LV Recommends: Five local restaurants where the special reigns supreme

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The specials at these restaurants won’t let you down.

Bud’s Custom Meats

3027 IA-22, Riverside

Bud’s has some of the best quality meats in the Iowa City area, but they are also famous for their house-smoked ribs, available every Saturday. Here’s the catch though: Bud’s is only open until noon on Saturdays, and they are known to sell out of the beautiful slabs of this carnivorous treasure. No one will judge you if you choose to eat them with your bare hands in your car in the parking lot; they’re that good. Pick up some of their award-winning jerky or fresh-cut steaks, and shop their frozen section for specialized meats, cuts and house-made sausages. Located right off Highway 218, you’ll notice Bud’s is powered by solar panels as you turn into this meat-lovers’ home away from home.

Hilltop Tavern’s hot pork sandwich, served with mashed potatoes and gravy — Frankie Schneckloth/Little Village

Hilltop Tavern

1100 N Dodge St, Iowa City

One of Iowa City’s oldest bars has one of Iowa City’s greatest specials every Friday. The Hilltop Tavern alternates each week between hot roast beef or hot roast pork sandwiches on fresh bread with homemade mashed potatoes and smothered with rich gravy and warm veggies. We had you at homemade mashed potatoes, didn’t we? The Hilltop also has some amazing homemade chocolate chip cookies waiting for you when you pay your tab, and one of the area’s best Bloody Mary’s that comes with a dose of Sriracha for a spicy kick.

Shakespeare’s Tacos

Shakespeare’s Pub & Grill

819 S 1st Ave, Iowa City

You now have plans for the upcoming Tuesday and every one after that, Iowa City. This southeast-side pub runs a taco special for just $1 each from 5-9 p.m. every Tuesday. Chicken, beef, salsa, sour cream, lettuce, black olives, jalapenos, tomatoes and cheese are loaded on the all-important tortillas, while the bartenders keep the cold beverages coming the whole time. Authentic street tacos these are not, but Shakespeare’s does provide a healthy dose of comfort and nostalgia, taking you back to your school cafeteria days. They also have the fryer geared up and ready to prepare one of Johnson County’s best breaded pork tenderloins to go with those tacos. Bet you haven’t considered that combo before, but a Tuesday evening at Shake’s will make you a believer.

Old 218 Tap

108 Main St, Hills

Every Wednesday in Hills you can sink your teeth into a tender and juicy French dip steak sandwich. Just a short drive from Iowa City, this beefy special is served with a rich au jus that soaks right into the fresh roll, keeping every bite moist but intact while you enjoy this classic sandwich. Old 218 Tap is a local oasis and well worth driving the extra couple miles. They’re also known for some of the best and most creative burgers in the area, including a selection of other great sandwiches, wings and ribeye specials sizzling off the charbroiler.

Vivian’s Soul Food

4342 16th Ave SW, Cedar Rapids

The undisputed winner in the comfort category is and will probably always be soul food, and Cedar Rapids is home to a soul food superstar. Order any of the specials at Vivian’s Soul Food and let the staff pile on the sides. Fried chicken and catfish are an easy choice, and while you can’t go wrong with either, don’t forget to see what else they have featured. Beef lovers, rejoice! Vivian’s delivers on short ribs, meatloaf and tender slow-cooked oxtails. Entrees are always the headliner, but don’t feel bad if you just get sides with sides and a side of sides; your options are corn bread, baked mac ‘n’ cheese, red beans and rice, collard greens, spaghetti and a lot more. Just try to leave this place without a helping of banana pudding!

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From Aug. 1-Sept. 30, cast your vote for your favorite places, people, eats and entertainment around the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City area.

Don't forget to explain your picks! The best answers will be published in LV's Best of the CRANDIC issue, out Dec. 3, 2019.