Best of the CRANDIC Spotlight: The Webster, new to the IC restaurant scene, has already made a big splash

Sam and Reine Gelman opened The Webster in Iowa City’s Northside Neighborhood in 2021. — Jordan Sellergren/Little Village

The Webster (202 N Linn St, Iowa City, 319-800-0720) is the winningest Best of the CRANDIC competitor this year, taking home Best Appetizers/Small Plates, Best Atmosphere, Best Chef (Sam Gelman), Best Food Scene Game Changer, Best Restaurant, Best Restaurant for a First Date, Best Restaurant Staff, Best Restaurant to Take Your Parents To (tie), Best Use of Local Ingredients, Most Innovative Menu

Sam and Riene Gelman opened the Webster in summer 2021 with a promise to step things up around here. They didn’t let us down — not with their menu or their incorporation of local food, and not with their interior design. We asked the winners of the Best Atmosphere in the CRANDIC (among nine — yes, nine — other Food & Drink awards) to describe their vision for building a perfect dinner setting.

Dinner at The Webster in November 2021. — Adria Carpenter/Little Village
Sam and Reine Gelman opened The Webster in Iowa City’s Northside Neighborhood in 2021. — Jordan Sellergren/Little Village

What emotions were you hoping the interior space and lighting would evoke?

When we were designing the space and working on the lighting, we wanted to evoke many things, but overall subtlety. We didn’t want the feeling to be overtly fancy or too harsh in the lighting (whether it be too dark or too light). That subtlety carries over with the color scheme as well. Muted tones of blues and greens dominate the room with simple yet comfortably designed seating. The lighting provides a warmth that gives the room a special glow when looking in from the street.

Did you have other restaurant interiors on your mood boards during the design visualization process?

We had several restaurants on our mood boards. There were restaurants that we were inspired by our time in NYC, like Misi, Fausto and Loring Place. Additionally, our amazing design team provided several other establishments for inspiration, including several international bars and restaurants.

What draws you to an open kitchen?

We have found that whenever we throw dinner parties, whether it be in our home or others, a multicourse meal or takeout, people naturally gravitate toward the kitchen. It is fun to be a part of the action, and with an open kitchen, the dining room becomes an extension of the room that everyone wants to be a part of, contributing to the lively energy one will find at the Webster. From another perspective, there are so many restaurants that have dark, windowless kitchens that have no energy in them. The open kitchen allows our kitchen team to be part of the energy at the Webster. Additionally, they get to see and receive the praises of guests directly for their hard work.

The Webster in Iowa City’s Northside Neighborhood features an open kitchen. — Adria Carpenter/Little Village

Little Village Best of the CRANDIC is presented by City of Iowa City; the Food and Drink category is also presented by CHOMP.

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 301.

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