Marco’s Grilled Cheese will open in December in the former Devotay and Linn Street Dive space

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Marco’s Grilled Cheese, 117 N Linn St, Iowa City — via Marco’s Grilled Cheese on Facebook

Linn Street Dive, which closed in May, will reopen as Marco’s Grilled Cheese at the beginning of December. The target date is Monday, Dec. 2, according to Mark Paterno, who owns the former Linn Street Dive space along with his wife Jade.

The new restaurant will be a brick-and-mortar version of the Marco’s Grilled Cheese food cart, a fixture on the Iowa City Ped Mall for almost two decades, which was Paterno’s first food service business.

“We opened in 2000 on Cinco de Mayo,” Paterno told Little Village. “We’ll turn 20 in May.”

Linn Street Dive used to be Devotay, a mainstay of the Iowa City restaurant scene for two decades, which was opened by Chef Kurt Friese and Kim McWane Friese in 1996. Devotay was known for its Spanish-influenced Mediterranean cuisine, and for the Friese’s commitment to the slow food movement and locally sourced, sustainably grown ingredients.

The Frieses sold Devotay to the Paternos in December 2017. The new owners continued to operate Devotay through 2018, before closing it.

“In the simplest of terms, Devotay worked with Kurt and Kim at the helm. Unfortunately, we were unable to make the Devotay model work for us,” the Paternos said in a Facebook post, when they announced in November 2018 that they were closing the restaurant.

While we deeply love Devotay and are sad to see it close, we are also excited and optimistic to create a new restaurant of our very own. Our goal with the new restaurant will once again be to offer exceptional food, but with a more familiar menu.

The new restaurant, Linn Street Dive, aimed to serve traditional Midwestern comfort food with a “West Coast twist,” Jade Paterno explained to Little Village in an email when the new restaurant was announced.

Linn Street Dive was short-lived. It opened in January, but closed five months later after it was vandalized by an employee, who smashed glass and sprayed a fire extinguisher around the restaurant.

“Linn Street Dive had some of the same business challenges Devotay did, but it never got a true, full chance,” Mark Paterno said. “The vandalism brought everything to a standstill.”

Instead reopening the same restaurant, the Paternos decided to expand on a concept that was already working well — Marco’s Grilled Cheese.

“It’s brick-and-mortar, but it’s still going to be the same cart-food mentality,” Paterno said. “The goal is to get hot food into your hands in about three minutes for a very reasonable price.”

The restaurant’s menu will be an expanded version of Marco’s current offerings, and include food served by the Paternos’ two other food carts, George’s Best Gyros and Paco’s Tacos.

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“We’ll have the gyros, the street tacos and the walking tacos, and we’ll also have some soups, some paninis, some salads,” Paterno said. “I’m going to try to do an authentic Chicago dog, and I’m excited about the lobster quesadilla.”

“Trying not to go too big and too crazy,” he added. “I don’t want mediocre quality. The food is going to be fresh off the grill. I don’t want to pre-make anything.”

“I know you can’t ever please everybody, but I’m still going to try.”

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  1. Disappointed that such precious space in Northside is not being used to re-build the once proud fine dining offerings of that special neighborhood. I will give Marco’s (“Plus”) a fair chance but it seems very unlikely to replace what once was. The effort as Linn Street Dive, while at first hopeful, seemed to be done without full commitment, even well before its last rites.

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