As the culinary landscape continues to expand in exciting ways, here are four new restaurants that should not be missed.
Pullman Bar & Diner
17 S. Dubuque St., Iowa City | pullmandiner.com
Pullman Diner is doing its part to bring sophisticated diner fare to downtown Iowa City. Owned by six area restaurant personnel, Pullman is small yet classy; full of vintage lighting, exposed brick and original art by Iowa City painter Jamie Boling; and features a totally open kitchen. Despite being on full display to diners, the kitchen staff is able to execute really tasty fare, like brunch’s eggs “en cocotte,” which are soft-cooked eggs with porcini cream, Grana Padano and bacon. At dinner, try the Anson Mills coarse-ground grits with shrimp and smoked pork jus, and the decadently addictive beef marrow bone with bacon jam and fresh herbs. There is also an ample and interesting selection of cocktails, beer and wine.
Forbidden Planet Pizza + Arcade
111 S. Dubuque St., Iowa City | icforbiddenplanet.com
Brought to the Ped Mall by area restaurateur Tom Connolly, Jr., alongside business partners Cory Ingle and Luther Moss, Forbidden Planet offers pizza, games and a vast selection of beer and cocktails. They also have an espresso machine, so you can fuel yourself on your never-ending quest to rack up high scores on some of your old favorite arcade games, like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Tetris or Street Fighter II. Ingle uses a woodfire emulator oven to craft authentic Neapolitan pizzas with thin crusts that get just the right char from the oven’s high heat. The restaurant also offers deep-dish concoctions, antipasti and salads, with a vast and fun menu that borrows from video game culture; for example, the “All Hail Gorf” pizza, named after the early-’80s talking arcade game, features rich tomato sauce, mozzarella, chorizo, bacon, pepperoni and beef.
117 First St. N.W., Mount Vernon | cafepalisades.com
There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth when chef-owner Matt Steigerwald announced that he was closing the beloved Lincoln Cafe, in Mount Vernon. Fortunately, Mount Vernon native Rachel Sauter was ready in the wings, eager to take over with her reconceptualized, renamed Palisades Cafe. Palisades has succeeded in calming the restless souls who lamented the lack of an accessible, creative restaurant in the Mount Vernon space. Sauter and her staff serve up a world-class, freakishly tender burger and a variety of sandwiches and salads, but the shining glory of Palisades is the few nightly special offerings. If duck is on the menu, get it; the skin is impossibly crispy, like a perfect duck crackling, while the meat stays moist and pink. Accompaniments for the specials are always an ideal complement, often made of locally sourced ingredients.
Lion Bridge Brewery
59 16th Ave. S.W., Cedar Rapids | lionbridgebrewing.com
Lion Bridge Brewery and its co-founder and brewmaster, Cedar Rapids native Quinton McClain, deserve major props for winning a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival within the first year of the brewery’s opening. The award-winning beer, Workman’s Compensation, is an exceedingly drinkable English-style ale with toasty toffee notes. Beer lovers are excited to see what continues to come from the Czech Village-based brewery; so far, offerings include a Czech pilsner and a Jamaican strong ale, plus several others. It’s worth it to visit the brewery and grab a beer-friendly snack at their taproom, but if you’re in Iowa City, look for their beers on tap at area restaurants.