Update: Since this story was first published, information on plans for the new location provided by Brandon Pratt has been added. Also, the anticipated opening date has been corrected.
Pizza Ranch is headed south. The buffet-style restaurant will be moving from its current location in Iowa City Marketplace (formerly known as Sycamore Mall) to Gateway One Plaza, Pizza Ranch’s corporate office confirmed to Little Village.
The restaurant will be taking over the building that was home to the nightclub Caliente.
“We’re doing an extensive remodeling of the building,” said Brandon Pratt, owner of the Iowa City Pizza Ranch. The new location is bigger than the current Pizza Ranch. The new restaurant will have 7,500 square feet of space when it opens, 1,600 of which will be dedicated to arcade games.
The Iowa City Pizza Ranch franchise is one of the chain’s 200 restaurants across 13 states. The only Iowa-based pizza seller with more locations is Casey’s General Store. The first Pizza Ranch was opened by then-19-year-old Adrie Groeneweg in his northwestern Iowa hometown of Hull. According to Pizza Ranch’s site, Groeneweg opened his restaurant, using recipes developed by his mother, after growing frustrated that there was no pizza available in Hull.
During presidential primary campaign seasons, Pizza Ranch is regularly featured in national news stories about the Iowa caucuses, because its restaurants are favorite campaign stops for politicians looking to appeal to voters who identify themselves as conservative Christians.
A 2012 stop by former senator Rick Santorum at the Pizza Ranch in Boone led to what might be the chain’s most famous political moment.
“A lot of people ask about the economy and the threat of Iran and about military aid and maybe about social issues, whether it be abortion rights or something else. I don’t care about those things, I care about what you think about my damn salad,” Keith Prange, assistant manager and maker of the restaurant’s chicken salad, told the Huffington Post about Santorum’s visit.
Santorum tried the salad and liked it, so the restaurant temporarily named it after the candidate. (“A Pizza Ranch staff member said they are unsure how long the salad will keep its name if Santorum loses the nomination,” reported the Post’s Elise Foley.)
The salad story went viral, and someone even created a short-lived unofficial Twitter account for the salad.
WHO WANTS TO EAT?
— SantorumSalad (@SantorumSalad) January 2, 2012
The Santorum Salad in no longer on the Boone restaurant’s menu, but there is a Chicken Fiesta Salad. That salad is also available at the Iowa City Pizza Ranch.
This is will be the third new business in recent months for Gateway One Plaza. Last week, Hatchet Jack’s, Iowa City’s first axe-tossing bar, opened, and a Starbucks is currently under construction at the shopping center.
The new Pizza Ranch location will open this fall, according to Pratt.