The Takeaway: Dunn Brothers Coffee in Coralville gets the small things right

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Photos by Tiffani Green, collage by Chosie Titus

The Takeaway is a restaurant review series from Tiffani Green focused on the saving grace for foodies during a pandemic: takeout and delivery.

Coffee shops are my natural habitat. I came of age and figured out who I was in coffee shops. I seek them out on every vacation. I have built entire friendships out of running into people at coffee shops on the same day at the same time every week. They are where I go to people watch over the top of a book, soothed by the hiss of steam wands and the rhythmic motion of milk being poured into espresso. They are the lifeblood of the communities they serve. Even in pandemic times, it’s a place where you can pull up to a drive through window and see the same friendly faces week after week and spend a moment savoring something that feels normal.

Given the significance of coffee shops in my life and the fact that I’ve recently moved, I was on the hunt for a new spot that was near my home and had a drive-through, since we are once again having to keep our distance in order to keep each other safe. Enter Dunn Brothers Coffee, a mere five-minute drive from my apartment.

Dunn Brothers is a chain of coffee shops founded in 1987 by brothers Ed and Dan Dunn with a focus on small-batch coffee roasting and fresh, made-from-scratch menu items. Though Dunn Brothers is a chain, many locations are locally owned, including the one in Coralville. Located at 3284 Crosspark Rd and opened in 2018, it’s owned by married couple Alexandra and DeAngelo Seay, Iowa natives hailing from Keokuk, Iowa. A few years ago, they decided they’d like to work for themselves doing something that would utilize their backgrounds in marketing, catering and finance. Alex had patronized a Dunn Brothers location in Burlington and becoming franchisees seemed like the right fit for them.

I decided to make a mid-afternoon trip to their drive-through for lunch (though you can order for delivery). Dunn Brothers offers a range of coffee options, including regular drip coffee, cold brew and specialty and seasonal drinks. I’m a creature of habit, so I ordered my long-standing usual: an oat milk latte. You can tell a lot about a coffee shop by the way they execute simple things, especially a drink with no sugar and a non-dairy milk substitute. The latte I got at Dunn Brothers rivaled those I’ve had at the favorite coffee shops I frequented while living in Cedar Rapids. The espresso was smooth, and the oat milk was creamy and earthy, without a trace of the grittiness you can sometimes detect if it’s not steamed properly. Importantly, it was also hot, but not steamed to such a high temperature that I had to let it cool down before I could enjoy it.

Dunn Brothers avocado toast. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

My lunch was similarly an example of simple fare well executed. I ordered their almond chicken salad sandwich and they nailed all the little details that separate a mediocre sandwich from a truly enjoyable one. The bread was substantial and had been toasted, the tomatoes were juicy and had good flavor which is something of a feat this late in the year. The greens were a crisp spring mix instead of a plain piece of romaine. The chicken salad itself was delicious with cubes of juicy chicken, red grapes, dried cranberries and celery in an olive oil mayo. It came with a bag of regular kettle chips.

These two items represent just a fraction of the things available at Dunn Brothers, which has a full breakfast and lunch menu and pastries available every day. I plan on making many more trips and trying many more items. And in what I hope is the not-too-distant future when we get to reclaim some of our pre-COVID pleasures, I plan to visit with a book, do some people watching and make some friends.

Presented by CHOMP Delivery

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