No music, no problem: Area bars and restaurants that provide a space to eat in peace

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Glen Lowry/Little Village

“Don’t worry; they don’t have a band tonight. I called ahead to make sure,” my husband said about the restaurant where we were thinking of eating that evening. Though we’d technically passed the threshold already, I think that was the moment we officially entered our 30s. I had to tease him about being old and ornery, but I was glad that he checked.

It’s not that I dislike music, it’s that the acoustics in most bars and restaurants are wonky, and sometimes I like to hear my friends talk. Dining establishments seem to overestimate people’s desire to hear live music while eating. If you’ve already ordered and a band starts playing, you basically become a hostage as you wait for your food. Perhaps some people are better at multitasking their attention, but all I want to do at a bar is talk, drink and sometimes play board games—a much more enjoyable activity than shouting over a guy with a guitar. I’m not sure if I should be proud of this, but I can share with you an expertly curated list of restaurants that are almost always guaranteed to be band-free.

The location of Emil’s Hideaway, 222 Glenbrook Dr SE, in Cedar Rapids seems to keep it protected from curious bands. It’s right off 1st Ave, but you can’t see it from the road. It’s behind Taco John’s. I don’t say that lightly—you basically have to drive through the Taco John’s drive-through to get to it. The showstopper here is the meatloaf sandwich, which I had to be talked into trying. This sandwich lets you enjoy all the flavor of meatloaf without ever having to carve up a log of meat. Plus, all of their fried appetizers are fantastic, especially the fried pickles.

Need Pizza is way too busy for a live band. Located downtown at 207 2nd Ave SE in Cedar Rapids, this is the place to be on Friday and Saturday nights. One possible reason: the fact that you can add mashed potatoes to any pizza. I highly recommend ordering a pizza with mashed potatoes, chicken and garlic. If you like pizza but you’re bored by tomato sauce, you can choose barbecue sauce or no sauce instead.

Don’t expect Zeppelin’s, 5300 Edgewood Rd NE, Cedar Rapids, to be quiet. It’s bustling during their two-for-one happy hours, but they won’t trap you into listening to a band. Their menu changes throughout the year, but the delicious reuben is available year-round. When I ask my husband if he is craving any particular food, he often sheepishly whispers, “A salmon gyro,” slightly embarrassed by the number of times he has suggested eating at Zeppelin’s since they added this item to their menu. The salmon on this sandwich is always perfectly cooked, and it’s served on warm naan with cherry tomatoes and tzatziki sauce.

The food, as opposed to live entertainment, is what keeps customers coming through the doors at Stella, 1006 Melrose Ave, Iowa City. Occupying a corner lot on a busy stretch in University Heights, this neighborhood restaurant serves burgers, sandwiches, pizza and Cajun dishes with the promise you can enjoy your meal in peace. Stella hosts a regular Cajun night every Tuesday where featured menu items are half-price, and Mondays present another opportunity for a half-priced meal, this time highlighting their Iowa beef burgers.

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