Brown Bottle celebrates 40 years of business


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The Brown Bottle’s lasagna has tasted the same for 40 years  — or at least that’s what Gina Landau says.

“Last night, we had several customers come in and say ‘Oh, we used to eat here when it first opened up in 1974 and the lasagna is exactly the same,’ ” Landau said.

The Brown Bottle, 115 E. Washington St., opened in Iowa City in September 1974.

The first restaurant opened in Cedar Falls in 1972 by the current owner Dave Landau’s parents, Don and Donna Landau.

Don Landau had a grocery store and a burger restaurant in the ’60s. Then he had a bar called the Other Place as well and then opened the Brown Bottle.

Donna Landau created most of the recipes, and as they grew older, the children and their wives added some of their own recipes to the menu.

By the mid-1970s, the family owned seven restaurants in Iowa.

However, as the economy declined in the late-70s and early ’80s, the Landaus had to downsize to three restaurants.

In 1993, the Brown Bottle opened up in North Liberty, making it four restaurants.

Dave and Gina Landau bought the business from his parents in 1998.

The couple’s favorite part about the Brown Bottle has “hands down” been the customers.

“The customers have been thanking us for being a part of their families for 40 years,” Dave Landau said.

However, the faces the restaurant has seen have not all stayed the same.

“The biggest thing that has changed in Iowa City, for me, is over the past five to eight years the town has grown,” he said. “Coralville has many more restaurants, Iowa City on the East Side has more restaurants, and North Liberty has all kinds of restaurants.”

Gina Landau, has said she has also seen changes to the downtown Iowa City area over the years.

“[What’s changed is] the influx of so many bars and restaurants and the casual atmosphere that has been brought here,” she said. “Fifteen years ago, we used to have people come in and say ‘I’m wearing jeans, is that acceptable?’ Nowadays, they would never ask that question because everything has just become so casual.”

Dave Landau said college students have mostly supported the downtown restaurant over the years.

“The townspeople don’t really come to downtown as much because there are more options in the town,” said.

Despite the change in customers, the Brown Bottle will continue to serve its faithful patrons.

Paulette and Tom Gretter have been regulars at the Brown Bottle for 35 years. Paulette Gretter always orders the beef tenderloin, and Tom Gretter loves the lasagna.

“It’s always the best quality, cooked just right,” Paulette Gretter said.

Together, the couple said they “always, always” order the brownie pie for dessert.

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