Since the Haunted Bookshop moved in late 2013, many have wondered what would become of the historic space at corner of Market and Linn Streets. Over the past year, Andy Diep, the chef and owner of the Japanese restaurant Konomi in Coralville, has taken over the space, which is currently undergoing renovations to become Northside Bistro, set to open mid-March.
Diep is still in the earlier phases of working out the restaurant’s menu and concept, but he says it will be relatively small, with 10 entrees and three to four appetizers. Rather than focusing on a specific cuisine, like he has done at Konomi, Diep says that the menu will be “open,” focusing on fresh ingredients and incorporating local produce and meat whenever possible.
“We didn’t want to tie down to a specific menu, a specific type of culture,” said Diep. “Whatever we think is best for the dish, that’s what we’re going to do.”
Joining Diep in the kitchen of Northside Bistro will be head chef Damien Williams, who spent six years in Seattle cooking Japanese and regional Northwest cuisines. Diep hopes to give himself and Williams greater creative license by having the food driven by ingredients and flavors, rather than adhering to a particular concept or type of cuisine. Still, he has hesitations about leaving the concept so open-ended
“For me personally, I think it’s a big risk, because when people go out they look for a particular kind of cuisine — ‘Are we eating American? Japanese? Chinese?’ — and we don’t want to be a specific type of food,” Diep said.
As for the interior, Diep says the renovated space will have both industrial and rustic aesthetic elements.
“We used a lot of barn wood, reclaimed wood, lots of metal, including all the tabletops,” said Diep. “Everything is custom-built by a local carpenter here. When you walk into the place, [it’ll be] different from a modern, contemporary look.”
Overall, Northside Bistro will be an inviting, informal space.
“I want the atmosphere to be comfortable, so you can sit down and have a conversation,” said Diep. “[It will be] a social place to go out for dinner, not a ‘dress-up’ place.”