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Dining in Iowa City

BY JUSTUS FLAIR | AUGUST 28, 2014 5:00 AM

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Coming to Iowa City, everyone knows to hit up Hamburg Inn for breakfast and burgers, Mesa for crazy pizza, and Short’s for burgers and fries. However, it’s college — expand your horizons. Here to help, I’ve made a list of some of the best restaurants in the area; some are hidden gems, some are popular, and some are just flat-out delicious. Just remember to pace yourself — you have the entire year to try them all.

Mondo’s Saloon, 112 E. College

When a friend came back from the Saloon one day touting some leftover tacos, my broke self didn’t hesitate to accept her offer to share. Even reheated, the tacos were delicious. Pleasantly surprised, my friends and I decided a few weeks later we should try the establishment’s food warm and fresh. I went with a quesadilla, always a classic, and it was heavenly: gooey cheese, chicken, and fresh veggies between perfectly browned tortillas, served with rice. The chips and salsa to begin the meal were superb as well, so good that I was too full to even finish my meal — once again, though, pretty good rewarmed.

Mama’s Deli, 125 E. Washington

A cute little Ma-and-Pa Deli, Mama’s is one of the best little stops in Iowa City. Unbelievable sandwiches star in a menu featuring soups, salads, and wraps. It’s located in the heart of downtown, so it’s perfect for a quick stop between classes or to start a quiet night. Everything on the menu is good, so make sure you swing by more than once to get your fill.

D.P. Dough, 519 E. Washington

D.P. Dough’s appeal began as a gimmick: open until 4 a.m. on the weekends. Turns out, calzones are good at any time of the day. Like a personal pizza you can carry around and eat much easier than a slice, they are basically a gift from above. Plus, D.P. Dough understands the college struggle. Every Wednesday, calzones are two for $10, and the restaurant offer a different calzone every day — its ’Zone of the Day — for only $5. Often overlooked are the cookies: three huge cookies, baked when you order, come to you warm and melty for only $3. Next time you’re up late studying or “studying,” place an order for delivery. 

Heirloom Salad Co., 211 E. Washington

Living on ramen, the dining hall, and pizza will get old quick. With a huge selection of salads, soups, sandwiches, and pastas, Heirloom is a perfect healthier option. Lucky for you, it opens at 7 a.m. every day to offer breakfast sandwiches and oatmeal to all those joyful students running to their 8 a.m. lecture.

Ox Yoke Inn (Amana Colonies), 4420 220th Trail, Amana

About a half hour outside Iowa City in the Amana Colonies, Ox Yoke Inn is well worth the drive. After all, the people there miss you so much they can’t wait to spoil you. When you arrive, they leave a jar of the world’s greatest strawberry jam on the table, paired with fresh baked bread from the bakery down the street. If you don’t fill up on that, you can order German food ranging from bratwurst and other sausages to chicken spätzle. The mashed potatoes and gravy alone are enough to keep you coming back, but the corn, coleslaw, and cottage cheese ensure it. If you get the sides served family style, the waiter will just keep refilling them endlessly. If you somehow have room for dessert, the wait staff bring a platter to your table showing all the options before you make your pick. The choice doesn’t really matter, though — I’ve never been disappointed.

Szechuan House, 320 E. Burlington

There are always a ton of Chinese food options wherever you go, and Iowa City is no exception. Szechuan House should definitely be your go-to place. Its crab rangoon puts everyone else to shame and its lo mein is certainly worth trying. Fortune cookies, too, are an appeal. Sure, the cookies aren’t that great, but the fortunes — who doesn’t love a little mystery with their meal?


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