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New restaurants and other changes on the local food scene in 2017

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Jimmy Jack’s Rib Shack in North Liberty. — photo by Zak Neumann

Looking for a new place to eat in the new year? Fifteen restaurants — serving everything from burritos to bao — opened in the Iowa City area in 2017. Some were entirely new ventures, some belonged to local favorites that expanded (you no longer have to go downtown to get a pie shake).

If you prefer the food to come to you, last year brought a new option to Iowa City, when a locally-owned food delivery service launched. Life also got easier for caffeine fans who don’t live near Brewhemia’s NewBo District coffee shop, because Brewhemia started distributing its nitro coffee throughout the Corridor.

In December, two longtime standouts on the Iowa City food scene, Devotay and Sanctuary Pub, announced they are changing hands. But in both cases, the new management pledged continuity to established traditions — because sometimes changes you don’t notice are the most welcome sort of change.

Photo courtesy of Rapid Creek Cidery

Feb. 28: Rapid Creek brings farm-to-table food, special ciders

Chef Matt Steigerwald and owner Katie Goering bring a restaurant, cider-tasting room and event space to Wilson’s Orchard this spring with the opening of Rapid Creek Cidery.

March 17: Billy’s High Hat Diner opens in Iowa City

Billy’s serves both breakfast and lunch all day, and Iowa Citians can expect some familiar flavors, like the chilaquiles from Bandito’s.

March 25: Dumpling darling serves up international fare in Iowa City

Husband and wife team Lesley and Brian Triplett bring various international versions of the comfort food, along with other street food items, to the Iowa City restaurant scene.

Big Grove Brewery and Taproom. — photo by Zak Neumann

April 1: Big Grove Brewery and Taproom brings a homey vibe to former lumberyard

The space aims to make guests feel at home, but unlike the conventional home, it brews its own craft beer, is staffed by a top-notch chef and maintains features of the lumberyard that previously occupied the building.

May 31: Motley Cow Chef David Wieseneck to join Maggie’s Farm Pizza Iowa City location

Chef David Wieseneck of Motley Cow Café will have a new gig after the Northside establishment closes its doors on June 17. Carolyn Brown, Jerry Zimmermann and Roc Kemmerer, owners of Maggie’s Farm Pizza, have hired Wieseneck to join their growing team as their new Iowa City location prepares to open its doors at 1300 Melrose Ave.

PiZan Pizza opened its doors Wednesday, May 31 at 113 Iowa Ave, in the space formerly occupied by the Pita Pit. — photo by Lauren Shotwell


May 31: PiZan Pizza opens in downtown Iowa City

Pies at PiZan are made to order — and fast. After choosing from a range of crust, sauces, cheeses and toppings, staff will toss your creation into a wood fire oven and have you snacking in a matter of minutes.

June 2: Mami’s Authentic owners to close Iowa City location, open new restaurant on Burlington Street

The owners of Mami’s Authentic will close their current Iowa City location and open a new restaurant, Estela’s, sometime in late August or early September…

“We definitely wanted something bigger with some room for sit-down customers,” co-owner Jerry Vasquez said. “We wanted to expand the menu; we needed some more room for the tortilla machine that we’re getting and we wanted to be in a more visible area.”

Aug. 1: Opening in August: Van B’s Brewery

The sign for Van B’s Brewery, a new Iowa City restaurant and bar opening in mid-August, promises burgers, brews and burritos. Owner Jason Sellinger admitted that featuring burgers and burritos on the sign was done partially for reasons of alliteration, and said the menu extends beyond those two items.

Workers landscape the new Tin Roost restaurant in North Liberty. Monday, July 31, 2017. — photo by Zak Neumann.

Aug. 4: Bike-friendly Tin Roost restaurant opens this month in North Liberty

North Liberty’s newest eatery is designed to suit bikers, businessmen and burger fans alike, with private dining spaces, an all-American menu and 160-seat patio with a bike repair station.

Aug. 8: Guild Wurst Tavern opens in Coralville

Executive Chef James Kinkade will not only oversee the culinary aspect of the restaurant, bringing his unique flair and attention to the dishes, but will also develop the brewery operation that will be housed in the back of the building.

Aug. 24: Mennonite-owned Encounter Cafe opens in Iowa City

The Encounter Cafe, 376 S Clinton St, opened its doors this week serving up breakfast plates, paninis, wraps, smoothies and coffee beverages to neighborhood residents and office workers alike.

The cafe is owned and operated by the Sharon Bethel Mennonite Church in Kalona, Iowa, as a ministry project designed to channel proceeds to groups and organizations in the area. All profits from the cafe will be distributed to another charity or ministry; after the staff and expenses are paid, anything beyond that will go to an outside organization.

Yanyi Zhu, Connor McGuire, and Todd Jones behind the counter at their new restaurant Bao Chow – photo by Frankie Schneckloth

Aug. 30: New restaurant Bao Chow to offer a taste of classic Chinese cuisine

Bao Chow’s menu just features Chinese bao. Bao is a classic Chinese dish made of steamed, leavened dough and filled with ingredients ranging from sausage and egg, to bok choy and mushrooms.

Sept. 15: The new Hamburg Inn No. 2 will have its grand opening on Tuesday

The new location looks much like the original. Autographed photos of politicians, both national and local, decorate the walls. (There’s also an autographed photo of film director John Waters, a man unlikely to ever run for elective office, by the front door.) The menu is almost identical to the one on Linn Street, and includes such longtime favorites as pie shakes.

Sept. 27: Family-owned Brewhemia has plans for expansion

Soon fans of Brewhemia’s nitro coffee will no longer need to visit the NewBo District based coffee shop to get their fix. Brewhemia started selling and distributing kegs of their nitro coffee throughout the corridor this month.

Chomp, the area’s newest food delivery service, will begin to roll out next week. — photo by Zak Neumann

Oct. 4: Chomp, an Iowa City-based food delivery service, is slated to launch next week

There’s going to be a new option in Iowa City for hungry people who don’t want to get off the couch: Chomp. It’s a locally-owned delivery service similar to OrderUp or GrubHub, “owned and operated by 20 of the busiest delivery restaurants in the Iowa City region,” according to a post on D.P. Dough’s Facebook page.

Jon Sewell, the owner of D.P. Dough, organized Chomp. He told Little Village the idea for a new service came after GrubHub purchased OrderUp in August, then shut down OrderUp’s Iowa City office and announced a price hike for restaurants participating in its app-based food ordering and delivery service.

Oct. 6: Soseki Sushi Cafe and Sake Bar set to open next week

The cafe is scheduled to open at 7:30 a.m. on Monday morning, and will serve freshly-baked pastries, coffee and tea, as well as prepackaged grab-and-go sushi. Counter sushi service begins at 11 a.m.

As the restaurant hits its stride in the following weeks, the menu will expand to include Japanese noodle and donburi rice dishes, as well as a smattering of popular Chinese dishes like General Tso’s, Mongolian Beef, Sweet and Sour Chicken and Sesame Chicken.

Nov. 17: Marquee Pizzeria + Bar opens in Coralville

Under the guidance of Chef Will Evans, formerly of Clinton Street Social Club, Marquee serves up a selection of salad and vegetable sides, pastas and even a burger and fries, in addition to wood-fired pizza.

The main draw of the restaurant, the pizza, is hand-tossed and crisped in the wood-fired oven, producing a pie that is best described as neo-Neopolitan — a hybrid of classic New York style pizza and Neopolitan pizza.

Jimmy Jack’s Rib Shack in North Liberty. — photo by Zak Neumann

Nov. 24: Iowa City barbeque restaurant expands to North Liberty

The North Liberty Jimmy Jack’s will offer the same menu long favored by customers along with the addition of a few new items. With the launch of the new location, the restaurant has rolled out a small selection of salads to cater to those seeking slightly lighter fare — choose from the Barbeque Ranch Chicken Salad or a Fatty Brisket Blue Cheese Salad. All three locations will soon offer craft beer on tap and in bottles, as well as choice house wines and a charming sparkling wine in a can.

Dec. 5: Devotay sold to new owner

Devotay, a fixture on the Iowa City food scene for more than two decades, has been sold, according to a press release from Kurt Friese, the restaurant’s owner and “chef emeritus.” The change of ownership won’t take effect until New Year’s Eve, but Friese said he wanted to make the announcement on Dec. 5, because the day marks the 21st anniversary of the Devotay’s opening.

Dec. 18: Sanctuary Pub announces new ownership

Another fixture on the Iowa City scene is changing hands as 2017 draws to a close. On Sunday, Sanctuary Pub owner Daryl Woodson announced on Facebook that he is retiring from the S. Gilbert Street pub, which is famous for its wide selection of craft and international beers. Earlier this month, it was announced that a new owner is taking over Devotay at the beginning of the new year as well.

“What started out as ‘the least objectionable way to earn a living’ turned into a long fun ride,” Woodson wrote. But after 43 years at The Sanctuary, Woodson found “arthritis is making it difficult to even hold a beer glass, let alone pour a good stiff drink.” He added, “Everyone needs to know when it’s time to go (now if we could just convince Trump).”


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1 thought on “New restaurants and other changes on the local food scene in 2017

  1. I dream of a vegetarian/vegan comfort food place like The Chicago Diner. Or a really great taco place (California style). Or more places owned by people who aren’t the same five people. And I’m really super happy Dumpling Darling exists.

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