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Order an appetizer at Atlas

BY BEN VERHILLE | SEPTEMBER 12, 2013 5:00 AM

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Every once in a while, lucky college kids have the opportunity to score a free meal in Iowa City. For my female peers down here, it isn’t that hard to come upon. For me, it took turning 21.

I had to make sure it was a place that was worth it, and after a number of recommendations from a close friend of mine (I bet she didn’t pay for it), I thought I would give Atlas Restaurant a chance.

Just arriving at the restaurant, 127 Iowa Ave., I noticed the number of people sitting on the outdoor patio. A little adventurous for this time of year, but I do love a good patio dinner.  Not today, but soon.

The long and skinny frame of the dining room opened me into a room with some availability in seating, yet surprisingly loud. I immediately began wondering if we had come into the wrong restaurant, but it must have just been the loud table next to us. Either way, staying for dinner was definitely a good idea.

Putting a genre to this venue is difficult, outside of a fine-dining restaurant. Its wide variety on the menu had a few strange flairs to it, but then again, seeing macaroni and cheese next to a filet mignon was a first for me too. I need to get out more.

Since it was a night on someone else’s bill, I had to make sure to get the most out of my meal — a trick I’ve learned from being on the wrong end of things a few times.

Starting with a cold and crisp mojito, made with silver rum, fresh mint, and lime — it was almost as good as the wine my parents brought. But my mother felt that she should help me finish my glass. Me, not being big on sharing, got a big-boy drink for myself.

The appetizers are definitely worth it, and if you want one of the most delicious and flavorful plates I’ve ever had the graces of enjoying, the Tuna Crisps. The blackened ahi tuna with wasabi, teriyaki, and ginger were absolutely amazing. They were gone before I could finish chewing my first one.

On the plate section of the menu, most of the dishes have at least one asterisk, to measure the amount of spice. So when I noticed this, I dove for the Creole Shrimp, earning three asterisks for heat. The dish was described as a lemon- and rosemary-marinated shrimp sautéed with Creole tomato vegetable sauce and andouille sausage jambalaya.

Served as a mound of rice on top of the jambalaya, beset with shrimp, the plate’s aroma put all the delicious spicy flavor in my mouth before I picked up the fork. Tails uncut, so make sure you do that before you scoop in a mouthful of the Creole dish.

The flavor was very good, but the spice just didn’t quite meet the expectations. After the spicy Tuna Crisp had one asterisk, I figured three would pack a powerful punch. Good news for the weenies, bad news for those seeking a spicy entrée option.

Not to take any credit away from the chefs, our group ordered a variety of plate options and I didn’t hear a single complaint about their dinner.


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