Ride's first week a success

BY BEN MARKS | DECEMBER 17, 2014 5:00 AM

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One week ago today, Ride, currently Iowa City’s only bicycling-theme restaurant, opened its doors, and co-owner Tom “Roc” Kemmerer says that, so far business is thriving.

“We’ve been very busy,” he said over the sounds of dishes, conversation, and a bustling kitchen. “It’s been well-received. We’ve also gotten some nice buzz on the Facebook page and Yelp.”

Located at 630 Iowa Ave., Ride was busy even before the noon rush, full of patrons enthusiastic about the atmosphere and food.

“We loved it here,” said patron Kerry Evans, along with husband David Evans. “The food and coffee were great. It certainly had a Southern bent to it, which we haven’t seen here before.”

While offering a traditional breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu, Kemmerer said Ride’s food has both Southern and Spanish influences.

In addition, he said, most of the restaurant’s bread, produce, coffee, meats, beer, and paper supplies come from local sources.

“We put a very, very big focus on local suppliers,” he said.

The Evanses, who had pork-roast sandwiches, said that although they are fans of breakfast, they had arrived too late to get it.

“We’ll certainly be back to try the breakfast menu,” Kerry Evans said.

Manager Marissa Hough said the restaurant is still adjusting and little changes and discoveries are being made along the way, such as raising and lowering the hanging lights, learning what place settings work.

“There’s been some crazy moments, but I think we’re working out everything,” she said. “Everyone’s pitched in to work together and stay calm, and cool, and collected.”

Kemmerer, who also co-owns Short’s East Side, 521 Westbury Drive, and Stella, 1006 Melrose Ave., operates the restaurant along with brothers Kevin and Derek Perez.

Ride is not the first restaurant Kemmerer has helped open, and he said opening Stella had many similarities to Ride’s and that helped him know the effort and time needed.

However, with bikes suspended from the ceiling, bike-theme artwork, and distressed wood, Ride has a different feel from Kemmerer’s other restaurants.

“We’re all cyclists, and so there’s a personal interest there,” he said. “We also like to see people riding their bikes … and driving their cars a little less, for environmental, conservation, and health reasons.”

Kemmerer said another — albeit not completely altruistic — reason he promoted biking was the restaurant’s small 14-spot parking lot. And then he laughed.

As the weeks go on, Kemmerer said Ride’s look will continue to evolve as they tweak the menu, put up more artwork, and ready the outside patio for spring.

Patron Paul Mokrzycki said he really liked the eatery’s location, atmosphere, and menu.

“I’m very happy to see what they’ve done with the place,” he said. “And as a vegetarian, there are a lot of options for me, which I appreciate.”

Mokrzycki and the group he was with unanimously agreed they would come back.

“It’s one of the first things we said when we sat down,” he said.

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