Looking for something new? These eight new restaurants deserve a spot on your short-list.
Maggie’s Farm Pizza
1308 Melrose Ave, Iowa City
A long-time NewBo and Iowa City Farmer’s Market favorite, Maggie’s Farm Pizza opened their independent brick and mortar restaurant on the west side of Iowa City in August 2017. In collaboration with local architect Sanjay Jani, owners Carolyn Brown and Jerry Zimmermann succeeded at creating a striking interior space reminiscent of the barn from their namesake farm. Maggie’s contemporary design pairs beautifully with their wood-fired pizzas resulting in a neighborhood restaurant you want to return to again and again. With a selection of tasty and original pies as well as a variety of antipasti, salads and dinner specials guided by former Motley Cow Cafe owner David Weiseneck, the flushed-out menu ensures the need for repeat visits.
Nile Ethiopian Restaurant
89 2nd St #2, Coralville
The Iowa City area had been waiting a decade for Ethiopian food when Nile came to the rescue April of 2016. West High grad Kiya Sultan grew up working his uncle’s Mankato, MN restaurant, and made it a goal to eventually open one of his own. Tucked behind Peking Buffet on the Coralville strip, this lunch and dinner spot is friendly, tidy, no-nonsense, authentically East African and damn delicious. If you’re familiar with Ethiopian cuisine, you’ll feel right at home. If not, first things first: wash your hands––you’ll be eating with them. Then, order the combo platter with some of the classics––misr wot (spicy red lentils), kik wot (yellow lentils), gomen (collard greens) and keye wot (spicy lamb or beef stew). The platter includes a simple lettuce salad for a perfect kick of vinegar and freshness to compliment the stewy dishes. Tear off a piece of spongy injera, the crêpe-like flatbread, and scoop away, and don’t forget to order baklava and Ethiopian coffee for dessert.
416 3rd St SE, Cedar Rapids
A space formerly occupied by a traditional bar and grill was breathed a fresh life in June 2017 when owners Christina and Mitch Springman opened their internationally-inspired burger-oriented restaurant. This snug space has just the right amount of tables in proportion to its tiny kitchen––it’s a hot-spot on weekend evenings which makes for a bit of a wait, but you’ll be rewarded for your patience when you slide into a booth and crack open the menu. The space has been decorated with maps brought back from travels around the world and the menu reflects the couple’s affinity for globe-trotting. Focused mainly on burgers with a selection of loaded fries and crostini, each menu item pays homage to a different global city. The Marrakech burger, for example, is loaded with chermoula, hummus, goat cheese and Moroccan olives and things get interesting when ordering the Delhi burger which is garnished with paneer, garam masala and mint chutney. You might balk at the notion of a menu comprised almost entirely of burgers, but each one is truly inspired, prepared to perfection and leaves you feeling happy and satisfied.
376 S Clinton St, Iowa City
This Iowa City cafe has generated buzz in the months since opening. Owned and operated by the Sharon Bethel Mennonite Church in Kalona, IA, all profits from the cafe trickle down and are distributed to other charities and organizations selected by the ministry. Members of the church helped extensively with the decor and build out and the majority of the staff members are from the church as well. Prepped with local ingredients like Farmer’s Hen House Eggs, Kalona SuperNatural dairy products and produce from local growers, made-to-order smoothies, classic omelets, wraps and panini sandwiches fill the menu. The comfortable and spacious interior makes this an ideal lunch spot with friends or place to study.
560 Boyson Rd NE Suite A, Cedar Rapids
This is a restaurant that stakes a serious claim on the “farm to fork” movement—and works hard to show it. The country-hip vibe is open, friendly and full of sunlight, while the lit up “gumption.” sign on the back wall makes for a stellar Instagram backdrop. There are inspiring messages written on the floor, the open shelving behind the bar top has a modern-rustic feel and even the water glasses are reminiscent of canning jars. This homespun vibe pairs well with their seasonal menu, featuring locally-sourced ingredients for both the breakfast and lunch dishes (vegan and gluten free options are clearly marked…and delicious). For slow Sundays, gumption. will quickly become your go-to brunch spot; on busier days, grab one of their creative iced coffee drinks (we’d recommend the Rosemary Cold Brew or Iced Coconut Mexican Mocha) to take the quaint-hip-farm experience home with you.
501 7th Ave SE Suite B, Cedar Rapids
Tucked into the side of Benz Beverage Depot, Lightworks feels like a pleasant secret surprise when you walk in, reminiscent of an ultra-hip cafe in Los Angeles. With an entire wall made of glass, the entrance is flooded with light, highlighting the locally-hewn communal table and intriguing menu: Lightworks is both a full coffee house and a full breakfast and lunch spot—and the brothers who founded the restaurant, Nathan and Matthew Graham, are the driven craftsmen behind the concept. Looking at their daily seasonal specials, it’s clear the brothers are true artists: the food is highly creative, regularly featuring ingredients like house-made black garlic and cascara salad dressings. The same artistry that goes into their coffee concoctions graces their tacos and beignets—they’re fun, quirky and always presenting something new to try. Extra bonus: Nathan’s paintings decorate the walls of the cafe. You’ll feel you’ve stepped into a place that cares just as much about atmosphere as it does the food—and both will leave you impressed.
Thai Noodle House
725 Mormon Trek Blvd, Iowa City
Thai Noodle House, a noodle-focused offshoot of Thai Spice owned by Chansy Keomanivong, quietly opened in summer 2017 on Iowa City’s west side. With a menu mostly comprised of noodles with a peppering of appetizers and rice dishes, the restaurant offers Thai favorites in an easy and comfortable atmosphere. The variety of noodle soups provide a nice draw for those seeking comfort in bowl form. Menu selections range from Thai-style ramen to Tom Yum, pho to sukiyaki. The Duck Noodle Soup is a standout choice with richly spiced broth spooned over crispy seared bone-in duck, tender bok choy and delicate egg noodles.
Guild Wurst Tavern
53 2nd St, Coralville
Guild Wurst Tavern, a unique Coralville-based restaurant devoted to sausage, is one that deserves a spot on your list. Painted a bold golden yellow, this former Boubin Muffler Shop-turned-restaurant now boasts a cozy and eclectic dining room decked out in reclaimed materials with views of the in-house brewery operation. While the menu offers a selection of housemade wursts, there’s plenty to sample if sausage isn’t your thing. The Bar’Burger makes a delicious choice and the french fries are great, but if you’re looking for a more healthful option, the kale salad is light and refreshing. If you’re up for an adventure, New Tribe, the restaurant’s house band, plays Thursday evenings and is a highly entertaining opportunity you shouldn’t pass up.
Strengthen • Grow • Evolve is a collaborative campaign led by two Iowa City-based arts nonprofits, The Englert Theatre and FilmScene that seeks a major reinvestment to strengthen the arts through modern and historic venues, innovative programming, and new models of collaboration.