887.2665

Lets first clear up the TCB reference. Elvis fans will know this as the King’s motto, “Taking Care of Business.” This is a pool hall with spice. Most are here for the tables, but the front bar is jacked with people telling tales. In its previous incarnation this was known as the College Street Bar, and it hasn’t changed much. The musical selections can be questionable, but the tables are sweet and they have shuffleboard.


The Airliner – 22 S. Clinton Street 319.338.5463

A tradition at the University of Iowa since 1944, the Airliner continues to offer solid bar food, terrific pizza and a lively scene.  There are daily food and drink specials. The half-price pizza on Tuesdays is a great deal. On Fridays it’s $1 U Call It! This will get sloppy. For those with a LARGE appetite, step inside and take on the Airbus Burger. There is a 30-minute limit to complete this task and no help allowed. If you avoid a cardiac episode they give you a free t-shirt. Consult a physician before attempting. Open daily 11:00 – 2:00 a.m. The Airliner also delivers.

Atlas World Grill – 127 Iowa Avenue 319.341.7700

For the restaurant/club places, Atlas has by far the most inventive and satisfying menu options around. The proprietors support local farmers and many of their offerings are prepared with fresh ingredients from the Iowa City area. Both the buffalo chicken and Memphis BBQ burritos are hits. The portion sizes are substantial. Atlas transforms into a club in the evening. It would probably be best to clear the scene around 9ish. Do check out the cellar, and patio seating is available in the summer. The restaurant is open daily 11:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m.; the lounge is open nightly.

Quinton’s Bar & Deli – 215 E. Washington Street 319.354.7074

If you can slide into the bar and score a big beer Quinton’s will work out fine, otherwise the service gets dicey. The food is pedestrian at best, mostly sandwiches and wraps, but the wait to be served can be wicked slow. Quinton’s is not the place to be if you’re in a hurry. The vibe is hippy-fied, with murals through the hallway and giant paintings on the wall of Jerry Garcia and Janis Joplin. Quinton’s can be a cool hangout, it all depends on the timing.

The Saloon – 112 E. College Street (on the Ped Mall) 319.354.3837

This provides southwestern fusion cuisine and puts a favorable spin on typical Mexican dishes. Sample the fish tacos, it may not sound appetizing but these are commonplace in cities outside the Midwest. Give them a run. The margaritas are in abundance here and the best in town. The Saloon stocks over 40 infused and straight tequilas. This place becomes a 21-over bar after 10:00 p.m.

Shakespeare’s – 819 S. 1st Avenue 319.337.7275

Shakespeare’s is a sequestered neighborhood tavern, located across the street from Hy-Vee. Solid sports atmosphere and it has a big menu. The tater tots are stupid good. This is a hole in the wall joint, total locals spot. There can be some kids eating with their parents during Hawkeye games, but it’s still rambunctious enough to meet game day desires.

The Summit – 10 S. Clinton Street 319.354.7482

The Summit is great lunch or early dinner spot. The menu ranges from sandwiches and wraps, to pasta and seafood. The prices are quite reasonable. That being said, vacate the premises by 9ish to avoid the faux-velvet rope scene once the frat and sorority set arrives. Also referred to as the “Scummit.” Tuesday is Buck Night. Domestic bottles or big beers, well and call shots are $1. Stand back and watch the stupidity brew.


Bo James – 118 E. Washington Street 319.337.4703

This bar is huge with the underage crowd and gets messy. Friends After Class starts at 11:00 a.m. and runs till 7:00, with $2.00 Big Ass Beers and amazingly cheap burger baskets. Full menu is available and nightly drink specials. The key word here is CHEAP.

Brothers Bar & Grill 125 S. Dubuque Street (on the Ped Mall) 319.338.6373

Pat of a Midwestern-based bar chain known to offer inexpensive drink specials and giveaways to stoke the crowd.

Martini’s 127 E. College Street (on the Ped Mall) 319.351.5536

This is another in the long line of college hangouts on the Pedestrian Mall. Located across from Brothers, it specializes in, well the name says it all.

Third Base/Fieldhouse – 111 E. College Street (on the Ped Mall) 319.339.1516

Sports, music and big drama, take your chances.

The Vine – 330 E. Prentiss Street 319.354.8767

Happy Hour 3 to 7 EVERY DAY, featuring $2.50 wells, domestic pints, margaritas and LITs. Awesome wings!

Vito’s – 118 E. College Street (on the Ped Mall) 319.338.1393

Italian based restaurant during the day, it shifts to a 21-over sports bar in the evening. It will be lively in here on big nights. Watch for fights.

The Union – 121 E. College Street (on the Ped Mall) 319.339.4646

Good college club but comes with attitude. The drinks are priced to move and liquefy a thirsty college crowd.


Blackstone – 503 Westbury Road (corner of Rochester and Scott Blvd.)

Designed as an upscale atmosphere, with front bar that’s popular with sporting enthusiasts. Definitely an older crowd, but it’s a group that still relishes knocking back some libations on occasion. The food can be uneven. It’s pub fare on a grander scale that can run a little pricey for its own good, but this professional crowd doesn’t seem to mind.

Bluebird Diner – 330 E. Market Street 319.351.1470

The breakfast crowd welcomes this new addition to the Iowa City scene, but the Bluebird serves all day. Opened by Thomas Connolly, who owns the Tobacco Bowl, and his partner Jon Wilson, the Bluebird offers familiar comfort food, in Chicago size portions, but with their own twist. All the meats are smoked in-house. The breakfast sausage is fab, and the ribs are notable. Closed Mondays

Brown Bottle – 115 E. Washington Street 319.351.6704

Date night central. Established in 1972, this Italian bistro offers affordable edible cuisine. The menu is plentiful and has something for everyone.

David’s Place – 100 S. Linn Street 319.351.5600

This is a casual college town restaurant, inexpensive, that serves well-prepared Eritrean and Ethiopian cuisine. There is a full bar and patio seating in the summer.

Devotay – 117 N. Linn Street 319.354.1001

This is an excellent spot to bring some friends. Devotay is all about sharing. Offering an upscale menu of tapas and select entrees, this restaurant specializes in locally grown foods. With a wide variety of wines and select beers available, there is much to like about this colorful locale. In furthering Devotay’s belief that everybody should be able to enjoy wine, even in this economy, prices on wine are half off, by the glass or bottle on Tuesdays all day. Sample the Bacon Wrapped Dates or split the Paella for two or more. Ask for Jill and she will answer all you questions. The coffee is fabulous as well. Come here when you have some time to spend, there’s no need to rush.

Falbo Bros. Pizza – 457 S. Gilbert Street 319.337.9090

After a hard night of drinking your stomach will love this pizza. Sample the amazing healing powers of grease. It’s super cheesy. The pizza comes in thin crust, deep dish or stuffed, but the thin is spot on. Fo-sho Falbos is the premier stoner-pizza delivery in IC. When overwhelmed by the munchies ring Falbos and they will cure your ills.

Fiesta Mexico – 320 E. Burlington Street 319.354.7157

This new addition is the result of its owner’s previous location having been flooded last year. The menu offers all the traditional Mexican staples. DJs take control of the place in the later hours and Fiesta Mexico goes club.

Givanni’s – 109 E. College Street (on the Ped Mall) 319.338.5967

Affordable upscale Italian dining in a contemporary atmosphere is what Givanni’s provides. The menu is inspiring and often rotated. In addition to the homemade pastas, seafood and meat items, several vegetarian items are also available.

Graze – 115 E. College Street (on Ped Mall) 319.887.5477

Heavy apps and tapas are the ticket. Order several and share them around. Graze also has an extensive martini list.

Hamburg Inn No. 2 – 214 N. Linn St 319.337.5512

Historic is what has to be said about the Hamburg. Every presidential candidate around comes through this place. Great burgers and pork tenderloin sandwiches – breakfast is available all day, and the pie milkshakes are one of a kind.

Jimmy Jack’s Rib Shack

1940 Lower Muscatine Road 319.354.7427

Real solid barbecue here – the best in this region. This barn atmosphere keeps it simple, with farm implements and utensils on the walls. The pulled pork particularly stands out. Served dry, Jimmy Jack’s has numerous BBQ sauces to choose from if saucy BBQ is preferred. The KC sauce has a nice balance with a little spice. The dinner combination with fries and honey butter cornbread are two meals in one. Very inexpensive dinning and beer is available. Orders can be made to go, and Jimmy Jack’s has a full catering menu for larger parties.

Joseph’s Steakhouse – 212 S. Clinton Street 319.358.0776

Looking for a little Chicago in Iowa City, Joseph’s has that for you. Extremely straightforward menu of chops, steaks and seafood, all priced Chicago-style. Solid martinis can be found here.

Linn Street Café – 121 N. Linn Street 319.337.7370

Setting the standard for fine dining in Iowa City since 1989, Linn Street is the perfect place for that special occasion or romantic night out. Start with the Maine Lobster Bisque and perhaps the Porcini Rubbed Iowa Beef Tenderloin as an entree. See Frank or Abby Bowman, the proprietors, and they will take good care of you. Closed Sundays.

Los Portales – 1402 S. Gilbert Street 319.358.1308

This is bumping Mexican cuisine. The wait staff is great and all in attendance have a fun experience at Los Portales. The menu is expansive and filled with usual favorites, but more interesting are the lesser-known regional offerings from the staff’s home countries. The carnitas dishes are especially tasty and sometimes sell out before the evening is done. The margaritas are strong and live mariachi music is provided on certain nights. Los Portales is also a place to catch international soccer matches.

Lou Henri – 630 Iowa Avenue 319.351.3637

Here you can find that big breakfast but a shade on the healthier side. The crowd is mixed between locals, students, hippies and health nuts. Relaxed atmosphere that always is welcoming. The staff is friendly and patient. Be prepared for a wait on the weekends.

Mamma’s Deli and Catering – 125 E. Washington Street 319.341.0700

This sandwich shop just underwent an expansion from carryout-only to now having ample indoor seating. Lisa Perez and her husband formally owned the upscale dining experience at One Twenty Six and have brought their stylish taste to this low country cuisine. The lemon chicken and chicken salad are always in demand. The hot pastrami will satisfy as will the jambalaya.

Motley Cow Café – 327 E. Market Street 319.688.9177

All organic cuisine served in a relaxed atmosphere. The produce here is about as local as it gets. The Motley Cow is particularly friendly for those who follow vegan and vegetarian diets.

One Twenty Six – 126 E. Washington Street 319.887.1909

If the world is getting on your nerves, come by Restaurant 126 and let it go. Situated in a remodeled older downtown building, the hard wood floors, open kitchen and white tablecloths create a modern dining atmosphere that is a pleasure to behold. The menu is balanced between beef and seafood, but also has a strong Cajun presence, adding some spice to the scene. The jambalaya is a staple and the hanger steak is also quite satisfying. The extensive wine list is one of the best in Iowa and a wine bar is located upstairs. The knowledgeable staff is most accommodating at assisting guests with wine pairings to go along with their dinner selections. Outdoor dining is available in summer; reserved parking available at U.S Bank parking lot one block down from the restaurant.

Pagliai’s Pizza – 302 E. Bloomington Street 319.351.5073

Serving Iowa City delectable pizza for 47-years. This is for pizza and pizza only. Pagliai’s turns out an amazing thin crust pizza that is a must have. The toppings are plentiful and the sauce has a robust, spicy herb flavor that accents the crust and toppings. This is an old-style, family run pizzeria and always a pleasure to visit. Beer and wine available; free parking across the street; open daily 4:00 to 11:00.

The Pit Smokehouse – 130 N. Dubuque Street 319.337. 6653

This is down and dirty barbecue, as it should be. No frills, just cheap and good. Pulled pork, beef brisket, turkey or chicken are all smoked in-house. Baby back ribs are also available, along with a full catering menu. There’s even a Portobello mushroom sandwich so the vegetarians feel welcomed. This is right on campus and great for a quick eat. The Pit is open till 3:00 a.m. Friday and Saturday, so good for nighthawks. If for some reason you might have the munchies check out an order of the batter-fried Oreos.

Shorts Burger and Shine – 18 S. Clinton Street 319.337.4678

Opened in late 2008, this is a gourmet burger joint brought to you by the owners of Mamma’s Deli and Catering. These are hearty offerings with interesting ingredient twists that separate its burgers from all others in town. Come hungry. As an added bonus Shorts is open until 2:00 a.m. Thursday through Saturday to help with that drinking problem, and the burgers are just $5.

Takanami – 219 Iowa Avenue 319.351.5125

I know this is Iowa, but the sushi and seafood are quite good here. Takanami boasts a full menu in addition to sushi. Come in and sample their sake menu. It’s a good buzz. This is a fusion-rich environment, be prepared for a taste explosion.

Taste on Melrose – 1006 Melrose Avenue (right down the block from Kinnick)

Without a doubt Taste is one of the best places to eat in Iowa City. This cozy neighborhood spot is comfortable and unpretentious. Proprietor Christian Prochaska ensures local ingredients are used when in season. Look for the spicy chicken pasta or ribeye steak, both are fantastic. For something quicker and a little different, try the lamb burger. Taste offers beer and wine only, but particularly cool is the wide variety of half-bottles on its wine list. If dining before a game let them know and chances are you can leave your car in Taste’s lot. This is upscale dining done easy. Open for lunch Tuesday – Friday 11:00 till 2:00, and dinner Tuesday – Saturday 5:00 until 10:00 p.m.

Thai Flavors – 340 E. Burlington Street 319.339.8900

This is casual, to the point of being a little beat up, but the food is excellent. If spicy sounds good tonight drop by Thai Flavors. The drunken noodles rock!


Charlie’s – 450 First Avenue 319.356.6914

They spin a variety of music at this bar and eatery, from the Beastie Boys to Bob Dylan. On the weekends look for live music and room to dance. It’s a slightly older crowd, split between regulars, university professionals and graduate students. Good location for Hawkeye events. Charlie’s has a full menu, with the CJ Philly and Southwest Club sandwiches being house specialties. Also check out the KC Ice Water. If you feel a sin coming on Charlie’s can help make that come true.

Wig and Pen Pub – 1220 Hwy. 6 West 319.354.2767

Offering three types of pizza crusts, deep-dish lasagna and a solid fish & chips entry, this pub will fill your needs before continuing on with an evening out. The bar is usually full, but the wait is never long, and the bartenders will take good care of you while waiting. Order the fried mushrooms, they’re a decadent treat.

The Vine – 39 2nd Street 319.338.7770

Cavernous and close to Carver Hawkeye are the major perks here. With a large parking area, The Vine can accommodate their vast crowds. Standard bar menu, with nightly specials – Happy Hour runs from 3:00 to 7:00 daily.


The Englert Theatre – 221 E. Washington Street 319.688.2653

This former movie house was renovated and reopened in 2004, as a testament to the Iowa City Community’s dedication to the humanities and this historic landmark. Today the Englert hosts a full slate of performances by local, national and international touring acts.

John’s Grocery – 401 E. Market Street 319.337.2183

Iowa City doesn’t have any good liquor stores, but John’s or Ugly John’s, steps in to fill the void. This is a beer connoisseurs dream. The staff even travels to other countries in order to be knowledgeable about their products and what to stock. The wine and spirits selection is equally satisfactory. The areas are cramped and people are coming and going, this is a big stop for the college crew to get kegs, but John’s selection is worth coming in to see.

The Konnexion – 106 S. Linn Street 319.321.6401

This is a sweet little spot down from the Record Collector where a variety of tobacco-related needs can be addressed, legal or otherwise. There also is a groovy little convenient store attached where essentials, energy drinks or mixers can be purchased. As a little tip they have a small cooler to chill 40-ounce beers in several flavors in case you might need to “bottle up and go.”

Liquor House – 425 S. Gilbert Street 319.337.4800

This is strategically located amongst numerous off-campus apartment complexes. There are more cases of Bush and Keystone Light walking out of this place than quantifiable. What really stands out about the Liquor House is they will deliver liquor. God Bless America! For a $6.00 delivery fee or $10 for kegs, these kind souls will bring liquor to your door. That says it all.

New Pioneer Co-op – 22 S. Van Buren Street 319.338.9441

New Pioneer is an Iowa City institution specializing in organic and natural foods. High quality meats, fish, produce and breads are always available. They also have a solid beer and wine section. NewPi is particularly friendly to vegetarians and vegans. There also is a second location at 1101 2nd Street in Coralville.

Prairie Lights Bookstore – 15 S. Dubuque Street 319.337.2681

One of the great bookstores in America, Prairie Lights is defiantly independent. This serves as an excellent anchor to the literary community Iowa City boasts and parallels the professional side of publication sought by those attending the prestigious Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa. Many of the workshop’s alumni or professors return to provide readings, which are captured on “Live from Prairie Lights.” Serving the community since 1978, this store has three levels, with a coffee bar and reading area on the top floor. On first look it may appear compact but there are hidden treasures and rarities throughout. Ask a staff member if seeking a particular item, they know their stuff and where to find it. Prairie Lights is a must visit. Open at 9:00 a.m. daily.

Record Collector – 116 S. Linn Street 319.337.5029

With the vast majority of music sales in the U.S. now coming from the likes of Walmart and Best Buy, independent record stores have become a dying breed. Welcome to the Record Collector. This is the kind of environment where music fans should be able to purchase music. Don’t come here looking for that new Journey CD. The staff enjoys challenging their patrons with obscure tracks and recordings they should hear. Come in to browse the new and used CDs and considerable vinyl the Record Collector has for sale.

Sauce – 108 E. College Street (on the Ped Mall) 319.354.2120

Here is a much needed mini-liquor store recently opened on the Pedestrian Mall in the heart of downtown. The selection is ample, and they do pints, half-pints and airplane size bottles, which are nice to stuff in a pocket on the way to games. Sauce also is helpful for those staying at Hotel Vetro or at the Sheraton. “Bottle up and go” baby!

Tobacco Bowl – 111 S. Dubuque Street (on Ped Mall) 319.338.5885

Apparently smoking is becoming a crime in this country, well not at the Tobacco Bowl. This is a big expatriate hangout. Everybody in here is dropping out from one thing or another. It’s totally laid back and full of colorful locals. Be prepared for the smoke, this isn’t for the weak. Great place to do some thinking and writing. The Tobacco Bowl is a full service smoke shop, but mainly cigarettes. It’s a big roll-your-own kind of place. The Tobacco Bowl also has a coffee bar. They brew some nuclear powered coffee that will get the brain moving.

Tobacco Outlet – 923 S. Riverside Drive 319.356.6122

Need a good cigar after dinner or before a game, stop into the Tobacco Outlet. They sport the best cigar selection in town. Their walk-in humidor allows easy browsing for just the right cigar. They also sell beer and wine, with abundant flavors of Mad Dog 20/20, for that special occasion. It doesn’t look like much on the outside, you’ll have to trust me here.

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* Special project for the The Des Moines Register as part of an online reference for Hawkeye fans visiting Iowa City from out-of-town.

Posted online by: The Des Moines Register | February 2009

This entry was posted in Family, Food, Liquor, Music, Politics, Reviews, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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