If you’re looking to hit the town, but can’t sit still for an all-night, multi-course affair, count on the following destinations for quality small plates and cocktails.
209 N. Linn St., Iowa City
Start on the Northside at Brix, which has a warm, homey interior and offers an excellent, regularly changing assortment of cheese, charcuterie, beer and wine. Portions on their cheeseboards are generous. If it’s available, make sure to try the Cypress Grove Truffle Tremor, a goat cheese flecked with black truffle, as well as Iowa’s own Milton Creamery Prairie Breeze aged cheddar. Ask the knowledgeable staff for their recommended wine pairings.
117 N. Linn St., Iowa City
After Brix, head down the street to Devotay, where the dimly lit atmosphere and excellent selection of Spanish and Portuguese wines has led to many romantic evenings. They have an expansive list of tapas, but make sure that you try the chorizo with mushroom and sherry, and also their lamb and beef meatballs in hazelnut pepper sauce. The staff is accommodating and patient, so do like the Spanish: Relax and take your time exploring their many options.
210 S. Dubuque St., Iowa City
Next, head to the heart of the Ped Mall. Located on the first floor of the Sheraton Hotel, the spirit of Share is captured in the name. Small plates, like braised lamb in green curry or the smoked chicken and caramelized onion quesadilla, make up much of the menu; chefs draw inspiration from various global cuisines. Their patio is right next to the summer music stage and is a prime outdoor dining spot in the warmer months.
18 ½ S. Clinton St., Iowa City
Finish the night at Clinton Street Social Club. Though it can be painfully crowded at times, try to belly up to the bar for some creative, delicious food and a cocktail.
Their inventive and fun cocktail list offers one of the better selections of boutique spirits in the area; if you’re in the market for a glass of Pappy Van Winkle 15-year bourbon, this is your place. (But the cheaper stuff’s tasty, too.) Their food menu draws much inspiration from hearty American cuisine.
Taste their deviled eggs—then loosen your belt and dig into some house-battered cheese curds, a grilled artichoke with tarragon aioli and a decadent small plate of chili-glazed pork belly.