Iowa Travel Guide: Iowa City

Home to the state’s largest college, the University of Iowa, Iowa City features the greatest variety and quality of bars and restaurants than anywhere else in the state, save for Des Moines. There’s no shortage of sports and dive bars, and the University of Iowa has often been ranked among the top party schools in the nation. But there’s also a significant amount of upscale dining options, gastropubs, classic diners, craft breweries, ethnic food restaurants and live music bars. Check out the favorite spots that were recommended to Starting Line, and come back often as we update the list:

Iowa City’s Best Restaurants and Bars:

Hamburg Inn No. 2 – A must stop on any politico’s journeys in Iowa. The Hamburg Inn No. 2 is famous for many reasons: its pie shakes, its all-day breakfast – but most of all it’s known as THE place in Iowa for presidential candidate visits. During caucus season, the family-owned diner runs a “Coffee Bean Caucus,” where patrons cast a coffee bean for their favorite White House hopeful. The walls are lined with photos from candidate visits.
214 N Linn St, Iowa City, IA 52245

The Airliner – A classic Iowa City institution, The Airliner was a favorite of Barack Obama’s campaign manager, David Plouffe, along with a number of Tom Harkin staffers. It’s a good spot to sit back, have a beer and watch a Hawkeyes game.
22 S Clinton St, Iowa City, IA 52240

Clinton Street Social Club – A newer Iowa City establishment with a classy ambiance, it offers a broad list of expertly-mixed drinks. It’s a good whiskey bar as well, and serves up great food.
18 1/2 S Clinton St, Iowa City, IA 52240

The Yacht Club – One of those really unique Iowa spots that you could miss just walking by. Housed in the basement of an old Victorian-style house, it hosts live music and comedy shows nearly every night. Drop by here to get a different kind of Iowa experience.
13 South Linn Street, Iowa City, IA 52240

Pullman – A very cool and unique restaurant. Pullman’s is laid out like an old train dining car, with bright lights and authentic decor giving it a classy atmosphere. They do interesting takes on diner food.
17 S Dubuque St, Iowa City, IA

Stella – Hosting a good selection of craft beers on tap, they also serve up a great variety of menu options. Like burgers? They have more burger creations than you would ever need, including some vegetarian choices. They also have good cajun food and 9 inch personal pizzas. Their outdoor patio is nice for warmer days.
1006 Melrose Ave, Iowa City, IA 52246

Deadwood – It’s a townie bar, but still a very fun place for anyone to hang out at. Good drink specials, karaoke nights, comedy shows and pool tables keep people coming back to this popular dive bar. Good Bloody Mary’s too.
6 S Dubuque St, Iowa City, IA 52240

Masala -If you’re looking for some good vegetarian food, Masala has you covered. This restaurant serves the best Indian food in town.
9 S Dubuque St, Iowa City, IA 52240

Devotay – A Spanish tapas restaurant, they offer a more up-scale vibe than the many college haunts in town. A wide selection of cocktails and wine can make for a nice evening here.
117 N Linn St, Iowa City, IA 52245

George’s – Another long-time watering hole in Iowa City, George’s is a dark and quieter dive bar, attracting more of grad school crowd than undergrad.
312 E Market St, Iowa City, IA 52245

Bob’s Your Uncle – King of comfort food, many consider this the best pizza place in town.
2208 N Dodge St, Iowa City, IA 52245

Short’s – Want to try out Iowa’s craft beers? All of Short’s taps pour Iowa-produced beer, from well-known Millstream to McGregor’s Old Man River. An excellent whiskey selection and great burgers round out their appeal.
18 S Clinton St, Iowa City, IA 52240

Basta – Craving Italian? Basta features great pizzas and pasta dishes, gelato and a good wine selection.
121 Iowa Ave, Iowa City, IA 52240


by Pat Rynard
Posted 2/19/15

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