Iowa City, IA has plenty of options for romantic dining or celebrating special occasions from classic Italian joints to elegant steakhouses, Asian-centric sushi and Thai restaurants, and sophisticated French eateries. Head to Baroncini Ristorante Italiano or Basta Pizzeria Ristorante for delicious Italian fare; try Graze Restaurant and Orchard Green for deliciously healthy and organic farm-to-table food; or savor classic French cuisine at Chez Grace. Here are some more of Iowa City’s top romantic restaurants. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.
1.Apres Wine Bar & Bistro
© Apres Wine Bar & Bistro
Apres Wine Bar & Bistro is a family-owned eatery and wine bar in the heart of Iowa City that is renowned for its cozy and romantic ambiance and outstanding cuisine. The intimate bistro features a comfortable dining space with modern décor and soft flickering candlelight and a full-service wine bar with a vibrant atmosphere. Seasonal menus market-driven cuisine prepared with fresh locally sourced ingredients features dishes of gourmet burgers, salads, sandwiches, prime steaks and chops, fresh seafood, and chicken. An assortment of wines, craft beers, and classic cocktails are available from the bar, and the bistro is open for dinner, nightly. Apres Wine Bar & Bistro is open for dinner, nightly.
1010 Martin St, Iowa City, IA 52245, Phone: 319-499-1198
2.Baroncini Ristorante Italiano
© Baroncini Ristorante Italiano
Tucked away on South Linn Street, Baroncini Ristorante Italiano is a charming little Italian restaurant that offers contemporary Italian cuisine in a cozy setting. Owned by Chef Gianluca Baroncini, the family-friendly restaurant uses fresh, locally sourced ingredients to create classic and modern Italian cuisine of homemade soups and fresh salads, antipasti platters of charcuterie and cheeses, fresh seafood and prime meats, and decadent desserts like the tortino di cioccolato gianduia. The cuisine is paired with a variety of casual wines from Italy and other wine-growing regions, along with craft beers by the bottle, and made-to-order cocktails. Baroncini Ristorante Italiano is open for dinner, Monday through Saturday.
104 South Linn Street, Iowa City, IA, Phone: 319-337-2048
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3.Basta Pizzeria Ristorante
© Basta Pizzeria Ristorante
Basta Pizzeria Ristorante is an upscale, family-friendly restaurant in the heart of downtown Iowa City that specializes in delicious Italian style pizza cooked in a wood-fired brick pizza oven and served with gourmet toppings. Owned and operated by Jack Piper and James Adrian and Executive Chef / General Manager Brady McDonald, the restaurant serves hand-tossed pizzas made from scratch and other items such as house-made pasta, fresh soups and salads, gourmet sandwiches, and appetizers of fried calamari, grilled artichokes and ahi tartare. The full-service bar offers a wide range of libations, including a variety of wines from around the world, craft beers and brews on tap and by the bottle, top-shelf spirits, and handcrafted cocktails. Basta Pizzeria Ristorante is open for lunch and dinner, daily.
121 Iowa Ave, Iowa City, IA 52240, Phone: 319-337-2010
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Blackstone is a spacious, contemporary spot that serves traditional American cuisine with Mediterranean and Asian flavors and presented with playful twists. The restaurant features comfortable décor and modern furnishings in warm tones, banquette seating and a full-service bar, along with dining spaces for private events and functions. Seasonal menus of innovative cuisine are prepared with locally sourced ingredients and include the finest USDA corn-fed beef, organic chicken and pork, and fresh seafood. The full-service bar serves ten rotating craft beers, a whiskey menu featuring over 175 bottles from around the world, more than 20 variations of martinis, and casual global wines. Blackstone is open for brunch, lunch, and dinner, daily.
503 Westbury Dr #1, Iowa City, IA 52245, Phone: 319-338-1770
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© Chez Grace
Chez Grace is a quaint, old-world brasserie serving traditional French fare and boutique wines in a relaxed, unpretentious setting. Focusing on authentic French fare and excellent estate wines, the brasserie’s menu boasts favorites such as Soup 'à la Provençale, Le Foie Gras Poêlées à la Poire, Magrets De Canard a l’orange, and Steak Au Poivre. The cuisine is accompanied by vintages from boutique French wine producers, craft beers by the bottle, high-end spirits, and housemade cocktails. Chez Grace is open for dinner, Wednesday through Sunday.
89 2nd St # 3, Coralville, IA 52241, Phone: 319-338-1738
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Graze Restaurant is a farm-to-table eatery that focuses on serving healthy and delicious market-driven fare prepared with locally sourced ingredients and regional produce from artisans, farmers, and fishermen. The bright, modern hangout serves creative shared plates and entrées of Italian meatballs, cheese fondue, chicken spring rolls, grilled steak, and fish tacos and a variety of salads, sides, and desserts. The full-service bar offers a range of casual wines and craft beers on tap and by the bottle, and the restaurant is open for brunch, lunch, and dinner, daily and is closed on Sundays.
115 E College St, Iowa City, IA 52240, Phone: 319-887-5477
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7.Iowa Chop House
© Iowa Chop House
The Iowa Chop House is a country-chic eatery with a traditional taproom that serves classic farm-to-table steakhouse fare and a rotating selection of local craft beers. Decorated in dark wood and leather tones with elegantly dressed tables and dining booths, and soft lighting, the traditional steakhouse serves a menu of thick house-butchered cuts of USDA choice steaks, free-range chicken and pork, fresh seafood and a range of vegetarian options. The full-service bar has an extensive menu of fine wines from around the world, which can be enjoyed by the glass or bottle, craft beers on tap or by the bottle, and handcrafted cocktails. The Iowa Chop House is open for lunch and dinner, daily.
223 E Washington St, Iowa City, IA 52240, Phone: 319-359-1078
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8.Iowa River Power Co. Restaurant
© Iowa River Power Co. Restaurant
Boasting breathtaking views from a cantilevered patio overhanging the Iowa River, the Iowa River Power Restaurant is a fine-dining restaurant with an elegant and refined ambiance. Based in a turn-of-the-century power plant, the airy and light restaurant has been a dining destination for over 35 years, featuring large windows that embrace spectacular views of the river, offering an idyllic backdrop for a romantic brunch or dinner. Owned and operated by Danise and David Petsel, the restaurant features several dining spaces, ranging from semi-secluded dining areas, a relaxed riverside lounge, private dining spaces, and a stunning outdoor patio for alfresco dining over the meandering river. The Iowa River Power Restaurant is open for dinner nightly, and Sunday brunch.
501 1st Ave, Coralville, IA 52241, Phone: 319-351-1904
© Joseph's Steakhouse
Joseph’s Steakhouse is an old-school, white-tablecloth steakhouse that serves the finest cuts of aged steak, prime rib, and beef, along with fresh seafood and a wide range of fine wines. Boasting traditional steakhouse décor with dark wood and leather accents, elegantly dressed tables and gleaming silverware, the steakhouse serves a menu of thick house-butchered cuts of USDA choice steaks, free-range chicken and pork, fresh seafood and a range of vegetarian options. The full-service bar has an extensive menu of fine wines from around the world, which can be enjoyed by the glass or bottle, craft beers on tap or by the bottle, and handcrafted cocktails. Joseph’s Steakhouse is open for dinner only, seven nights a week.
212 S Clinton St, Iowa City, IA 52240, Phone: 319-358-0776
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10.One Twenty Six
© One Twenty Six
Located in the lively and bustling downtown area of Iowa City, One Twenty Six is a classic French American bistro that has been serving contemporary American cuisine with French influences for the past 16 years. Globally-inspired and French-accented cuisine is prepared with fresh, natural and local ingredients and served in a warm and welcoming setting. Seasonal menus features dishes of prime meats and chicken from local farmers, wood-fired pizzas with gourmet toppings, housemade pasta and sauces, fresh salads and vegetarian options, all of which made in-house and from scratch and served alongside fine global wines, craft beers, and classic cocktails made with top-shelf spirits from the elegant Moonrakers Bar. One Twenty Six is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, daily.
126 E Washington St, Iowa City, IA 52240, Phone: 319-887-1909
© Orchard Green
Orchard Green is one of the top fine-dining restaurants in the city, serving seasonal American fare with Mediterranean influences in a sleek, dark-wood dining space. Strongly influenced by traditional French delicacies, seasonally-inspired menus created by Owner/Executive Chef Bryan Herzic feature gourmet classics artistically prepared with fresh, seasonal ingredients. The elegant restaurant boasts a beautifully appointed dining room with chandeliered cathedral ceilings and soft lighting, perfect for romantic celebrations, and a casual, intimate downstairs lounge with a full-service bar that serves global wines and custom specialty drinks against a backdrop of live music throughout the week. Orchard Green is open for dinner, nightly.
521 S Gilbert St, Iowa City, IA 52240, Phone: 319-354-1642
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© Oyama Sushi
Located in the Iowa City Marketplace, Oyama Sushi is a contemporary Japanese restaurant that serves fresh handmade sushi, sashimi, and teppanyaki in a sleek, wood-floored space. The restaurant is decorated in sleek and stylish décor and serves a menu of authentic Japanese cuisine such as an array of hibachi, sushi, sashimi, rolls, tempura, teppanyaki, and other fresh seafood dishes. Diners can watch the expert sushi chefs preparing specialty rolls at the open sushi bar, and a range of drinks from sake to classic cocktails are available. Oyama Sushi is open for lunch and dinner daily.
1853 Lower Muscatine Rd, Iowa City, IA 52240, Phone: 319-337-8801
13.Rapid Creek Cidery
© Rapid Creek Cidery
Set in a beautifully restored, century-old, gable-roofed barn surrounded by apple trees in picturesque Wilson’s Orchard, Rapid Creek Cidery is a two-story restaurant, bar, and event center that offers a unique and unforgettable dining experience. Seasonal menus market-driven cuisine prepared with fresh locally sourced ingredients features dishes of Roasted Berkshire Pork Tenderloin with Shiitake, Roasted Long Line Swordfish, Roasted Magret Duck Breast with Duck Confit, and Grilled Hanger Steak with Smoked Artichoke Ricotta. The food is accompanied by an excellent selection of house-crafted ciders, global wines, and creative cocktails, and the restaurant is open for dinner Wednesday through Saturday and Sunday brunch.
4823 Dingleberry Rd NE #2, Iowa City, IA 52240, Phone: 319-643-4159
© Thai Spice
A casual nook in a strip mall with an old-world ambiance that serves Thai specialties to eat in or take out.
1210 S Gilbert St # 200, Iowa City, IA 52240, Phone: 319-351-2581
Bring the warm and wonderful flavors of the Mediterranean to the heart of Iowa City, Vesta is a Mediterranean inspired restaurant that serves contemporary cuisine from Italy, Greece, France, Spain, and North Africa. The bright and cheerful spot has large dining room that seats up to 150 guests, as well as private dining areas for special occasions and a spacious patio in front of the Coralville Marriott Hotel that offers alfresco dining in the summer. The seasonal menu features creative dishes like Pistachio Herb Walleye, Portobello Mushroom Ratatouille, Greek Scallop, Parmesan Panko Chicken, Goat Cheese and Sausage, Iowa Elk Stroganoff, and Ancho Rub Pork Loin. The full-service bar has an extensive menu of fine wines from around the world, which can be enjoyed by the glass or bottle, craft beers on tap or by the bottle, and handcrafted cocktails. Vesta is open for lunch and dinner, seven days a week.
849 Quarry Rd # 100, Coralville, IA 52241, Phone: 319-338-3782
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© Vue Rooftop
Set on the 12th floor of the Hilton Garden Inn, the Vue Rooftop is a sleek and stylish rooftop bar with spectacular views of downtown Iowa City. The distinctly modern escape boasts a stunning outdoor design with comfortable contemporary indoor and outdoor seating, and a beautiful lounge area and a full-service bar that serves craft cocktails, bar bites and fine wines from around the world. Soak up the expansive city views over a fresh contemporary spin on flatbreads and delicious New American entrées accompanied by a variety of craft beers on tap and by the bottle and creative locally-inspired cocktails and live music. Vue Rooftop is open for lunch, dinner, drinks, and Sunday brunch.
328 S Clinton St Suite A, Iowa City, IA 52240, Phone: 319-519-4650
16 Best Restaurants in Iowa City
- Apres Wine Bar & Bistro, Photo: Apres Wine Bar & Bistro
- Baroncini Ristorante Italiano, Photo: Baroncini Ristorante Italiano
- Basta Pizzeria Ristorante, Photo: Basta Pizzeria Ristorante
- Blackstone, Photo: Blackstone
- Chez Grace, Photo: Chez Grace
- Graze Restaurant, Photo: Kalim/stock.adobe.com
- Iowa Chop House, Photo: Iowa Chop House
- Iowa River Power Co. Restaurant, Photo: Iowa River Power Co. Restaurant
- Joseph's Steakhouse, Photo: Joseph's Steakhouse
- One Twenty Six, Photo: One Twenty Six
- Orchard Green, Photo: Orchard Green
- Oyama Sushi, Photo: Oyama Sushi
- Rapid Creek Cidery, Photo: Rapid Creek Cidery
- Thai Spice, Photo: Thai Spice
- Vesta, Photo: Vesta
- Vue Rooftop, Photo: Vue Rooftop
- Cover Photo: Kalim/stock.adobe.com
Attraction Spotlight: Iowa Old Capitol Building
Located in nations/best-things-to-do-in-iowa-city.html">Iowa City, Iowa, the Iowa Old Capitol Building preserves the state’s historic government building, a United States National Landmark, as a living history museum facility featuring a variety of exhibits and galleries. Iowa City was chosen as the new capital city for the Territory of Iowa in May of 1839, with architect John F. Rague selected to create a design for a new capitol building the following November.
Though Rague resigned from the project in 1840, citing irreconcilable differences with regard to the construction team’s following of his blueprints, his design continued to greatly influence the project through its completion. Construction of the project began in July of 1940, continuing for the next decade and a half, though the Iowa Legislative Assembly began to meet at the building as early as late 1842. In 1846, Iowa was declared the 29th state of the United States, with Iowa City being declared the state’s official capital. The capitol building served as the site for the crafting of the state’s constitution, the inauguration of the state’s first governor, and the site of legislation signing to authorize the creation of the state’s first public university, known today as the University of Iowa.
In December of 1857, the state’s capital was moved to Des Moines, and ownership of the Old Capitol Building was transferred to the University of Iowa. The building became the university’s central building, housing a chapel, library, armory, and classroom and office space. Major renovations were performed on the building in the 1920s, which continued to house classroom and university president office space until the 1970s. When more renovations were proposed in the 1970s, the university decided against modernization of the building and instead embarked on a six-year restoration campaign to restore the building to its original historic condition. In January of 1976, the building was declared a National Historic Landmark, with the facility opening to the public as a living history museum the following July as part of the United States Bicentennial celebration. The building was temporarily closed to the public in the late 1990s for extensive restoration, with repairs taking until 2006 to complete due to a 2001 contractor fire caused damage to the building’s cupola.
Permanent Exhibits and Collections
Today, the Iowa Old Capitol Building forms the center of the University of Iowa’s campus, as the central part of a five-building section known as the Pentacrest, which also contains the campus’ Jessup, MacBride, MacLean, and Schaeffer Halls. Together with the university’s Museum of Natural History, the Capitol Building is part of the university’s Pentacrest Museums system, which presents a variety of integrated public special event programming throughout the year connected to the state’s natural, cultural, and civic history. As a prominent campus landmark, an artistic rendering of the Capitol Building is depicted in the University’s official logo. The building has also become a prominent cultural landmark within the greater Iowa region and has been depicted in government and popular culture representing the state, including a rendering of its likeness on the half dollar commemorating the state’s centennial.
Several areas of the historic building are open as living history exhibits and event facilities, including its original Supreme Court Chamber on the first floor and Senate Chamber on the second floor. The Rotunda spaces of both floors have also been restored to their original historic condition and are open to the public for exploration. In addition to historic spaces, a number of public museum gallery facilities are showcased throughout the building, featuring exhibits related to the state’s history and culture. The Keyes Gallery for Arts, Humanities, and Sciences, located on the museum’s first floor, showcases a variety of natural history and culture exhibits, while the Hanson Humanities Gallery features rotating temporary exhibitions. The museum’s Discovery Center also showcases the collections of the Iowa Youth Diaries Project.
Ongoing Programs and Education
Curriculum-incorporated field trips for elementary and secondary school groups are offered on a first-come, first-served basis, with early advance reservation recommended to secure desired tour time slots. A Discovery Trunks program brings museum materials directly into classrooms throughout Iowa, while a Mobile Museum offers traveling exhibits for local school and public special events. Classroom talks with University of Iowa instructors may also be scheduled as part of school group field trips and outreach programs. A variety of regular public event series are offered in conjunction with the University’s Pentacrest Museums, including a monthly history club for middle school students, a free Movies Under the Dome film series, and a Piano Sundays music performance series. Read on the Rug toddler storytime events are also held periodically, and an annual Pentacrest Museums Summer Camp uses the facilities of the Capitol for history-themed lessons and activities. Other annual special events include an Iowa City Archives Crawl and a Creepy Campus Crawl Halloween event.
21 N Clinton St, Iowa City, IA 52242, Phone: 319-335-0548
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Attraction Spotlight: Amana Colonies
Located in Iowa County, Iowa, the Amana Colonies preserve seven historic German Pietist village settlements, which are now known today as tourist areas featuring a variety of restaurants, craft shops, and resort accommodations. The roots of the Amana Colonies trace back to early 18th century Germany, when religious leaders Eberhard L. Guber and Johann F. Rock split from the mainstream Lutheran Church and began a movement known as the New Spiritual Economy, based on the Pietist teachings of Philipp Spener.
Spener’s spiritual philosophy worked under the premise that God continued to speak to humans through prophets with the “gift of inspiration,” known as werkzeugs, which roughly translates as instruments. Rock and Guber proselytized their beliefs throughout Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands, gaining a following under the name the Community of True Inspiration. The followers of the religious sect soon faced persecution from the German government due to their refusal to serve in the military and send their children to public school, prompting moves to liberal areas within Germany and eventual fleeing to America in 1842 to seek religious freedom.
The original Inspirationalist settlements in America were established near Buffalo, New York at the site of the Seneca Indian Reservation, which had recently been opened to European settlement. More than 800 members of the Community immigrated to New York throughout the 1840s to the settlement which became known as Ebenezer, and in 1843, a provisional community constitution was drafted for the group, establishing all settlement property as communal. As a result of the community’s success, the 5,000-acre New York settlement became too small to hold its villagers, prompting a group expedition to the newly-acquired Kansas Territory to form a new western settlement branch. Lands near the Iowa River were eventually selected for purchase, and the first village of the new Amana Colonies was established in 1855, named for a German Biblical term roughly translating as “remain faithful.” In 1859, the Amana Society was established to oversee the colony as a central governing body, and a new constitution for the community was drafted.
In 1861, the nearby village of Homestead was purchased by the community, due to its access to the newly-established Mississippi and Missouri Railroad station. The following year, five more villages were constructed, known as South, West, East, High, and Middle Amana. By 1908, the communities’ population had increased to over 1,800, and a number of community businesses and civic resources had been established in each of the seven villages. With the exception of trade commerce with nearby trade centers, the colonies functioned as socially and economically isolated societies until the Great Depression, which caused dire financial conditions within the community. In 1931, societal reorganization known as the Great Change split the colonies’ governing bodies into a nonprofit Amana Church and a for-profit Amana Society joint-stock corporation.
Attractions and Businesses
Today, the Amana Colonies still operate as insular traditional communities, occupying approximately 26,000 acres throughout east-central Iowa’s Iowa County area. In 1965, the Seven Villages of Amana were listed as a National Historic Landmark, ensuring their continued preservation as a historic attraction in the Iowa community. Though colony residents continue to pursue an agriculturally-based communal lifestyle and unique trilingual dialect culture, tourism has become the major outside industry of the colonies, with a large number of independent shops, restaurants, and bed and breakfast facilities offered for area visitors.
More than 450 communal-era historic buildings are preserved throughout the colonies by the Amana Society and other local nonprofit preservation organizations, with a number of buildings operated as living history museums for public tours. The Amana Heritage Society offers a variety of museum exhibits showcasing the colonies’ history, hosted within three historic 19th-century buildings. Other museums in the area include Opa’s Tractor Barn Museum, which showcases Minneapolis-Moline tractors and farm equipment, the Mini-Americana Barn Museum, which holds the country’s largest collection of 1/12-scale miniature replicas, and the Iowa Baseball Museum of Norway, which pays tribute to the area’s sports history.
A wide variety of arts and crafts galleries and workshops are located within the colonies, including the Amana Furniture and Clock Shop, the Broom and Basket Shop, and the Creative Colony, which showcases a variety of local artisans and handcrafted home items. Small independent retailers specialize in goods such as clothing, furniture, home decor, and books, while a number of antique stores offer secondhand historic and vintage finds. Live theater is presented at the Old Creamery Theatre, which offers more than 200 performances per season in a 300-seat venue.
Traditional German-style dining is offered at a number of homestyle restaurants and cafes throughout the colonies, including the Millstream Brau Haus, the Ox Yoke Inn, and the Ronneburg Restaurant. Several breweries and wineries are also offered, including the Ackerman Winery, the oldest operating winery in the state. A variety of accommodations are available throughout the area, including hotels, bed and breakfasts, and a 60-acre full-service campground. Area attractions include the Amana Colonies Golf Club and the Amana Colonies Trails, which offer scenic natural routes for visitor exploration on foot or by bike. Public special events offered throughout the year at the colonies include a spring Maifest celebration, a summer Wurst Festival, an Oktoberfest event, and a holiday Winterfest event.
622 46th Ave, Amana, IA 52203, Phone: 319-622-7622
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