LV Recommends: The best savory snacks from eastern Iowa bars

Five supreme snacks to save you when hunger strikes.

George’s Buffet

312 E Market St, Iowa City
Contrary to its name and to the dismay of those Google searching “buffet Iowa City,” George’s Buffet is not actually a buffet. It is so much better. A landmark in Iowa City since 1938, this cozy townie bar tucked away in the Northside is the perfect place to hide away in a booth with a beer, great friends and most importantly, a famous George’s cheeseburger. The latter are presented modestly—wrapped in a simple sheet of wax paper—but inside is a classic, cooked-to-perfection burger. The traditional cheeseburger is served with ketchup, mustard, pickles and onions, but George’s also has thousand island dressing and horseradish available for the bold burger eater. Be prompt though—the kitchen stops serving at 1 a.m. bar time!

Micky’s Irish Pub

11 S Dubuque St, Iowa City
One of a few Irish pubs in town, this joint has earned applause for showing English Premier League soccer matches, a very sunny patio in the summer and a wide selection of burgers. However, the appetizers are a strong category all their own. Not only do they have the best fried pickle spears in town, they dish up a deliciously strange fusion dish—Irish Egg Rolls. These deep-fried snacks deliver everything you love about a reuben—tender corned beef, melted Swiss cheese, tart sauerkraut—in a crispy wonton package. It’s a Reuben sandwich with none of the mess! Well, maybe half the mess…

Lion Bridge Brewery

59 16th Ave SW, Cedar Rapids
This Iowa brewery is a gem in the crown of Cedar Rapid’s Czech Village New Bohemia district. Lion Bridge has been serving up pints and plates since 2014 and it is the best place to snag some eastern European-inspired foods that show off the best of Lion Bridge and the surrounding restaurants. The soft pretzels are baked daily from Rustic Hearth Bakery just down the road in the NewBo Market and you and your friends can debate which dipping sauce is the winner (though it is obviously the signature beer mustard). If you’re looking to share something a bit bigger, the Sausage Foundry & artisan cheese platter is the way to go. With a rotating list of sausages and cheeses, this plate always delivers on spice and excitement, leaving you eager to comeback to see the latest combo.

Black Sheep Social Club

600 1st St SE, Cedar Rapids
Taking center stage in Cedar Rapids Downtown District, Black Sheep Social Club is a new kind of cool kids bar. Emphasizing the need for supporting local farmers and craft brewers, this place doesn’t dish up boring casseroles or pork tenderloins (no offense to all the Midwest moms and dads out there). As its name implies, Black Sheep does fit the mold, and nothing screams “unordinary” like their Crunch Town appetizers. The Crunch Town fish nuggets are a millennial jackpot, turning the nightmare T.V. dinner fish sticks of yore into a late-night munchie paradise. These white fish nuggets are coated in Captain Crunch (yeah, you heard right) and accompanied by a Sriracha tartar sauce. It’s so insane, it works. The Crunch Town tacos are fueled by the same energy—balancing the sweetness of the cereal by serving it with a spicy jalapeno crema and countering the moist pike fish with a fresh, crisp, spicy slaw.

Tin Roost

840 W Penn St, North Liberty
One of the newest (and largest!) additions to North Liberty also happens to have a wicked beer selection and some of the best fries in the area. Tin Roost opened up in August of 2017, with help from a group of alumni from Iowa City’s Blackstone and Joe’s Place and Coralville’s 30hop and has brought some big city energy to this small town. With an emphasis on American food with a Southern twist, Tin Roost has something to please everyone and plenty of dishes to pass around. One of the best shareable items on the menu are the black truffle fries: crispy, golden French fries seasoned with black truffle salt are piled high with delicately grated cheese and generously mounded on the plate. It’s the perfect salty, crunchy, creamy treat. Grab a beer from one of their 36 taps, a seat on the patio, a lot of napkins and watch the sunset.

Recipe: Lobster Americaine

Serves 4

What’s more decadent than lobster in a sauce enriched with cognac and cream? Traditional Américaine recipes don’t call for heavy cream but I find that it really rounds out the flavors of the shellfish and tarragon. This is my adaptation of the recipe I learned at the French Culinary Institute in New York.

  • 2 whole live lobsters, about 2 pounds each
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • ½ cup cognac
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups shrimp, lobster or fish stock
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons fresh tarragon, chopped
  • Kosher salt to taste

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and blanch the lobsters for 2 minutes. If your pot isn’t very big you may have to blanch one at a time. Then shock the lobsters in ice cold water.

2. Remove the meat from the lobster claws and tails. Cut each piece of tail meat in half lengthwise. Each of your four diners will get one claw and one piece of the tail. Cover the meat with a damp cloth and refrigerate until step 5.

3. Carefully cut the lobster shells and body into chunks. In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt two tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the lobster shells and cook until they turn red. Add the shallot and garlic, and cook for another 30 seconds, being careful not to let the garlic brown. Then add the tomato paste and cook for another minute, stirring.

4. Add the cognac and white wine and cook for another 5 minutes or until the liquid has reduced by about half. Add the stock and reduce by half again, about another 10 minutes. Then add the heavy cream and one tablespoon of chopped tarragon. Reduce for another 5-10 minutes until the liquid is the consistency of a sauce. If you want to be fancy you can strain the sauce. Season the sauce with salt to taste and keep warm.

5. To finish the dish, season the lobster meat with salt. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the lobster meat and cook until it turns red, about 2 minutes.

6. Serve the lobster with the sauce, and top with the remaining tarragon.

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