Located across the street from Horace Mann School and conjoined with our friendly local Ace Hardware store, Nodo is one of the odder and more overlooked sandwich spots in Iowa City. Walking in the door, you will likely be met by the proprietor, Bryan Asklof, who will either be working diligently on an order or standing, arms crossed, in rapt attention to the latest international soccer game (which he will be happy to fill you in on.)
Asklof is excellent at engaging in succinctly clipped surface-level banter, but if the place is packed and he can’t chat, you can occupy yourself with Nodo’s steady supply of local newspapers, peruse their newest batch of local artwork, or peep in the open kitchen as Asklof’s diligent crew cooks your order like good-natured worker bees. Bear in mind, though, your downtime will be fairly limited. Nodo is, above all, an incredibly efficient sandwich joint and the experience of ordering, waiting and leaving always feels a little like a perfect taxi ride: It’s quick and well worth the cost.
With regards to the food, every sandwich is good (especially the Nodo Burger) and extremely affordable ($4-8.) For my money, though, the Blue-Ribbon-Best-in-Show-Grand-Puba-Lifetime-Achievement Award has to go to Nodo’s egg sandwich. Coming it at $4, you would think this sammie would be a stripped down McMuffin knock-off, but it’s actually (and please forgive the histrionics) the best cluckin’ egg sandwich you will ever eat: The egg is perfectly cooked and sandwiched between two warmed slices of Ciabatta bread with either well-done bacon or tomato and some sort of magical aioli that ties this sandwich into an early morning knock-out sensation. Ah! So good.
Alright—love fest aside—there are particular aspects of Nodo that do detract from its overall greatness. For starters the decor is … odd. Go in and decide for yourself, but every time I walk in the door I feel like I’ve stepped onto the set of a low-budget, poorly lit Terry Gilliam film. Also, the coffee—though quickly served—is still Airpot and ultimately a little sub-par. Seating is limited and doesn’t really encourage hanging out or prolonged conversations over a meal; also, you can expect to show up from time to time and be waiting outside the door until the three or four patrons inside have placed their orders and left, all of which add up to minor, but not unusual, dining frustrations.
On that point, though—it’s a dining truth that every eatery has to be negotiated by the patron in a particular manner in order for that eatery to be enjoyed to its fullest. This fact seems especially true in the case of Nodo, one of Iowa City’s finest, strangest and lesser known bistros. If you’re looking for maximum satisfaction, my advice is to plug Nodo’s number into your phone (319-512-5028) and place an order the next time you are either trying to pick between Jimmy Johns and Milios, or between cooking your own sub-par egg-sammie and driving five minutes for the deal of a lifetime.
Granted, the place may suffer in décor but from this little chicken’s perspective, if you’re in the mood for quality sandwiches made quick and cheap, there’s no better bang for your cluck than Nodo.