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El Banditos is moving in with Billy’s High Hat Diner


El Banditos in Iowa City, 327 E Market St, July 9, 2020. — Izabela Zaluska/Little Village

Iowa City’s Northside Neighborhood has seen a number of changes recently, from the establishment of a temporary mini pedestrian mall to the debut of a racial justice-focused mural on the side of the new Market House building on North Linn Street.

On Wednesday, a Northside business announced another big change.

Mexican restaurant El Banditos is leaving its 327 E Market St location (next to Artifacts just off Gilbert Street) and fusing with Billy’s High Hat Diner, a comfort food joint at the corner of Iowa Avenue and Dodge Street downtown.

“We are moving!” El Banditos declared on its Facebook page Wednesday evening. “We will be open through this Saturday July 11 in order to make a very large change to a smaller space at 630 Iowa Ave. This change will take some pretty major adaptations including adding Billy’s Hi Hat Diner [sic] to the menu, so don’t forget us, we will be back at some point in August. We wouldn’t have made it this far without you all and we all thank you immensely.”

Billy’s, which has been closed due to COVID-19, posted about their August reopening almost simultaneously with El Banditos, but did not mention their sister restaurant was moving in.

“We will have some menu changes and longer hours, a larger outdoor seating area, carry out and delivery,” the Facebook post read.

El Bandito’s dishes, photographed in 2017. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

El Banditos has served its beloved breakfast tacos, guacamole, margaritas and more for over a decade in the Northside Neighborhood. The business closed temporarily in 2017 as the space (once the home of Motley Cow) underwent renovations.

Billy’s High Hat Diner — named for Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann and the high-hat in a drum kit — debuted in March 2017, with a menu (and hours) focused on breakfast and brunch: Belgian waffles, breakfast burritos, fried chicken, grits and other American and Mexican-inspired diner foods.

Billy’s High Hat Diner in 2017. — Matthew Steele/Little Village

Both El Banditos and Billy’s are owned by restaurateur Derek Perez.

El Banditos has kept its dining room and patio closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, but has offered curbside and delivery orders via Chomp. Though their move this month will affect the restaurant’s menu, Chomp orders should resume once El Banditos gets settled in the new location.

The future of their space on East Market Street is not yet confirmed.


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