Iowa City’s Top Chef Downtown event transforming to an at-home experience this year

Heartland Burrito’s garlic and herb Iowa tofu for Top Chef. Monday, Feb. 26, 2018. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

For anyone who’s been practicing their cooking skills during the pandemic, the Iowa City Downtown District has an opportunity to put that talent to the test — and it’s also an opportunity to try delicious food and recipes from Iowa City chefs.

The annual Top Chef Downtown event allows attendees to taste various entrees, desserts and drinks crafted by local experts. Last year’s event had 29 offerings from various restaurants in the area. But the 11th annual event will look a little different.

This year’s Top Chef Downtown has been transformed into an at-home experience officially known as Top Chef Downtown: From our Top Chefs to Your Kitchen.

The Top Chef Downtown at-home box is designed for two people, and includes a six-course meal with entrees, a dessert and four drinks. Chefs will create recipes and either put together ingredients or provide a take-and-bake course.

The menu will be published in early February, but ICDD has announced which restaurants are participating: Pullman Bar and Diner, St. Burch Tavern, Goosetown Cafe, Crepes de Luxe, the Dandy Lion, Iowa City Yacht Club, Get Fresh Cafe, Wild Culture Kombucha, Dumpling Darling and Brix Wine and Cheese Bar.

At last year’s event, Goosetown Cafe, the Dandy Lion and St. Burch Tavern each took home a first-place award. A panel of expert judges awarded Goosetown Cafe first place for its pork belly ssam entree and the Dandy Lion for its chocolate pistachio cream puff.

The Dandy Lion serves pistachio cream puffs at the 10th annual Top Chef Downtown at The Graduate, Iowa City. Monday, Feb. 24, 2020. — Jason Smith/Little Village

The event’s attendees agreed on Best Dessert and voted for the Dandy Lion’s cream puff as first place. Attendees voted St. Burch Tavern’s braised short rib with squash the first place entree.

Tickets for the at-home Top Chef Downtown will go on sale Friday, Jan. 15. Individuals can purchase a take-home box for two online for $125. Proceeds from the event will be donated to the Strengthen, Grow, Evolve campaign that supports the Englert Theatre and FilmScene.

Tickets for last year’s event, and years past, have sold out quickly; this year, there will only be 300 boxes for purchase. The boxes will be available for pick-up on three dates — 100 on each day — and people can select the pick-up date at the time of purchase.

• Monday, Feb. 22

• Tuesday, Feb. 23

• Wednesday, Feb. 24

Missed last year’s event or curious about what Top Chef Downtown was like pre-pandemic? I attended Top Chef Downtown 2020 last February with Little Village videographer Jason Smith. And yes, the food was as good as it looks.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article stated the price for the boxes as $115. The actual price is $125.

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