Local restaurant celebrates 65 years


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Adorned with photos of celebrities and politicians ranging from former President Ronald Reagan to President Obama, Hamburg Inn No. 2 has long been a melting pot for pop culture and national hot spot since its opening in 1948.

On Tuesday during the lunch hour, Hamburg Inn, 214 N. Linn St., celebrated its 65th anniversary by serving burgers, hot dogs, chips, and coleslaw for free to community members.

“It really does feel good that we have been here,” Hamburg owner Dave Panther said. “It’s been in our family for 65 years. It would certainly be nice if my parents were here to see how far we’ve come.”

A lot has changed since its opening. For the first couple of years, the Panther family lived in the upstairs apartment, while the floor plan began with just 12 bar stools and five booths. Panther said everything from grills to dishwashers was in the front room, and the restaurant could seat around 32 people.

In 1990, the business remodeled and moved the grills into the back, and the establishment expanded the seating to approximately 60, Panther said. In 1994, a second renovation occurred after the restaurant experienced a fire. Space for customers now numbers 65.

Other aspects of the restaurant have expanded including the grill, building on a catering business, and improving marketing strategies.

“When my dad started, there wasn’t near the population of restaurants, and along with that, people didn’t eat out quite as much,” Panther said. “In today’s society, people eat out a lot more, there are a lot more choices, and I think Iowa City has a great diversity of restaurants.”

Still, some things have not changed. Panther said Hamburg sticks to hometown American-style food, including breakfast all day, grinding its own hamburgers, and offering daily specials and soups.

“We’ve tried to stick with the traditions that worked for my dad, and we’ve expanded on those,” he said. “It’s been a good 65 years.”

As part of the day’s anniversary event and a way to give back to the community, the restaurant accepted donations for the Johnson County Crisis Center. Panther said he hoped to raise $100 for the center.

Becki Reedus, the executive director of the Crisis Center, said all of the support helps immensely.

“We get great support from community businesses, and Hamburg Inn is one of those businesses that really helps the center,” she said.

She said that $1 buys four pounds of food. The Crisis Center will use the donations to buy food and basic needs for individuals who come to the center.

But this is not the first time Hamburg Inn has helped with local charities. Panther said the restaurant will sometimes collect canned goods for the Crisis Center, and it has also adopted Mann Elementary School, while staff helps the school with its pancake breakfast and its fall fun festival.

“We try to give back to the community,” he said. “We get a lot of requests for donations. We give out a lot of gift certificates and door prizes for a lot of organizations in town.”

Hamburg Inn is historic for being a stop for political candidates. Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, an area resident since 1982, and frequent Hamburg go-er, came to event to support the cause.

“I came nonetheless to support Dave Panther,” he said. “It’s famous, no question about it. I come here often to give political speeches during campaigns, and it’s a great spot for politicians and for local folks in the community to have really great food.”

Loebsack identified Hamburg Inn as a “must stop” for politicians that come through the Iowa City area, and many have made an appearance. Panther said Michelle Bachmann, John Edwards, and former President Bill Clinton have made appearances.

Despite all of the big names that have made Hamburg Inn a political stomping ground, 65 years ago, Panther said, his dad started with great servers and the consistency of great service is what has made them successful.

“I think [my parents] would be proud of what they started and how it’s succeeded for all these years,” he said.

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