The world at your forktips: 15 international restaurants and markets throughout the CRANDIC

From empanadas to masala, jollof rice to donburi, let these international eateries take your tastebuds on a trip.

Pinoy Cafe

1100 3rd St SE, Cedar Rapids
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Blanche Vega’s Filipino restaurant, Pinoy Cafe, got its start in a small spot in Cedar Rapids’ NewBo City Market in 2018. Vega graduated to a slightly larger space before finally securing a stall with grill and vent capabilities where she could expand her menu. The multiple upheavals of business were worth it as the grill items she’s added are perfectly executed and absolutely delectable. It’s impossible to go wrong, no matter what you order, but the barbeque chicken skewers are moist and flavorful with just the right amount of charred bits. The three piece combo with rice makes a satisfying lunch and the pork adobo is actually addictive. After you’ve finished, you’ll think of it fondly and quickly plan the next time you can visit. Pinoy also serves traditional Filipino dessert options like halo-halo and crispy sweet turon served a la mode. The halo-halo — shaved ice layered with milk, fruits, flan and brilliantly colored ube ice cream — incorporates a variety of textures and flavors and a painter’s palette of colors, making a truly refreshing treat.

Jordan Sellergren/Little Village

Maestro Empanadas

423 10th Ave, Coralville
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What was once a seasonal operation at the Iowa City Farmers Market way back in 2012 has become so much more. Cristian Bejarano opened a brick and mortar shop to sell his ever popular empanadas in 2015 and has continued to grow from there. He now sells his signature herby chimichurri by the jarful and a frozen version of his empanadas at New Pioneer Co-op and local Hy-Vee stores, but you still can’t beat a fresh order picked up right from their takeout-only location. The handheld Argentinian delights are loaded with assorted protein and vegetables and baked to perfection; the Humita and Quinoa empanadas are particularly good if you’re looking for a recommendation, but there’s something for every palate on the menu. When you pick up your order, save yourself the trouble and add a bag of your favorite frozen ones (for a quick and satisfying meal later) and a 12 ounce jar of the chimichurri. If you order an assortment of flavors, pay attention to the crimping along the edges; every flavor has its own crimping pattern to save you from cutting them open or guessing. If you need something sweet to end the meal, sample the alfajores de maizena. These little cornstarch cookies sandwiched with caramel and rolled in coconut melt in your mouth.


921 Blairs Ferry Rd NE #150, Cedar Rapids
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Step through the doors of this Indian street-food fusion restaurant in Cedar Rapids and you are transported. It’s clear this is not your run-of-the-mill traditional Indian restaurant. The considered decor and seating arrangements alone show a holistic approach to sharing an authentic slice of culture: Indian inspired textiles frame booths for a more intimate feeling, and the low slung village-style seating is nestled into richly patterned pillows, billowy tapestries and glowing lanterns for a more immersive dining experience. The food is handled with the same approach. Delhicacy offers the hits you see at many an Indian buffet, but much of the menu is focused on street and fusion food, highlighting the food people actually eat when dining out in India. Think: tacos and burritos loaded with curry, chutney and housemade slaw, globally inspired poutine smothered with butter masala and slow-roasted vegetables served with buttery buns. Signature cocktails, non-alcoholic beverages and dessert options follow with the same inventive yet authentic flair. The deliciously creamy housemade mango lassis are available bottled for take-home consumption as well and the mango faluda (available at dinner service only) is exquisite. That same mango lassi is blended with ice cream and mixed with crunchy sweet sev noodles, basil and papaya chunks for the ultimate end-of-dinner bite.

Crêpes de Luxe Cafe

309 E College St, Iowa City

Head chef and owner Hicham Chehouani previously worked as a chef throughout the Mediterranean before moving to the United States and opening Crêpes de Luxe. The delicately prepared crêpes he creates are an authentic taste of French cuisine. Crêpes de Luxe offers both sweet and savory crêpes in countless flavor combinations, with gluten-free options available by request. The crêperie is more than worthy of a visit just about any day of the year, but a meal after the snow has melted — think late February or early March, when you can’t exactly sort out what season it is — means the opportunity to sample Le Printemps. This fan-favorite crêpe utilizes fresh asparagus, a classic harbinger of spring, and pairs it beautifully with mozzarella, homemade aioli, turkey bacon, pesto sauce and a sunny-side-up egg. It’s available only in the seasonal window when asparagus is at its peak. Call ahead to be sure it’s on offer if it’s the only one for you. Otherwise, strike up a conversation with the friendly owners, Hicham or Fadwa, or their staff. They can absolutely guide you towards your new favorite crêpe.

Szechuan House in Iowa City — Jason Smith/Little Village

Szechuan House

320 E Burlington St, Iowa City
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If you’re looking for authentic Chinese food, something beyond just the Americanized dishes you see everywhere, you’ve come to the right spot. The vast menu at Szechuan House will take some time to explore and it’s best done in-person with some hungry friends. You’ll get the full experience should you choose to embark on a hot pot journey, and you can order a bunch of dishes to really make a dent in the menu. The dine-in presentation of the food is an added bonus. Some highlights from the menu: The deceptively tame-looking cold Szechuan noodle dish is fiery, numbing and all at once addictive, the dry sauteed shredded potato hits on a harmonious blend of spicy and sour notes; and the decadent string beans studded with pork will be something you’ll order again and again. The succulent crispy duck or the griddled cabbage also make an excellent order. Or even the eggplant with pork. Ordering a hot pot set is an easy way to satisfy a group of eaters. The flavorful broth simmers away in front of you on a little burner as you cook your own thinly sliced meat and vegetables in the bubbling cauldron. It’s an interactive dining experience for you and your dinner companions and one not to be overlooked.

Tee’s Liberian Dish in Cedar Rapids — Malcolm MacDougall/Little Village

Tee’s Liberian Dish

1271 1st Ave SE, Cedar Rapids
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Opened in the summer of 2021, this delicious Liberian restaurant on a main drag in Cedar Rapids is one not to miss. Owned by Teepeu Pewu and operated with the help of her family, the restaurant offers a selection of West African dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. For those new to Liberian cuisine, a great entry point is jollof rice: succulent chicken mixed with onions and sweet peppers and flecked with sausage. The whole tilapia sided by a portion of plantain and brightly colored vegetables is a winning choice as well, though it does take a little extra time to prepare. Do not be deterred; your wait will be handsomely rewarded when you take your first bite. The peanut butter soup is also outrageously delicious, packed with bold rich flavor and spice, so be sure to add that to your mix as well. The portions of everything on the menu are more than generous, so grab a friend, treat yourself and sample the menu.

Ramen Belly

1010 Martin St, Iowa City
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This tiny ramen shop in Iowa City’s Peninsula neighborhood serves up classic Japanese cuisine — ramen, poke bowls and donburi — all customized to your taste and specifications. Start with one of their two ramen preparations and add your protein, select your sauce and throw in some extra avocados or jalapenos if that’s your thing. They’ve even got a Baby Ramen bowl for the tiniest noodle lovers. The poke bowls provide the same flexibility in regards to protein and sauce and are loaded with seasoned rice, tangy seaweed salad and house pickles. The menu is small and uncomplicated by endless overwhelming options. The team at Ramen Belly have picked a handful of things to execute with precision, and it’s refreshing to experience as a patron. In the warmer months, the patio is a welcome addition to the compact space, offering both bistro tables and chairs as well as comfortable lounge furniture.

City Market

2301 2nd St Unit 1A, Coralville

Open for three years, this cavernous store just off the Coralville strip specializes in Asian and Middle Eastern grocery staples and Halal meat and grocery. The store sees weekly deliveries of local fresh Halal meat — something that sets them apart from other area stores — and is patronized by a mix of customers.

Instead of rushing in and making a beeline for the specific items on your list, take your time and wander through the aisles. You’ll find locally made Sudanese breads and crackers, trays of plump, glossy dates and Moroccan bath soaps and oils in addition to fresh produce, dried fish and assorted canned goods. If you’re curious about an ingredient or an item, just ask. The owner, Ahmed, is friendly and eager to share.

Singh Gill at K Brothers in Coralville — Zak Neumann/Little Village

K Brothers

2058 8th St, Coralville
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K Brothers opened in Coralville in April 2021 and stocks its shelves with mostly Indian products. As soon as you enter the door, you encounter stacked cases of beautiful fresh produce. On a recent visit, the selection included bitter gourd, glossy eggplants and crisp menthi, among many others.

Owner Singh Gill said he sees customers from all over the world visiting his shop and he helpfully pointed us in the direction of his son’s favorite snack mix and the best ice cream treats in the frozen section. We chose the pistachio ice cream layered with rose petals and packaged in tiny terracotta pots, but there were many other delicious options. You’ll find the aisles filled with pantry staples like rice and coconut milk, spices and breads in addition to frozen entrees.

Euro Food

1210 S Gilbert St Ste 100, Iowa City
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A true family-run business, Euro Food is owned and operated by Maxim Avdonin, his wife Yelena and daughter Marina and brings a taste of “home” to Iowa City for those missing their favorites from Ukraine, Russia and the Baltic countries. They offer a large selection of products prepared according to “old home recipes” ranging from dense flavorful rye breads and rich European butters, to frozen dumplings and sausages and salamis. They were just recently issued a home bakery license as well as a liquor license. Yelena keeps the case stocked with delicious baked goods. The honey cake is truly exceptional, and though it’s offered in both half and full size options, if you’re smart, you’ll purchase the big one. A selection of European wines and beers rounds out the offerings at this family-owned operation. Visit their Facebook page and you’ll stay in step with in-store specials and new products that arrive daily, and you’re likely to learn a thing or two about traditional ingredients, dishes and preparations. If you can’t make the trek to Iowa City, periodically the market will offer a free delivery day to Cedar Rapids, requiring only a minimum order amount, so be on the lookout!

African Family Market

4346 16th Ave SW, Cedar Rapids
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Located on the southwest side of Cedar Rapids, this market specializes in African, South Asian, and Mediterranean food, as well as clothing, cologne and personal care items and has been serving the area for four years. The shelves are loaded with a variety of flours, cooking oils and pantry staples, and there’s countless reach-in freezers and coolers packed with frozen proteins ranging from goat, chicken feet, turkey tails, liver and kidney, barracuda and salt fish.

Saigon Market

803 2nd Ave SE, Cedar Rapids

One of the highlights of Saigon Market is the walk-in cooler tucked in the back corner; you’ll find it filled with all sorts of fresh, good-looking produce. The staff is super friendly and helpful and will point you in the right direction of whatever it is you’re looking for. The market is well-stocked with Asian staples: noodles, rice, seaweed, sauces and seasonings and also has a nice selection of proteins — duck and duck eggs, tofu and baby bonito — as well. They used to make an incredible banh mi sandwich but haven’t recently because of COVID. Maybe, fingers crossed, they will make a return in the future.

Don’t Miss These Spots!

For the Australian cafe experience

St. Kilda

300 SW 5th St, Des Moines
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A trip to Australia might not be in your immediate future, but a daytrip to Des Moines is something easier to knock out. The relaxed vibe and elevated healthy, modern food at St. Kilda delivers the experience of the Aussie cafe scene without the 24-hour flight and jet lag.

For those days when you forgot your lunch…or forgot to prep dinner… or both

Le Gourmet

201 S Clinton St, Iowa City
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This restaurant is nestled in the corner of Iowa City’s Old Capitol Town Center right by the bus stop and serves an array of Korean snacks, noodle and rice bowls and lunchboxes with a protein and a selection of five traditional Korean side dishes that change weekly. Pick up something tasty for lunch or sneak out of work a little early to grab your dinner order!

For those Iowa Citians hungry for African cuisine

I Love Fufu in Iowa City — Jordan Sellergren/Little Village

I Love Fufu

230 E Benton St, Iowa City
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The menu here covers a lot of geographical turf but specializes in dishes from Africa and the Caribbean. Ranging from North African favorites like lamb kebabs and falafel to West African dishes like jollof rice and okra stew to Caribbean specialties jerk chicken, rice and beans, there’s something to satisfy everyone.

This article was originally published in the 2022 Bread & Butter dining guide.

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