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LV Recommends: Notable restaurant newbies in the Iowa City area


Countless bars and restaurants have cropped up through the corridor area over the last year. Pick any of these standouts from the highlight reel, and you’re sure to be pleased.

The Dingo Bar

1040 Martin St, Iowa City

Dingo Bar, Iowa City

Feeling the neighborhood needed a place where residents could socialize and connect over a great cup of coffee, owner Adam Pretorius opened the Dingo Bar to fill that void. The Dingo Bar is an elegant urban space with beautiful tile and brass accents, bringing a uniquely metropolitan feel to the Peninsula neighborhood of Iowa City while seamlessly fitting in with the traditional aesthetic of the surrounding townhouses, homes and condos.

The shop’s custom toast bar, paired with the full-service French cafe, means you can satisfy your yearning for an expertly executed Cortado and that Instragram-worthy avo-toast in one fell swoop! The Dingo Bar has assembled its menu offerings by culling the best of the area: fabulous sourdough bread from the Local Crumb and deliciously simple doughnuts from Rustic Hearth Bakery. Be sure to visit when you can sit down and stay awhile; The Dingo Bar has plenty to appreciate.

Zombie Burger

1451 Coral Ridge Ave, Coralville,
180 E Burlington St, Iowa City

This fast-casual restaurant with roots in Des Moines expanded east this past fall, bringing its “goremet bashed burgers” to Iowa City and Coralville residents. Come hungry (and prepared) for this dining experience. Burgers come on a freshly baked bun, but you’ll notice a few with fried Mac ‘n’ Cheese or grilled cheese sandwiches acting as stand-ins for the bread. Every burger on the menu is customizable with different patty choices (vegetarian, chicken or beef) and accompanied by playful yet ambitious toppings like breaded and fried mushroom and cheese croquettes, fried bananas, and chicken fried bacon. French fries, the permanent side to burgers everywhere, are presented in a handful of ways here at Zombie Burger, showcasing the true abilities of the humble potato.

And please, save room for dessert—the shakes might be the best part. The Zombie Bride Wedding Cake (vanilla ice cream with yellow cake mix) is a safe choice, but those seeking a bit more excitement might opt for the Tallahassee—a blend of vanilla ice cream, Twinkie, cherries and cherry Kool-Aid powder.

Cafe Muse

565 Cameron Way, North Liberty

Cafe Muse, North Liberty

This spacious, light-filled third-wave coffee shop anchors a small strip mall on the fringe of North Liberty. The owner’s love for great coffee and modern design is married seamlessly in this aesthetically pleasing, architect-designed space. With a vibrantly yellow high-end La Marzocca espresso machine drawing you towards the center of the shop, one of the skillfully trained baristas will handily pull a simple shot, or time the perfect pour-over brew for you. If you’re in a hurry, know that there’s always a drive-through option here. But if you’ve got a bit of time, sit and stay a while. Grab a seat by the window and soak up the beautiful lines and light of this modern cafe while savoring your delicious coffee.

Harold’s Chicken

200 1st Ave NE, Cedar Rapids,
316 E Burlington St, Iowa City

Harold’s Chicken, Iowa City and Cedar Rapids

These two Eastern Iowa locations (with a third on the way) mark the first appearance of this fried chicken chain beyond Illinois’ state borders. Originally founded in 1950 by Harold Pierce in Chicago, the chain began after he observed the need for a fast food restaurant on Chicago’s South Side at a time when other chains avoided the predominantly black neighborhoods. Harold’s became one of the few examples of a thriving fast food chain that was owned by, and primarily served, the black community. Impressed with the legacy of Harold’s, owner Gerald Seals, of North Liberty, brought the concept first to Cedar Rapids and then to Iowa City.

Harold’s delivers many options to hungry diners, but the cornerstone of its menu is the fried-to-order chicken or fish served with crispy french fries and two pieces of plain white bread, all drizzled in delicious hot (or mild) sauce and sided with a cup of coleslaw. Menus at the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City locations differ slightly, but expect the same high-quality food the chain was built on, whichever location you choose.

Caucho

1202 3rd St SE Ste 102, Cedar Rapids

Caucho

A fresh resident of the Cedar Rapids NewBo neighborhood, Caucho is well worth the pre-opening hype. All aspects of the restaurant were thoughtfully considered, from the exposed brick walls, handcrafted wooden benches and dining tables and playful, patterned tile and wallpaper to the inventive mezcal cocktails, housemade tortillas and perfectly executed tamales. The open kitchen dazzles diners with the occasional burst of flames while the hip, stylish servers and chefs take it all in stride, remaining cool and calm. Expect dishes firmly rooted in Mexican tradition—think street tacos, pozole verde and churros—made with high-quality ingredients and assembled with a modern twist and unexpected additions.

Tip Top Cakes

708 5th St, Coralville

Tip Top Cakes, Coralville

Tip Top Cakes joined the growing number of businesses popping up around Coralville’s performing arts center this year. The interior of this modern and minimally-styled bakery offers an elegantly neutral setting in which to explore the sugary treats lining the cases.

Tip Top offers the requisite cupcakes and muffins, but the stars of this newly opened bakery are the pies and cookies. The miniature pies make for an especially indulgent single-serving treat on a lazy weekend afternoon; the coconut cream pie wins my vote. If you’re wondering how good a simple cookie really can be, I urge you to sample a few from the case here. Flashbacks of dry, crumbly, overly sweet cookies fade into the depths of your brain as you savor the goodies in front of you. The ginger-lime cookies are as big as a salad plate, perfectly moist and sprinkled with crunchy sugar, and the humble peanut butter cookie takes it to the next level with a thick, hearty presentation that’s packed with a lightly sweet peanutty flavor.

Black Sheep Social Club

600 1st St SE, Cedar Rapids

A former grain and spice warehouse was been given a new life with the opening of Black Sheep Social Club last spring. The open and spacious industrial dining room ensures there’s room for all, and since the restaurant opened their doors, diners have been waiting their turn for a place at the table.

Black Sheep seeks to be a haven for free thinkers and creatives and a place for people that do things just a little bit differently. You’ll see this reflected in the inventive and eclectic options that pepper the menu—a range of familiar favorites made new with a fresh creative twist. Try the deviled turkey sandwich (celery, pickle, cranberry, pear, egg, pecan and red onion on a croissant) or the Crunch Town fish nuggets (breaded in Captain Crunch, deep fried and served with a sriracha tartar sauce), for example. The zinc wraparound bar is a stunning focal point to the dining room. The bar menu serves up a great selection of regional beers, nice wines and kitchen-inspired cocktails. Whether you’re in the market for a filling sandwich, a steak entree or a celebratory drink with friends, there’s room for everyone in this club.

Cliché Patisserie

341 S Linn St, Iowa City

Cliché Patisserie, Iowa City

A few steps south of downtown Iowa City, internationally-inspired pastries take center stage at this beautifully sparse bakery. The stark minimalist interior of the shop gives way to delicate housemade baked goods rooted in global traditions, and the bakery’s cases are lined with traditional Chinese, French and Italian pastries. Feeling inspired to introduce Iowa City to less sweet baked goods, owners Leo Jiang and Weijia Huang offer patrons a rotating menu of savory options such as takoyaki bread and pork buns, in addition to more traditional sweet selections such as éclairs and and tiramisu.

To round out their artful pastry offerings, Cliché prepares Hong Kong style milk-tea and brews La Colombe pour-over coffee for those needing a caffeine jolt.

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