Does Iowa City really need another breakfast and brunch restaurant? If it’s as diverse in flavor and subtly inventive as Goosetown Cafe, then yes.
What I’ve found after repeated trips to the brunch, lunch and dinner spot that opened in Iowa City’s Northside nearly a year ago is a place that’s hugely confident, a trait not many newer restaurants have. That confidence shows in a menu and a design with contrasting characteristics, but held together by quality.
Walking in, Goosetown looks both modern and retro. The bright white square bar that sits in the middle of the restaurant is a brash, young style choice. The exposed brick walls and wooden tables are in line with the current go-to style of a hipper kind of restaurant. Accented with brown leather booths in the back that look straight out of the 1950s and mid-century modern chairs throughout, it’s not a clash of old and new, but a celebration of both.
The menu follows a similar balance.
From steak and eggs with asparagus, cherry tomatoes and brick of a hashbrown ($15) to the Goosetown Standards with two eggs, hashbrown, sourdough toast and a choice of meat ($9), the breakfast menu is grounded in staples, though these staples lack the kick in flavor most of the other dishes pose.
The Fried Egg Sliders ($9) are a good example of a simple dish executed to satisfaction. Three sunny eggs are served on three Hawaiian rolls. With aioli, sharp cheddar and a choice of meats or avocado, they are light and simple.
The sweeter side of breakfast is where Goosetown cooks have the most confidence. The Brioche French Toast ($12) serves thick slices of heaven: brioche served in rich maple crème anglaise dotted with wonderfully sharp fruit reductions and topped with honey butter and a hint of powdered sugar. Along with the Dutch Baby Pancake ($7), which is topped in crème anglasie and berry preserves, these dishes are both filling and vibrantly fruity.
Then there’s the House Pop Tart ($5). Though it may sound too much like something a ’90s kid dreamt up, they are served hot, impossibly flaky and always with a different fruit filling — pumpkin, caramel apple, rhubarb, aronia berry. Again, Goosetown takes something you think you know and makes it a surprise.
Brunch and breakfast are only the beginning. Lunch and dinner options are even more adventurous. Take the sage-topped Duck Pot Pie ($15), or the Bibimbap Grain Bowl ($13) with its rainbow of ingredients like kimchi, cucumber, carrot, red onion and the savory, sweet, spicy miracle that is Gochujang paste. They seem like dishes served at separate restaurants, but are bold with flavors.
During my latest visit, I had the potently flavorful and subtly spicy Shrimp and Grits ($14) with Gruyere and bacon grits and chimichurri marinated shrimp. Plated simply but beautifully, with the darkened shrimp sitting above the grits, it was a dish filled with experiences: the smokiness of bacon, the spice of chimichurri, the crisp shrimp.
Those main dishes paired with sandwiches and salads ($6-13) make lunch and dinner at Goosetown as viable an option as breakfast. Add to that a robust selection of custom cocktails, beers and wines, and it’s a restaurant that can serve many needs.
There are a few dishes that cost a lot, like the Atlantic Salmon with sweet potato risotto, vegetables and kabocha cream ($24), but just know you don’t have to drop $20 to enjoy Goosetown. No matter what you spend, you’re in good hands.