Iowa City, IA City Guide

Photos by Rachel Jessen

Today’s Iowa City Guide comes from Emileigh Barnes Williams, a graduate of the University of Mississippi’s MFA program in poetry and the University of Iowa School of Journalism. While Iowa isn’t exactly a vacation hot-spot, Iowa City is a fabulous literary town — home to the famed Iowa Writers’ Workshop, it’s also a UNESCO City of Literature and a place where students can live in a converted Carnegie library. Today, Emileigh takes us on a tour of this vibrant and entertaining city. Thanks, Emileigh, for this wonderful guide! — Stephanie

Read the full guide after the jump . . .

When I tell people I went to college in Iowa, the one question everyone asks is, “Why?”

Sometimes they’ll say, “Oh Iowa — potatoes.” Sometimes they’ll get it slightly less wrong and say, “Oh Iowa — corn.” But people rarely give the Hawkeye State credit for the progressive, impressive place that it is. Iowa was third in the U.S. in allowing gay marriages, at the forefront of women’s rights and a major player in getting Obama into the White House.

Within the state, Iowa City is the cultural epicenter, home to the University of Iowa and its famed Writers’ Workshop. The city was recently named a UNESCO City of Literature, one of only six in the world. And for good reason. There are readings, concerts and restaurants to rival much bigger metropolises. One popular student apartment complex is a converted Carnegie library. The city is vibrant, relevant and, yes, totally worth the trip.

Drink

If you’re vacationing in a literary town, you don’t want to miss its libations. Here are a few favorite watering holes:

The Fox Head: Looking for a writer’s bar? This is the place. Located in Iowa City’s Northside neighborhood, the Fox Head is a gathering place for graduate students post-workshop, where, historically, they’ve rehashed their successes and failures.

George’s: Another favorite haunt for the Writers’ Workshop, George’s is right down the street from the Fox Head. In addition to standard beer and liquors, George’s also offers a cheeseburger that’s both cheap and acclaimed.

John’s Grocery: While you’re on the north side of town, stop by John’s. It isn’t a bar, but the store stocks more than 450 beers and 1,500 wines. And while you’re there, you can enjoy the building itself, which, built in 1848, is one of Iowa City’s oldest.

Mondo’s Saloon: Owned by local restaurant giants the Mondanaros, Saloon is the best place for tequila. They have more than 25 high-quality tequilas on their menu. Located downtown with indoor and outdoor seating, stop by between 2pm and 6pm for half-price appetizers and $3 sangrias. Wednesdays are half-price specialty margaritas. I’m partial to the pineapple and black pepper flavor.

The Vine: This vibrant (read: loud) tavern was one of my favorite places to frequent as an undergrad. More than once I blew my paycheck on cheese fries and $1 apple pie shots, back when my paycheck was easily blown on one dinner and one-dollar shots. Even though I’ve left those years behind, I’d gladly go back to the tavern, especially for the “Vine Steins,” which start at $3 on Tuesdays.

If alcohol isn’t your thing, Iowa City has plenty of coffee shops where you can relax and pound out the next American classic. The Java House downtown made the list of America’s Best 50 College Coffee Shops. It doesn’t disappoint, but it stays busy, so be prepared to give your table up if you aren’t actively sipping a drink. For a more relaxing cup of joe, try Fair Grounds Cafe or Capanna Coffee.

Sleep

hotelVetro: Budget Travel Magazine named this hotel one of the Top 100 Best Values in the World. Sophisticated, modern (think concrete floors) and dog friendly, hotelVetro also takes pride in being environmentally friendly. They make their pens from recycled plastic and their room keys from corn by-products. Their location is ideal, in the heart of downtown, and guests have access to the Iowa City Fitness Center and its heated indoor pool.

Sheraton: Next door to hotelVetro, the Sheraton is a more tried-and-true, classic Iowa City stay. Amenities include a heated pool and fitness center. Also dog friendly and also environmentally minded, the Sheraton offers guests a $5 voucher (at participating businesses) for each night they decline housekeeping.

Cantebury Inn: I have a soft spot for the quirky, and in that category this joint reigns supreme. From its misspelled referential name and its pool complete with a window to the hotel’s restaurant and its mock-Tudor existence in a commercial part of town, this place is wacky and fun. Located in Coralville, Iowa, it’s right next door to Iowa City, and it’s cheaper than what you’ll find in downtown IC.

The Bostick House & University Guest Houses are a series of historic homes near campus and downtown. These are available to visiting scholars, writers and business travelers.

Eat

Motley Cow Cafe: If you’re looking for seasonal, local, humanely sourced food, Iowa City has a lot to offer, and Motley Cow is one of the most popular. During the summer, Motley Cow sources about 85 percent of its vegetables from Johnson County. In an agricultural state, it’s something you’d expect to see everywhere but don’t. They have a smaller menu but change it regularly depending on what they can buy. On the menu right now: grilled grass-run farm steak frites with a bacon sabayon.

Hamburg Inn No. 2: One of Iowa’s most famous grease spots, the Hamburg Inn has been visited by Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. It’s been featured in the Washington Post and on NPR. Come here for burgers, pie, shakes and fries. I had a teacher once who was an avid runner, and she would only visit the Hamburg Inn on her birthday. To eat an entire pecan pie.

Oasis is on the same city block as Hamburg Inn and has hands-down the best falafel I’ve ever eaten, ever. Seriously. I’d consider going to Iowa City for Oasis alone.

One Twenty Six: For fine dining downtown, visit One Twenty Six. Their whole menu is superb, but I happen to love eating here for lunch. They have sandwiches, such as the grilled eggplant panini and the slow braised free-range chicken sandwich, each served with incomprehensibly delicious warm potato salad.

Atlas: Also downtown, Atlas consistently features seasonal foods on its menu. A local favorite is the buffalo chicken wrap, in which you’ll find fried chicken, wing sauce, mashed potatoes, celery and blue cheese or ranch dressing. Like many restaurants in this college town, Atlas has a full-service bar, too. Enjoy a Bloody Mary complete with blue cheese-stuffed olives.

Masala: Around the corner from Atlas, the service isn’t fast at this Indian joint, but it’s worth the wait. Farmers’ market vegetables are cooked in Indian spices, and with a dining capacity of fewer than 50, this space is never too crowded. Ask to make any of their dishes vegan.

The Airliner: You can’t write up a guide to a college town without including at least one place where you can grab a slice. The Airliner has been open in Iowa City for 60 years, and it does have fabulous pizza, among other fare. It was one of Tom Brokaw’s favorite spots when he was a student at the UI. (Brokaw says he majored in “beer and co-eds” at the University of Iowa; he eventually dropped out.) The Airliner is a great place to watch the Hawkeyes play on TV. Or if you’re inside on a Friday football weekend, you may hear members of the pep band as they swing through the downtown bars performing.

Trumpet Blossom Cafe: Come here for vegan fare. They just opened this year, and Taco Tuesdays feature items like seasoned seitan tacos and $5 margaritas.

The Farmer’s Market: If you’re in town between May and October, be sure to stop by this event. Wednesdays from 5 to 7 and Saturdays from 7:30 to noon, the market — located at Chauncey Swan Ramp and Park across from City Hall — is packed with vendors. With everything from local produce to handmade baklava, it’s impossible to leave here without something delicious in tow.

New Pioneer Food Co-Op: Right across from the Farmer’s Market, the Co-Op is open year round and has a wicked food counter. It also has a broad selection of organic produce, take-home deserts and freshly baked breads.

Observe

The Pedestrian Mall: One of the nicest things about strolling through Iowa City is the Ped Mall in the heart of downtown. It’s exactly what it sounds like, a mall only for pedestrians. Some of the best shops and restaurants are located here, and if you’re visiting in the summer months, there’s a fountain and a playground open to the public. I’ve been at the Ped Mall to witness both spontaneous parades as well as a speech by Barack Obama.

“1142,” also known as the Grant Wood House, the painter of American Gothic, lived here for the last seven years of his life. He remodeled the house himself and hand made much of its furniture. It’s now on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Literary Walk features the work of nearly 50 writers, all of which have a connection with Iowa. Spanning Iowa Avenue, the walk shows excerpts, quotations and biographies in bronze relief panels. Prairie Lights Bookstore and Iowa Book sell pamphlets with in-depth information.

Hancher Auditorium was severely damaged in the 2008 floods, but this university theater still hosts world-famous shows (think Joffrey Ballet) at several venues in town.

University Art Museum: Don’t take this university museum for anything less than an exceptional collection. The museum owns works by Joan Miró, Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp and Henri Matisse, as well as a notorious painting by Jackson Pollock that the Board of Regents occasionally tries to force the university to sell, much to the chagrin of academics and residents. Luckily, all the art was safely evacuated when the 2008 flood ravaged the museum. Today, the art is still dispersed to several remote locations, but the museum’s website has plenty of information about galleries and locations for visitors.

Riverside Theatre puts on plays, musicals and festivals each year from September to April. Then in June and July, they have an outdoor season in Iowa City’s Lower City Park.

The Old Capitol was the first state capitol of Iowa. This landmark, located downtown, is a National Historic Landmark with a beautifully decorated museum inside.

The Englert Theatre has hosted everyone from Noam Chomsky to Pentatonix. It first opened in 1912 and was rebuilt after a fire in 1926. Today it remains Iowa City’s historic home for arts.

Paperback Rhino is Iowa City’s improvisation group. Their shows will leave you creased up with laughter.

Talk Art: If you’re lucky enough to be in town for one of these Writers’ Workshop readings, don’t miss it. Featuring fiction writers and poets, they’re not widely publicized and don’t always draw big crowds, but make no mistake, these are the literary voices of tomorrow. Check for fliers downtown or stop by the Dey House and ask for more information.

The Mill is a popular venue for bands. The acoustics aren’t fabulous in this bar and restaurant, but the space is intimate, and the drink specials and performances more than make up for it. So does the food, if you’re hungry. The Mill also cooks with local ingredients purchased at the Iowa City Farmers’ Market.

Public Space ONE: Located in the basement of the Jefferson Building downtown, Public Space ONE is booked by musicians, writers, videographers, theater productions and more. They’re open Tuesday through Saturday.

Summer of the Arts is responsible for several Iowa City events, including the Iowa Arts Festival, Iowa City Jazz Festival, Friday Night Concert Series and Saturday Night Free Movie Series. All their events are free and open to the public.

Read

I had a high school teacher who swore that a person could judge the merits of a town based on its bookstores, and if that’s the case, Iowa City’s in good shape.

Prairie Lights has been open since 1978, and if you have any interest in the literary world, you’ve probably heard its name. The store boasts three and half floors and a coffee shop and has hosted some of literature’s biggest players, including e.e. cummings, Robert Frost, Langston Hughes and more. World-class readings are scheduled often, but arrive early if you want a seat.

Daydreams Comics: Located downtown, Daydreams Comics carries comic books, graphic novels and manga. They have old and new comics, with new shipments arriving weekly.

The Haunted Bookshop is Iowa City’s home for used and rare titles. Stop by this shop on the Northside and peruse the more than 40,000 books inside.

Bring Something Home

AKAR downtown sells ceramics, textiles, glass and other designs by national and international artists and designers.

Soap Opera, located in the Ped Mall, has supplied hotelVetro with their soap supplies, and their store features a wonderful collection, including several made-in-Iowa brands.

Revival: Also in the Ped Mall, this new and vintage store is home to moderately priced but fabulous vintage dresses, locket watches and locally designed items.

Artifacts: In the spirit of great finds on the cheap, Artifacts on Iowa City’s Northside has amazing vintage housewares, postcards, furniture and clothes. Digging through suitcases of vintage jewelry here is like rifling around in a real-life treasure chest.

RSVP is just down the street from Artifacts and has great stationery and supplies. My favorite find was a card with a letterpressed horseshoe crab and this inscription: “You are strange and wonderful.”

Out of Town but Worth the Drive

Amana Colonies: Seven villages make up this national historic landmark. They were settled by German Pietists in 1855, and they lived here in a communal society until the 1930s. Today, visitors can enjoy restaurants and see woodworking shops, craft shops and Millstream brewery.

Solon Beef Days is an annual July festival 12 miles outside Iowa City. It’s free to the public and features music and entertainment. Attendees enjoy bike rides, hay bale tosses, horseshoe tournaments and more. And, of course, ribeye steak dinners are served both nights.

Riverside Iowa: Here you’ll find the future birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk (March 22, 2228). Riverside hosts an annual birthday celebration in honor of the USS Enterprise’s captain. Year round, fans can find a plaque commemorating his birthplace behind a local barbershop. Also, the Voyage Home Museum is free to the public. Just call first to make sure someone’s there.

Notable Area Residents

Roberto Ampuero (fiction writer and designated “Illustrious son” of Valparaiso)
Ethan Canin (fiction writer and Guggenheim Fellowship winner)
Thomas Cech (Nobel Prize winner in chemistry)
James Galvin (poet)
James T. Kirk (future resident)
Alex Ko (Broadway actor)
James Alan McPherson (fiction writer and MacArthur Fellowship recipient)
Marilynne Robinson (fiction writer and Pulitzer Prize winner)
Russell Stover (candy maker)
Grant Wood (artist)

Amanda

Yay for Iowa City! I grew up near IC and lived there for six years while in college (also a U of I Journalism grad) and after. So fun to see it featured here!

MsAmanda

You forgot a grilled cheese with ranch to dip your crinkle cut fries in at Mickey’s! Get a book at Prairie Lights and hunker down in a booth right next door.

Seriously though, great list for a great town. Iowa City is a gem. And I can say with certainty as an East Coast gal who now calls the great state of Iowa home, some people may think “…Iowa isn’t exactly a vacation hot-spot,” but its a very special place, indeed.

cait b

Too funny… I just got recently back from a trip with my mother to Iowa City. I didn’t expect to find it on DesignSponge, but it is definitely deserving!

Sadly, I had little time to shop while I was there, but I will say that Trumpet Blossom is amazing – the best meal I had the entire trip! – and a totally welcome vegetarian-friendly place, which may be exactly what you need if you’re touring the pork-and-potatoes countryside around Iowa City.

I also want to add the Brown Street Inn to the list of places to stay! A quick walk from downtown, we were so, so glad to have stayed there. The proprietors (Mark and his husband) were lovely and incredibly helpful, plus they have an adorable (not-allowed-inside-the-B&B) cat and fantastic spread of food each breakfast.

I’ll have to equip myself with this list next time I’m in town! Thanks!

Sarah

Iowa City on Design Sponge! Never thought I’d see the day. I’ve lived here 8 years. It’s a great place to live!

victoria | milkfed press

Don’t forget to check out the Center for the Book! We hear about NY’s, but this is the real deal. Check out Tim Barrett’s Paper Making Lab, as well. He is amazing !! and also provides the best conservation papers around.

Alison C.

Hey, I live here! I would add Banditos as a great place to eat –especially their soft tacos during happy hour. Great margaritas too! RSVP is my favorite store. Decorum (next to Artifacts and Banditos) is a wonderful shop. And I never hear bad things about Her Soup Kitchen.

Morgan

You can’t have true iowa city experience with out a visit to Pagliai’s Pizza to eat! It has been a main stay in town for over 50 years!

alexandra

Wow! So happy to see this as I live here as well. My favorites places to eat are Atlas, Her Soup Kitchen and Stella. And I definitley go to Java House pretty regularly for their good coffee!

Candace

So please to see my home state featured on Design Sponge! Way to go Iowa City and thank you to Design Sponge for shining some light no the midwest :) If you’re road tripping, stop by Dubuque, too!

Dawn

Yay! Love seeing my town on D*S! I must mention two things not on the list: the Macbride Raptor Project, an organization that cares for and treats injured birds of prey, is about a 15 minute drive north of Iowa City and is totally worth the short trip to visit with some owls, hawks, and eagles (I’ve volunteered here for 6 years). Also, Iowa City’s very own alternative bi-weekly publication, Little Village Magazine (littlevillagemag.com), is where it’s AT to find out about the cool happenings in town. Art, live shows, literary events, etc. – it’s all there. Cheers to D*S!

Thomas

And Design Ranch! They are super friendly (not usually the case in design stores!) and stock beautiful contemporary and mid-century furniture, lights, and other interesting things. Many of the pieces in D*S houses/shoots are available there. And free espresso samples!

Also like a previous person said, Decorum is a great store right down the row from Artifacts.

Aaand Short’s Burgers serves delicious, local burgers and only Iowa beers on tap. Mmm.

cait

yay! i also grew up near iowa city & i’m so glad it’s getting this recognition. i would also point out the store white rabbit. lots of cool handmade, local things, like different ephemera & clothes. they also have a decent vintage selection.

Wendy

I am a lifelong resident, so am biased, but anyone with an eye for design should also check out Beadology, downtown on Washington Street. It is by far, the best bead and art glass jewelry store in the Midwest, if not the nation. Jewelry, design and instruction in a wonderfully inspiring atmosphere.

Kristin

Since we’re including the deceased on our list of notable residents, I feel like we should definitely include the late Professor James Van Allen, one of the most significant space scientists of the 20th century.

Paola

Ooh! Also a little drive, but totally worth it is the Lincoln Cafe in Mount Vernon. Easily the best meal I’ve had in the 4+ years I’ve lived in Iowa.

Spain

I.C. is one of those amazing towns that flies under the radar, but that’s okay for me.

jennifer

the list of famous and infamous writers who studied here, taught here and read here is too long to even start. they include innumerable (okay, you can number them, but you get the idea) Pulitzer, MacArthur, PEN, and Nation Book Award prize/award winners. but since you mentioned him… James Alan McPherson is not only a MacArthur award winner, but also the first black man to win the Pulitzer Prize.

and as a short aside: UI is the first university to admit all races on a equal basis and first to graduate a woman (and one with a J.D.) in the US. i’m not bragging, but if you got it….

Iowa Guru

You failed to mention two of the best places to eat in town, NODO, with excellent sweet potatoes fries and everything else on their menu, and Her Soup Kitchen, a quick walk from downtown to fresh salads, soups, and sandwiches with a friendly smile from the owner. The Orchard Green restaurant is by far the best high-end food in town, hands down.
You should add to the list a very vibrant yoga scene, with Downward Dog Yoga in Coralville leading the way for all things bendy.
Finally a piece about Iowa City without a mention of Kent Park is a list that needs to be revised.

Lisa

I was so pleased to see this pop up on my Google Reader today! A recently departed Iowan to the South (hopefully for just a few years), it is wonderful to read about the truly wonderful places I grew to love. I think the only place that also deserved a mention is Pagliai’s Pizza. Such a wonderful family atmosphere, the pizza is tasty, and my family has celebrated every graduation there for the past decade. Okay, definitely feeling homesick! But great, comprehensive list.

Lauren

The little stretch with Artifacts, Banditos, and Decorum (as well as the Blue Bird Diner) was my favorite part of town! Great list, neat to see Iowa City on Design Sponge.

Tisha

I moved to Iowa City back in August from a larger city (Dallas) and I must say that I’m really satisfied with everything it has to offer. There is so much going on in this place that I’ve barely scratched the surface in my discovery. I look forward to learning more about my new home

Mary

Awesome to see my college town on Design Sponge! I am moving away for a few months, and I definitely will miss it. I also like Sanctuary Pub’s (S. Gilbert and Court St) draft and imported beers. I always go to Atlas for my birthday. Their buffalo chicken burrito is the bomb! And for shopping, I suggest Revival, which has some really amazing vintage clothing. I’ve found some amazing steals there! :)

calivn

And don’t forget the Iowa City Public Library. The anchor of downtown.

MB@YarnUiPhoneApp

OK…I’m all about yarn as my Take home piecece of rememberance. Where do you go to get your knitting on? I mean I love Iowa spuds…but they go straight to the hips! I need something with less calories and will last a lot longer. Yarn/knitting shops in these city guides! Pleeze! Feed the knitters in your audience!!!

Rachel A.

Ditto on “Her Soup Kitchen!” That place is wonderful. Also missing on the “worth the drive” portion: the highly acclaimed Lincoln Cafe in Mt. Vernon, IA, which was nominated multiple times for the regional James Beard award and offers the best food in Iowa.

AMY P

yay!!!!!!!!!!!! my home! along with this great list, i would definitely also add what others have: revival (AMAZING), bluebird diner, but ALSO sanctuary pub. the atmosphere in that place is hard to beat.

Anne T

And a river runs through it … right through campus and next to downtown. Lots of trails and reconstructed prairie. Don’t forget Marvin Bell on your list of writers. Numerous festivals make summer fun. And as a former 35-miles-one-way commuter I just love Iowa City’s Rush Minute.

Flutter (Zen Roller Derby)

I LOVE Iowa City!!! Many fond (and fun!) memories were made there. Some of my favorite hangouts back in the day were the Tobacco Bowl and the Hall Mall. Are those still around?

Anna

There is a great craft vibe in Iowa City. Many local shops carry products by local artisans. See The White Rabbit (across from the public library), Revival in the pedmall, or RSVP (a great card and stationary shop in the Northside Market neighborhood. Always wander through the Farmer’s Market for good finds.

Knitters! There are at least two great yarn shops in the area. Home Ec. Workshop has an array of yarn, fabric, and supplies. Not to mention (shh) cupcakes. Check out the Knitter’s Brunch Saturday mornings any time of the year. Home Ec. is located next to the Haunted Bookshop and across from the Hamburg Inn. Crazy Girl Yarn Shop on 5th street in Coralville is also wonderful.

Another Book-lover’s hint. The Northside Market actually has TWO quality bookshops. Murphy-Brookfield books is tucked around the corner. Ask at any of the area businesses for directions.

Kathleen

and don’t forget Murphy Brookfield Used Books, the great French crepe place by the fabulous Public Library, and the many bald eagles that hunt the Iowa River in the winter — one of the great natural sights of the year.

Mary

hey MB@YARNUIPHONEAPP – A good knitting/sewing shop in IA City is Home Ec. Workshop on Linn St across from Hamburg Inn. That’s the only one I’ve visited in IC (I’m a casual knitter), but it’s really great. The owners are very helpful, and they sell a nice array of yarns. You can also see evidence of knitters all over town because almost every tree downtown is yarn bombed! It’s beautiful, and they look so cozy in the winter cold.

Brooke

Born, raised, and colleged! I have a special place in my heart for the IC. It’s full of warmth and character. I get to come back a couple times a year and I savor every moment. I make a point to at least step inside java house, quintons, and a collegy bar (to laugh at drink people of course.) Ahh memories…

Darby

We moved to Iowa City for law school and will never, ever get over how much we loved it. If my man and I get our wish, we’ll retire there. The junk shops are great, the book store is a legend, there are good restaurants everywhere. If you’re cold, sad, or depressed, go get a drink at the incomparable Sanctuary. It’s good for what ails you. Another person mentioned Sanctuary above, but it bears repeating.

Maggie Louise

Excellent list! My younger sister went to University of Iowa so I was lucky enough to visit Iowa City many times. It is such an eclectic, friendly town. Revival remains one of my favorite spots for vintage finds!

Sarah

So many comments mention the Northside Marketplace, which is a wonderful place to have a meal, a drink, go shopping, learn to knit or sew, take in live theatre, and gossip with the locals. When my husband and I visited Iowa City (nearly 20 years ago) one of the first things we noticed (and loved) about Iowa City was the strong presence of local, idependent businesses. It is still true to this day and makes Iowa City distinctive. And we have a wonderful outdoor public pool nestled in a grove of 100-year old oaks and carnival rides in City Park!!

April

So glad you included the buffalo chicken wrap from Atlas! I went to grad school there and you highlighted all the wonderful things I remember about Iowa City. The public library is hands-down the best single library I’ve been to, and I’m a library connoisseur. You can check out framed art for 3 months at a time! Thanks for highlighting this gem.

annie

You GUYS. This post made my day! I’ve lived in Southern Cal, Manhattan, Denver, and went to school in Iowa, where I met my boyfriend who is from Iowa City. It’s one of my favorite places on the planet! We visit Iowa City every summer. We LOVE going out for a night on the town- I can’t say enough good things about pagliai’s pizza, the ped mall, atlas, etc. Way to go, Design*Sponge, for featuring the coolest city I know.

Ainee Beland

Thank you for this review as it makes me want to be there to partake in some of those coffee shops and that Masala restaurant and the other vegan cafe …there goes’ my dieting since it never last. I diet all of my life since I like to eat but stomach is finicky. I am saying thank you and that because of this review I am Iowan at heart.

Linsie

Upon opening this site I was amazed to see a feature of Iowa City! I am about to move out of downtown Iowa City to move to Saint Paul for School. But I have truly enjoyed living in downtown Iowa City. There is another great restaurant and bar that opened recently. Clinton Street Social Club is a wonderful restaurant, serving delightful dishes and coffee in personal french presses. Another favorite is DeLuxe Cakes and Pastries. The location is perfect for a coffee on the patio during the spring and summer.

Nikki

If you’re staying at the hotelVetro, you should really have breakfast or lunch at the Bread Garden Cafe, which is located in the ground level of the same building, offering a buffet style bar where they weigh food by the pound to get the cost. They have delicious mac & cheese and of course fresh soup and homemade bread.

Another great (and cheap) place to check out for lunch is Z’Mariks Noodle Cafe, which has plenty of delicious noodle offerings (Italian, Asian, Greek, American). I personally love their Spicy Peanut Noodle bowl. They also offer salads and rice bowls.

And finally, I would recommend Lou Henri for breakfast. They offer a great selection of Southwestern-inspired breakfast and many healthy options as well as vegetarian dishes. I can’t remember the name of the omelet that is my personal favorite, but it has turkey, avocado, and salsa. Sounds like a weird combination (turkey for an omelet, really?), but super delicious.

Also, all of the restaurants I have listed are great for the wallet-conscious traveler :)

Ellen

Lets not forget Zender’s Spa, they have been voted the Best Spa…A-List for five years in a row. I have been going to them for years.

George Williams

Another vote for Pagliai’s pizza. And what about Iowa City’s jewelry stores? There are quite a few downtown, including my favorite, Hands Jewelers. It’s been there since before the Civil War (literally!) and combines high quality, new merchandise in a charming old world setting and the most wonderful, helpful and friendly staff. They carry beautiful things that are hard to come by – and what a gift department on the second floor! Herteen and Stocker are nice and very reliable on the corner of Dubuque and Washington, and Ginszberg has its own highly technical vibe but Hands is in a world of its own! I live in Denver now and miss that place enough to try to make the trip back every year for a cool new jewel!

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