Hometowns: Key City Spirit

Jack's Chicken Palace 1107 University Ave. Dubuque

Here are just a few examples to illustrate a fact that cannot be denied: my town can beat up your town

To walk through downtown Iowa City on a Saturday evening is to cross paths with people originating from locales as near as Osceola and as far as Nairobi. And while most of us who come to Iowa City develop a deep relationship with the town, it goes without saying that those of us who move here will always have an element of loyalty to our hometowns. It is, after all, where we are from that shapes who we are and often what we believe. Some hometowns are awesome. Some just don’t cut it. In light of this self-evident truth, a case can and must be made for my hometown of Dubuque, IA. With so many points of interest, locations of historic significance, and local traditions of accomplishment, Dubuque would take pages and pages to describe in terms of dominance and beauty. But to keep this brief: I will select only a few examples to illustrate a fact that cannot be denied: my town can beat up your town.


Donut Boy, next door to the Dog House Lounge // 1646 Asbury Road // Dubuque

Most people having even a passing familiarity with Dubuque know that it has an abundance of two structures: bars and churches. Guilty as charged on both counts. But I’d be willing to wager that comparatively few towns have a bar that shares a building with a donut shop. Donut-Boy and the Dog House Lounge have had this exceptional relationship on Asbury Road for as long as I can remember. Now, I suppose it’s possible that there are those who are either unimpressed with this union in the abstract or who fail to see the merits in practice. That’s only because so few people know what it’s like to walk into a bar during happy hour and see a sign that says “$2 Draws” while being seduced by the overpowering scent of pastries. Or it could be because the idea of leaving your car parked at a bar, sleeping under the playground equipment at Allison-Henderson park and then grabbing a pecan roll the size of a hubcap before driving home at 6 a.m. fails to resonate. In either case, I assure you that you have no idea what you’re talking about.


Getting a large order of fries is generally considered not to be a huge lapse in judgment. Sure, it’s a lot of fries, but the dude working the counter at some fast food joint isn’t going to look at you like you’re biting off more than you can chew. Unless, of course, you ask for a large order of french fries at Jack’s Chicken Palace on University Avenue. If you did, you would then have to respond to the following statement from the JCP employee: “Uh, our large order serves five to six people.” That’s right. When it comes to fries at “The Palace,” a large is essentially an entire fryer basket of fries. It’s about the size of a loaf of bread, comes in a brown paper sack and cannot be consumed for several minutes thanks to the scalding oil soaking through the bag. Sure it’ll cost a bit more than fries at a fast food chain, but you’ll never have to worry about tepid, butt-of-the-batch orders or free-range onion rings at Jack’s. And, of course, you can take comfort in knowing that Jack’s and the Key City still appreciate what it really means to be “large.”

You can buy and sell just about anything on Central Avenue.


Pawn shops and the concept of “pawning” are hugely popular these days thanks to a number of cable TV shows and a sluggish economy. Whether it’s some guy trying to get a few hundred bucks for an obviously fake James Dean autograph or someone trying to buy Christmas presents by cashing in his N64 games, the idea of visiting a pawn shop and leaving with a buck and a story has a lot of appeal right now. However, the number of neighborhood pawn shops seems to be dwindling despite the popularity of the concept. So where do you find your buck and your story? Head down to Central Avenue in Dubuque. Not only will you find a pawn shop, you’ll find . . . four of them. On three city blocks. Tony’s Jewelry and Loan, 17th St. Pawn, American Pawn and Jerry’s Pawn house an assortment of buyables and sellables. Jewelry and electronics are obviously the most popular items, but you can never be totally sure of what you’ll find. An exotic bird that won’t shut up or probably ever be sold? A display counter covered in bread crumbs? A Dale Earnhardt bedspread and sheet set? They could all be there waiting for you this very moment. In any case, just remember how ahead of the curve Dubuque is next time you’re watching the History Channel.