Sonny’s Northside Tap to expand into former Taste of China location

Sonny’s Northside Tap will expand into the former Taste of China location. — photo by Eleanore Taft

Sonny’s Northside Tap owners Cassie and Tracy Barkalow purchased the space next door, 208 N Linn St, formerly occupied by Taste of China. They plan to expand Sonny’s into that space by August and begin serving casual pub fare.

Taste of China closed May 12 and the Barkalows purchased the space on Wednesday. Tracy Barkalow said he hopes to work with the city council and Downtown District to change an ordinance that bans existing bars from expanding so they can put a door between the two spaces. For now, they will be connected by a patio.

“We’ve already demoed the space and we’re in the plans right now of laying it out so we can submit construction drawings to the city,” he said.

Tracy Barkalow, who grew up in North Liberty, is a regular at Wig and Pen Pizza Pub, and mentioned their menu as inspiration for what Sonny’s might serve (minus the pizza.)

“We just want to be an affordable, good place to come eat American pub-style food,” he said.

The same menu will be offered on both sides of the business, featuring sandwiches for around $10 and bar staple appetizers like wings. The kitchen will be open until about 10 p.m.

The expansion will make the business more family-friendly, he said, with about 20 restaurant-style tables, plus booths and new flooring and similar decor to the current Sonny’s. The two hope to host comedy nights, trivia and live music in that space, and use the kitchen for catering and events like wedding receptions. By next year they hope to add a rooftop beer garden.

The Barkalows purchased Sonny’s, in the former I.C. Ugly’s location, in December of last year. They added fresh paint, new flooring and furniture and made a few minor modifications before quickly reopening as Sonny’s, named after their 5-year-old daughter.

Tracy Barkalow, is the co-owner of Sonny’s Northside Tap along with his wife, Cassie. — photo by Eleanore Taft

They hope to continue to update that space as well, moving toward a focus on local and craft beer with the addition of 18 to 24 taps which will also be on offer in the new space, along with an expanded wine selection. The new space will close at midnight and the current space will continue to stay open until 2 a.m.

“We’re trying to change with the times and make it a better neighborhood bar,” Barkalow said.


  1. Sonnys sucks and Tracy is a dick who did nothing he promised to the former staff of Uglys. Let him expand his business and lose more money because no one should support such a jerk in this great town!

    1. The changes to this bar and everything going on in the Northside Neighborhood are great.. Anyone who is negative about it like some of these childish comments on this website are not here for the betterment of the community and should be ashamed of themselves for writing such garbage. This business is a great addition to the Northside and to Iowa City period.

      1. Agreed! I love the changes made to the bar, especially how much cleaner it is. Seems much more friendly than it used to be. Can’t say much for Ugly’s, I never felt welcome there so this is a great change for commuters like myself

  2. I have know Tracy for more than 15 years not only is he a really nice guy he is a hardworking self-made guy. He started out with a very humble upbringing raised by a single mother with 8 kids in his family. He has worked hard to get were he is in life and he should be proud of what he has accomplished! He has a several successful business and a wonderful family. Hell he named this place after his daughter who is one of the coolest kids I have ever met. If you are writing negative comments about this guy then you really don’t know him. He is one of the good guys who would take his shirt off his own back to help anyone around him without question and without expecting a thing back. So I have 100% respect for him and hope he does well in this new venture it is a really nice place to go to food will be a huge plus! Good Luck Tracy you have the communities support! See you this fall for the Iowa Games!

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