The 10 Best Restaurants & Diners In Iowa City, USA
Despite being only the fifth largest city in the state of Iowa, Iowa City is not lacking in the culinary department. A host of delicious dining establishments can be found delighting the taste buds of many foodies. Following our previous guide, here is an updated look at some of the tasty flavours, from New American to Mediterranean, waiting to be discovered in Iowa City.
Although guests may feel like they’ve stepped into a pub in Britain when entering Wig and Pen (on the Coralville Strip), they have actually entered an Iowan venue famous for their delicious pizzas and pub atmosphere. In a relaxing and welcoming environment, pizza lovers can feast upon a tasty selection of pies with a thin crust, Chicago-style (deep dish), or the famous Flying Tomato, which is a pan-style thin-crust pizza stuffed with mozzarella and tomato slices. Highlights include the Union Jack, loaded with Italian sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, onions, and red peppers, and the Piccadilly Circus with a BBQ base topped with chicken, pineapple, and red onions. For those not in the mood for pizza, there is an array of other entrées from sandwiches to pasta.
Wig on Pen’s flying tomato pizza Courtesy Wig and Pen
A Brix cheese board Courtesy Brix
Brix Cheese Shop & Wine Bar
Bar, Deli, Wine Bar, Wine, $$$
Iowa River Power Brunch | Photo by Stefan Krasowski
Brix Cheese Shop and Wine Bar is a speciality shop and eatery featuring not only cheese and wine but also craft beer and a host of other tasty delights, alongside a full schedule of wine tasting events with some seriously delicious wines. A favourite amongst locals, this cosy and inviting venue — open seven days a week — has an extensive menu that will appeal to a wide range of tastes from meat lovers to vegetarians. With many options from meat and cheese boards to a variety of sandwiches, guests can savour tasty choices infused with international flavours, including the Barcelona board, which includes Manchego, quince paste, marcona almonds, Spanish olives, and crostini, and the fruit and fromage-grilled panino with triple cream Brie and balsamic glazed peaches. For the complete Brix experience, be sure to pair your meal with a glass of wine or craft beer.
Founded in 2000 by Jack Piper and James Adrian, Atlas is a restaurant located in the heart of Iowa City specialising in New American cuisine. Having ‘the best sidewalk patio in town,’ this friendly dining establishment features lunch and dinner menus with permanent offerings plus seasonal options all made with the best quality ingredients, which are sourced from local purveyors. Foodies will appreciate the innovative offerings, such as steak frites, which is a 12 oz. Black Angus New York strip steak topped with sun-dried tomato butter, pinot noir reduction and fries, and the roasted portobello stuffed with warm garlic herb goat cheese, grilled polenta, broccolini, and tomato-basil sauce — a satisfying option for anyone.
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Baroncini Ristorante is a dining establishment serving contemporary Italian cuisine. At the helm is Chef Gianluca Baroncini, who creates innovative fare using the freshest seasonal ingredients available, many of which are sourced from local purveyors. In a warm and inviting atmosphere, diners can feast upon an array of delectable dishes from antipasti to desserts, which change daily to reflect in-season items. Recent highlights include the truffle tagliolini pasta made with truffles imported from Italy, branzino — a type of fish — with sweet pepper sauce, and octopus salad. Baroncini also features a full bar plus many Italian wines.
BlackStone is a friendly restaurant featuring American cuisine with Asian and Mediterranean flair. Executive Chef Will Evans creates his fragrant dishes using not only the freshest ingredients but also the highest quality. In a warm and relaxing interior with three stone fireplaces, customers can savour delectable recipes, including the Iowa bone-in pork chop topped with Amish blue cheese and a caramelised onion demi-glace and the McMurry burger — with either a Angus beef patty, chicken breast, or black bean patty – topped with Irish whiskey maple bacon, sautéed onions, mushrooms, cheddar, and Guinness aioli. Open seven days a week for lunch, dinner, plus Sunday brunch, BlackStone also offers a gluten-free menu making it a place any one can enjoy.
The Clinton Street Social Club is a gastro-pub and speakeasy specialising in delicious gourmet food and tantalising adult beverages, including handcrafted libations, wine, and beer. A warm and enticing venue complete with exposed brick walls and wood beams plus wrought iron fixtures, discerning diners can feast upon a host of seasonal cuisine and sample the largest collection of bourbon in the state. Foodies will enjoy the beer battered fish and chips — Icelandic cod, house tartar, and grilled lemon — and the roasted chicken with chipotle BBQ sauce, summer slaw, and a fresh biscuit. As for drinks, the à la fille made with tequila, fresh cucumber, house-squeezed lime, agave syrup, and club soda is a refreshing choice. The venue also hosts live music throughout the week creating a lively ambiance.
Chickpeas are a versatile ingredient: they can be left in their bean form, ground with garlic, onion, and spices then fried to become falafel, or puréed with various flavours to create the spread known as hummus. Established by Naftaly Stramer and Ofer Sivan, Oasis is a successful decade-old eatery specialising in Mediterranean fare, including falafel and hummus. Everything is made fresh every day and includes enticing options, such as the falafel pita, which is a wholewheat pita stuffed with hummus, Mediterranean salad, babba ganoush and falafel — various meat options may be added making a heartier meal. Located downtown, their items can also be found on the University of Iowa campus plus various grocers.
Owned and operated by Executive Chef Bryan Herzic and his wife, Michelle, Orchard Green is an upscale yet relaxed dining establishment and lounge featuring American cuisine with a Mediterranean twist. A two-floor venue, the downstairs is a relaxing lounge where people can mingle and listen to music while the upstairs is a grand dining room featuring exposed brickwork along with cherry woodwork and white linen table cloths. Using the best quality locally sourced ingredients, the seasonal menu offers enticing options, including Moroccan pork with sweet corn, polenta, asparagus, Manchego fondue, and avocado and the vegetable risotto with a variety of veggies and reggiano parmesan. With the elegant setting and exceptional service, it is the perfect choice for those seeking a more refined night out.
The first Pagliai’s Pizza opened under the name of The Pizza House in 1957, which was a great success and the start of the Pigliai’s everyone knows today. A family-owned operation located in the Historic Northside Marketplace, this pizzeria specialises in thin-crust award-winning pizzas made with recipes handed down from generation to generation. They grind their own meats daily and use only the freshest ingredients, which makes for a flavourful culinary experience. In a warm and inviting atmosphere, guests can savour mouth-watering selections, including the palace special topped with sausage, beef, pepperoni, mushrooms, and onions and the veggie special with mushrooms, onions, green peppers, and black olives.
Housed in a long and narrow space that was once a shoe shine business across from the University of Iowa campus — there’s another location on the east side — Short’s Burger and Shine serves up delicious gourmet burgers and craft beers. Working with local purveyors, this friendly eatery is able to procure the freshest ingredients available to use in its Black Angus hamburgers (26 varieties), chicken sandwiches (16 choices), plus six black bean burgers. Juicy burgers, many of which are named after Iowa towns, to note are the Burnside with blackened seasoning, pepper jack, jalapeño cream cheese, chipotle mayonnaise, and jalapeños and the Popejoy with capicola ham, provolone, plus muffuletta sauce. Fresh hand-cut fries accompany all of the burgers; however, loaded cheese fries are also available.