LV Recommends: Brunch & Bloody Marys in the Iowa City area

Augusta Restaurant in Oxford, Iowa

Wherever you find yourself on the brunch spectrum — from a quiet moment of reflection over coffee and a newspaper, to a mimosa-filled celebration of food and friends — you’ll find a satisfying meal at any of these area institutions.


But first, an ode to the Bloody Mary

Augusta Restaurant

The curative powers of the bloody mary cannot be underestimated. Between nourishing vitamins, hydration and a piquant kick, a bloody mary is sure to banish whatever demons may reside in your hungover soul.

You can do the Sunday crossword with your face in the sun on the Deadwood patio while enjoying an exquisitely balanced bloody mary and talking to some of Iowa City’s most colorful townies. The Deadwood’s is an artfully made, spicy drink, garnished with a pickle spear, two olives and a splash of Guinness; you can also ask for a beef jerky garnish for an extra dollar, if you need a little more sustenance.

In keeping with their overall philosophy of serving fresh, local vegetables, often from the owner’s own farm, Salt Fork Kitchen features a variety of housemade pickles and sauces for their bloodies. The basic SFK bloody is clean, fresh and lightly spiced; you may augment it with the garnishes available — on a recent visit there were spicy pickles, dill pickles, pickled carrots, olives, jalapenos, horseradish, homemade hot sauces and fresh celery. The chili garlic sauce deserves special mention; it’s a freshly made version of sriracha, and the makers of its bottled counterpart should be begging for the recipe.

Finally, as if their regular bloody wasn’t enough, with its peppery kick and bacon, pickled okra and olive garnish, Augusta (pictured) also offers the “Crazy Mary.” For 20 bucks, and on Sundays only, they offer a bloody mary garnished with a veritable sampler plate of Augusta’s specialties: an over-hard egg; a slab of steak; a crab cake; house-made sausage; a biscuit dipped in gravy; a house-made English muffin; a cheese grit cake; fried pork tenderloin; bacon; and house-made french toast. I defy even the most stubborn hangover to live through that!

Augusta Restaurant

101 S. Augusta Ave., Oxford

After being displaced to Iowa by Hurricane Katrina, Augusta’s owners brought with them all the spirit, fun and down-home deliciousness of The Big Easy. Brunch treats are lavish, like the crab cakes benedict or the potato-and-tenderloin haystack, and there are traditional breakfast options available, too.

Bluebird Diner

330 E. Market St., Iowa City

With a full bar — a key component to any successful brunch — Bluebird Diner’s found a sweet spot where fresh, often-local ingredients, kitschy decor, large portions and creative dishes convene. Though the pun-loaded menu is a bit on the twee side, they make up for this with always tasty, occasionally awesome food, like their green chili cheese fries, which are anything but twee; in fact, they’re downright life-sustaining.

Hamburg Inn No. 2

214 N. Linn St., Iowa City

Iowa City’s oldest family-owned restaurant, Hamburg Inn, is the closest thing Iowa City has to a good, old-fashioned greasy spoon, though its prices are a bit more highbrow than that might imply. It’s largely earned its renown as a regular stop on the campaign trail, hosting many a presidential candidate over the years; for the apolitical among you, stop in and try a pie shake — an entire slice of pie blended into a milkshake. Weird? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely.

Leaf Kitchen

301 ½ Kirkwood Ave., Iowa City

This quirky breakfast, brunch and lunch spot has rightly earned its place as one of Iowa City’s favorite restaurants. Featuring locally sourced products whenever available, Leaf serves some of the most interesting and succulent lunch specials in town. If they’re making a banh mi, get it; otherwise, the BLTEA, a BLT with egg salad and avocado served on homemade bread, is phenomenal. Take a pack of housemade shortbread cookies home with you, and just try not to eat them all in one sitting.


630 Iowa Ave., Iowa City

Brand new on the Iowa City restaurant scene, the bicycle-themed Ride offers breakfast, lunch and dinner in a fun, renovated space. Save for the decor, it’s not clear how the bicycle theme fits into the restaurant as a whole, but the food is good, and there are some creative standouts on the menu — like the Creole eggs served with cheddar grits, red beans and andouille, or the Schwinn omelet, with veggies, pulled chicken and hollandaise.

El Banditos

327 E. Market St., Iowa City

Don’t overlook Banditos’ brunch: Their south of the border-inspired spreads make for one of the best breakfasts in Iowa City, and the chilaquiles with chorizo are la bomba.

The Iowa River Power Restaurant

501 1st Ave., Coralville

Iowa River Power has a popular Sunday buffet brunch, including a carving station and a Belgian waffle station. Enjoy a mimosa in the historic, refurbished power plant while watching eagles soar over the Iowa River. (We can’t guarantee the presence of eagles.)

Leaf Kitchen
Leaf Kitchen in Iowa City

The Mill Restaurant

120 E. Burlington St., Iowa City

If you’re looking for a downtown brunch that won’t have a long wait, but will have a long list of cocktails and drinks to accompany a straight-forward, no-fuss breakfast plate, The Mill is the place to go.

Mondo’s Draft House

516 2nd St., Coralville

This dimly lit restaurant is great for larger groups and for those still experiencing side effects from the previous evening. Mondo’s has one of the most impressive all-you-can-eat buffets with breakfast, lunch and dessert options. Also: they serve bottomless mimosas.

Pullman Bar & Diner
Pullman Bar & Diner in Iowa City

Motley Cow Cafe

160 N. Linn St., Iowa City

The brunch buffet at Motley Cow is supplemented by a small a la carte menu. Locals love the lemon pancakes, and the brunch specials are often creative and well-executed.

Pullman Bar and Diner

17 S. Dubuque St., Iowa City

Though new to the Iowa City restaurant scene, Pullman is already a favorite, both for its elegant-yet-relaxed atmosphere and for its diner-inspired menu that gives a nod to both American and French breakfast staples. Also of note: They have a brunch cocktail menu and an excellent coffee program.

Salt Fork Kitchen

112 E. Main St., Solon

Using produce and eggs often sourced from the owner’s farm, Salt Fork Kitchen offers up a local spin on brunch standards, like egg sandwiches and omelets, and they also make a variety of creative breakfast favorites — try the loaded home fries with house-made lamb sausage.

Trumpet Blossom Cafe

310 E. Prentiss St., Iowa City

Enjoy vegan florentine, featuring a house-made English muffin topped with cashew hollandaise, steamed greens and spiced tofu, or opt for something more traditional, like French toast; either way, you can feel good about indulging in the dishes from Trumpet Blossom’s vegan, sustainably sourced kitchen.

See websites for brunch hours



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