Local restaurants prepare for RAGBRAI

BY CORY PORTER | MARCH 10, 2015 5:00 AM

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On July 25, thousands of cyclists participating in RAGBRAI will pour into Iowa City to take in the sights and perhaps fill up on local food before heading to Davenport to dip their tires in the Mississippi River.

Iowa City businesses have plenty of practice accommodating many people, according to Seth Dudley, a manager at the Hamburg Inn No. 2, 214 N. Linn St.

“It’s kind of like a football Saturday … so for us, it won’t be anything out of the ordinary, it will just be a different group of customers,” Dudley said. “It’ll be as busy as it usually is; we’ll just have a lot of people wearing spandex.”

Working on Hawkeye game days has gotten him and his staff used to serving so many people, he said, as well as the normal hectic crowds the restaurant typically has.

“It can get pretty hectic — of course things are usually hectic around here for breakfast — it just is one more thing,” he said.

Dudley, who’s worked at Hamburg Inn No. 2 for five years, said it’s a treat for him to see people come back to their favorite restaurant or bar, as well as the new faces figuring out what they like.

“You get people that have been here before, people who are brand-new and have just heard about this place through word of mouth or seen it on the Internet, but they certainly do like to eat, riding 300 or 400 miles across the state,” he said. “You’ll work up an appetite.”

Lindsay Chastain, a manager for the Bluebird Diner, 330 E. Market St., was on hand at the restaurant the last time RAGBRAI came through the area and like Dudley, said despite how busy it gets, it’s interesting seeing and meeting people from across the country ride through their town.

“[The] people are really friendly, and they’re pretty relaxed, and it’s very interesting eating at local places, learning about the food, and talking to people in general,” she said. “It’s usually really fun.”

Cory Kent, a co-owner of Pullman Bar & Diner, 17 S. Dubuque St., said it’s going to be a challenge to serve the large number of riders passing through downtown; the restaurant opened around two months ago.

“I have no idea, what it’s like downtown, we haven’t experienced it obviously yet,” Kent said “And we’re not a very large restaurant, either, so it might be pretty tough for us to accommodate a lot of riders.”

However, he said he is looking forward to the atmosphere RAGBRAI brings to a city.

“Any time an event like RAGBRAI rolls through town, I think everybody can kind of feel the energy,” he said. “We’re excited about it, and we’ll be staffed up and ready to roll in case they want to come in, but I think just for the community itself, it’s very exciting,”

Tom “Roc” Kemmerer, a co-owner of the bicycle-theme restaurant Ride, 630 Iowa Ave., said the RAGBRAI planning his restaurant is doing is still in its infancy, but the staff expect many interested riders, particularly to check out artifacts from Tom Teesdale, an Iowan and a legend in the bike world.

Teesdale suffered a heart attack and died on July 22 while riding in the 2014 RAGBRAI.

“Tom Teesdale is a legendary bike maker who is known not only in the U.S. but internationally,” Kemmerer said. “He and [fellow bike designer] Gary Fisher were essentially the godfathers of the modern-day mountain bike, and inside the restaurant, we have a bike that he helped design with Gary Fisher.”

Kemmerer said Teesdale’s family also donated sketches to the restaurant of bikes Teesdale made, which will be on display.

“There are thousands of people out there who own bikes that were custom-made by Tom who will want to stop in and see those, so that’s a big draw for people who are really biking enthusiasts,” he said.

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