Iowa Ceramics

Iowa City

Iowa City is a fantastic place to live, work, and make art. It is the hub of progressive and creative thought in the state of Iowa, and its main engine is the University. Around 75,000 people live in the town when school is in session. The most famous identifier for the area is the world renown Iowa Writer's Workshop, which is the University's creative writing graduate program, having been home to the likes of Kurt Vonnegut Jr., John Irving, Flannery O'Conner, Marilynne Robinson, Ann Patchet, Reza Azlan, and countless others. Iowa City is the only UNESCO city of literature in the united states, and a culture of creativity thrives in the area as a result. 

This history has made the area a haven for artists as well, and it is unusually saturated with artists for a town of its size. It's a place that cares about diversity, wellness, and progressive thought. There are a wealth of eateries and bars, interesting shops, and organic groceries.

 

The Layout

The center of Iowa City is the downtown area, which features a pedestrian mall, known simply as "The Ped Mall". The Ped Mall is a brick area at the south end of downtown on Dubuque Street that features bars, hotels, the public library, a small botique movie theater, playgrounds and fountains, and several public sculptures. 

Adjacent to the Ped Mall is the main down town area, mostly located between Clinton and Linn Streets. On the west side of this area is "The Old Capitol Mall", which is an enclosed mall of shops downstairs, and university classrooms and offices on the second floor. On the north side of the Old Capitol Mall is the "Pentacrest", which is a grouping of the five original University buildings, the center of which is the Old Capitol Building, having served as the capitol of Iowa for some time in the past. The building currently houses a small museum and a few meeting rooms. 

One block north of downtown is another smaller section of shops called "The North End". This area is more secluded than the main downtown, and mainly features bars and restaurants. 

All of the down town area is on the east side of the Iowa River, which bisects the town and the university, leaving the bulk of the humanities buildings on the east, and the medical and law schools on the west side of the river. The art school and campus is located just on the west side of the river. 

Iowa City is adjacent to a few other municipalities: University Heights, which is adjacent to the university hospital and football stadium on the west side of the area, Coralville, which is north west from Iowa City, and North Liberty, which is north of I-80. The city of Cedar Rapids is about 20 miles north along interstate 380. 

Where To Eat

The center of Iowa City food culture is the New Pioneer Food Co-Op. It is a cooperative grocery with 3 locations - one in downtown Iowa City, one in Coralville, and one in Cedar Rapids. The Co-Op is a mecca of conscious food, and caters to residents and restaurants in the area alike. Memberships are $60, and get you discount pricing when you shop. When you leave Iowa City, the Co-Op will buy your membership back from you (they're actually shares in the ownership of the co-op). 

There are too many great restaurants to list, but a few that are recommended at the time of this writing are:

Short Burger and Shine - On Clinton Street - amazing burgers and fries. All local ingredients and the burgers are named after cities in Iowa. Get the "Dundee" if you're starving.

NODO - Originally next to Ace Hardware on Dodge, there's a new location downtown on the Ped Mall. Great mostly inexpensive sandwiches.

Trumpet Blossom - Vegan cuisine on South Linn Street.

Basta - Awesome Italian food with hand made pasta.

Devoty - Some small plates, and really amazing locally sourced ingredients. Food for food conscious eaters. 

Wig and Pen - Amazing deep dish pizza. Two locations - pub on the Coralville Strip, and a delivery only place on 1st ave (Wig and Pen East).

Banditos - Decent semi-high end American Mexican food on the North End of downtown. 

La Regia - Authentic Mexican taqueria on Route 1. 

Blue Bird Diner - Excellent for breakfast and any other meal - across from Artifacts and Banditos on the North End. 

Hamburg Inn #2 - An Iowa institution - famous for "Pie Shakes"... and politicians eating there when they stop through town. 

Oasis - Oasis falafel and Hummus at the restaurant location are amazing. They also operate a food counter in ABW which you'll get tired of quickly. 

Masala - All vegetarian Indian restaurant on Dubuque downtown.

Pullman - Next to Prairie Lights bookstore downtown - upscale and delicious food. 

Big Grove Brewery - Iowa City's newest brewery -  huge outdoor seating area and decent food as well. This is a great spot for a large gathering or a summer evening.

Leaf kitchen - Lesser known spot on South Gilbert - Some of the food is vegan, and it's always well prepared and exotic. 

Lucky’s Market - Trader Joes-ish market on the South East side of town. Super cheap pizza and beer, and you can drink beer and wine while you shop.

The Sanctuary - Excellent evening hangout with a fire place and good pizza, and many beers on tap.

Where to Drink/Hang out

There are of course many locations, but in general Art folks frequent these places the most:

George's Buffet - Dive bar on the North End, with no buffet. Legendary greasy cheeseburgers can be had there however. 

The Foxhead - Dive bar across the street from George's with a pool table. Only accepts cash.

The Sanctuary - mentioned previously under food - lots of good beer and a cozy atmosphere.

Clinton Street Social Club - upscale speakeasy style cocktail bar upstairs a level on Clinton Street. 

The Deadwood - dive bar on Dubuque - can be full of students on some nights. 

Joe's Place - tier 2 art bar... more writers than artists historically. Next to Basta and near the Pentacrest.

Things To Do When Not in The Studio

Iowa City Farmers Market - Amazing farmers market in and around the bottom floor of the parking garage across from the downtown Co-Op location. 

Rec Center Leisure Pool - Indoor lazy river with a huge hot tube and a gigantic TV screen. Decent place to cool off on a hot day. 

Lake McBride/Sugarbottom - great recreational nature area north of town. Good for hiking and mountain biking.

Palisades/Kepler State Park - east of Cedar Rapids - beautiful location for hiking and relaxing with a gigantic cliff overlooking a river.

Wilson's Orchard - Apple Orchard that's great for a fall day trip. They also make and serve hard cider. Located on Dingleberry Road. Seriously. 

Sutliff Bridge - Historic foot traffic only bridge over the Cedar River north east of Iowa City with a great greasy fried food/beer place. Excellent spot to bike to or drive to in the evening to sit on the bridge for drinks and snacks. 

The Englert Theater - historic downtown theater that features excellent small to medium size music shows and readings. 

Gabes - Bar/Music venue that hosts a lot of hardcore/punk shows. 

Iowa City Yacht Club - downstairs bar under a storefront with great live music.

Iowa City Skate Park - skate park on Dubuque street by the river.

Mission Creek/Witching Hour/Iowa City Arts/Iowa City Jazz/Iowa City Film Festivals - Seems like there's nearly always a festival happening or about to happen. In general they are excellent, have good bookings, and are well attended. 

Film Scene - Awesome boutique indie movie theater on the Ped Mall. Alcohol and espresso can be had with popcorn for showings. 

Where To Live

This is a safe and inclusive small university town. Most students find affordable and interesting places to live, although like anywhere, there are places that are perhaps less desirable to live depending on your priorities. You should decide if you prefer to live in a neighborhood that is predominantly students, a mix of families and students, or more geared toward homes that aren't rentals. In general, the area between downtown and the highway (north of downtown - called the Northside or Goosetown), has a lot of historic properties and a diverse mix of residents. The area just south of downtown is similar, although has more students than other places in the area. As you move outward from downtown, the percentage of students to families tends to decrease. 

Talk to faculty for ideas about specific places/apartments. Many apartments are informally passed down between grad students, and sometimes the best way to get a great place is to inherit one from another student.