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Free-For-All Friday: Iowa City Eat-A-Palooza Dinner and Other Restaurant Reviews

The match-ups are in, but what does our eccentric staff have to say about the restaurants within them?

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Hello Jerry: And we’re back! Part 2 of the Iowa City Eat-A-Palooza Previews/Reviews, only this time, we’re doing the Dinner and Other regions.

Same thing applies here as it did earlier in the Breakfast and Lunch piece.

As far as the play in games go, Micky’s jusssssttttttt edged out Pullman with 53.5% of the 144 votes. Micky’s now gets the opportunity to move on and take on Wig & Pen in the Dinner Region.

JPinIC: Put simply, this is a travesty. Carry on.

Hello Jerry: And in the Other Region, George’s Gyro’s and the little cart that could takes out whatever a Molly’s Cupcake is, finishing with 52.1% of the 144 votes.

Now, remember, this was a two-parter, so if any of you missed our post from earlier this morning, have no fear, I’ve got the link right HERE for you (see how easy we make things for you all?).

Anything I’m missing JP?

JPinIC: I’m trying to think of a clever George from Seinfeld reference here, but as much as I want to fit “shrinkage” in here, I don’t think I can make it work. Nope, I think you nailed it, again. Just a quick reminder for everyone of the entire bracket, which you can see here:

Following each region’s matchup previews/reviews, we have a poll for said region. Please take a few minutes to vote for you choices. Be sure to follow along on social media as we update the voting results. You can keep up with us on Facebook and Twitter (@BHGP, @JPinIC_BHGP and @JerryScherwin).

Let’s get to it, one last time!

Dinner Region

1 Wig and Pen vs. 8 Micky’s

Hello Jerry: I would be cheating on Falbo’s and Mesa if I wrote about Wig and Pen extensively. I like Wig and Pen. I like them a lot actually. It just doesn’t feel right yelling it from the rooftops. It’s probably better to bury it deep down inside and keep it to myself for the rest of my existence.

On top of that, I’ve only drank at Micky’s (at multiple times during the day to boot) so I’m not the guy to talk about their menu....

Luckily for you all, I found two SUPER positive people that could:

Jenni H. from Iowa City come on downnnnnnnn:

As Bill Murray once said, "Unless you are pizza, the answer is yes, I can live without you."

He said that as he chowed down on the Flying Tomato at the Wig & Pen. I'm not sure of the exact date but it was before it was flooded-- the second time.

Juuuuust kidding. I'm not sure if the man has ever set foot in this wonderful state but I like to think so. Plus, this sentiment is spot on and fully describes this Iowa City MUST HAVE.

Your life will be completed in a way you never knew was necessary. The clouds will part and the sun will shine down on you, slice in hand.

As you take your first bite the cheese oozes off in the most sexy and desirable way. The crust is flakey and radiates a made from scratch love, much like the best pie crusts do. This pizza is not greasy but pure perfection. And OMG, those tomatoes. Who knew you needed them on a pizza? The tomatoes add to the entire affair, perfectly cooked and seasoned.

As an Iowa City native, I know the main pizza players in town. I know where I want to go for thin, or deep dish. I know where I order from for delivery or where I'll wait on a Friday night. And the Wig has the best pizza in town, hands down. It is where I'll wait for a table anytime.

Shouts to Jenni for the Bill effing Murray reference there. Oh, and unless you’re a Yelp-er, the answer is yes, I could live without your opinion.

And of course we have Allison C. from West Des Moines on Micky’s:

This is my all time favorite restaurant in the Iowa City area. The vibes inside are very much "Irish pub feel" but my favorite place to sit is outside on their patio. It's big enough to sit 5-6 tables and they have shading available too.

I've had just about everything on the menu and here our my top picks: for an app I absolutely recommend the 7 layer dip. WOW. it's huge too so be ready to take home left overs and the chips served with it are fresh and hot. My favorite menu item at Mickeys are the chicken strips and fries. I think I lived off those while I attended the U of Iowa. Always are served piping hot, super crispy and the breading on the chicken strips are full of flavor. Another great menu item is the French Dip. It's huge too so again be ready to take home leftovers! I have also heard great thing about the ahi tuna salad and the blackened chicken mac and cheese!

Mickeys is the place to go for a solid brunch, lunch and dinner. They also offer carry out as well! All in all Mickeys is a great spot to eat at while stopping in Iowa City. It's great place to grab drinks, watch the games and hang out. I'm always sure to make a quick stop while I'm in town!! I think i could write a book on how much I love this place but you should just check it out yourself and let me know your feedback! :-)

;-) right back at ya Allison.

2 The Vine vs. 7 Big Grove

BoilerHawk: As a double deuce in both the lunch and dinner regions, The Vine is an Iowa City staple. Along with Wig & Pen, its Coralville location served as the pregame to many Iowa basketball games. Both locations have, unfortunately, the reviews of a restaurant where time might have passed them by. Coralville’s location, burdened by long wait times, averages out at a paltry 3 stars while Iowa City’s eclipses it with 3.5. Both are affectionately, and not so affectionately, referred to as dives. Erin might put it best in her 2-star review:

The Vine preys on new incoming students and reminiscing graduates just trying to cling on to the Iowa City brand.

Big Grove, however, is a new kid on the block. I visited their Solon location after the 2016 jNW football game (thankfully I did not attend that), and came away incredibly impressed. The 4.5 rating on 116 reviews speaks to the care they put into their food, beer/drinks, and atmosphere. Their recently opened Iowa City spot has a respectable 4 stars on 51 reviews. As someone who’s grown accustom to patio life with live music, I can’t wait to venture here during my next time in the Corridor. In one of many 5-star ratings for the restaurant, Mitch says:

I have been to a lot of breweries in my life and by a lot, I mean a lot. The wife is always a bit annoyed that it is a part of my trip plans. Out of all the breweries I have been to, none can quite stand-up to the setup they have created at the Taproom. They have an amazing open-air quality to it, allowing for it to be extremely busy but still feel intimate. The outdoor patio is wonderful and large.

Big Grove strikes me as seriously under-seeded and could make some noise.

3 Pagliai’s vs. 6 Atlas

Hello Jerry: Apparently, Atlas is under new ownership and their food is absolutely Instagram worthy now (Shouts to you, Yelp Reviewer Hayley B.):

Would you just look at that? All the #FoodAuthority blogs must’ve lost their marbles over that plating. For just thirteen US Dollars this frufru appetizer is yours.

So, at least in my experience, it seems as though despite the new ownership, Atlas still hasn’t figured out the problem they’ve had since I was running around campus: they’re too expensive for students that don’t have trust funds.

I’m pretty sure you have to pay a $20 cover charge just to sit on their patio at noon to simply enjoy their cheapest cocktail (an $8 Mojito).

Luckily for Atlas, they’re going head to head with the one pizza company in town that charges “$30-something for a large two-topping pizza” (at least that’s the rep they’re getting round the BHGP Slack).

I’ve always enjoyed Pagliai’s, but I’ve also only had it at JPinIC’s house. Therefore, JPinIC took care of the tab (I would bring over some leftover Bud Lights in a Walmart plastic bag). Any free pizza is the best pizza. So, while I’m not necessarily a pro on Pagliai’s menu, I can say without any sort of hesitation, that if you enjoy thin crust pizza, this is probably (or should be) your favorite pizza place in Iowa City.

It’s a quality ‘za.

And when you’re facing a match up against pizza and Iowa City’s version of some New York lunch spot that never made it, pizza generally wins.

4 Short’s Burgers and Shine vs. 5 30Hop

Hello Jerry: A long, long time ago, I knew or got to know almost every single person that worked at Short’s Burgers and Shine. I, like many other college students that had friends or had friends of friends that worked at restaurants or bars in Iowa City, reaped the benefits of having such connections. Whether it was to start our night or to end it, for lunch or for dinner, that bar/restaurant was one of the best spots in Iowa City to me. I made a big life decision in one of those two person high tops near the front. That booth that is awkwardly slapped into the corner by the kitchen is where I got to know my future father and mother in law and we celebrated her health. And at that bar, (smack dab in the middle of that long, dark and narrow corridor) is where my fiancé and our friends laughed, screamed and danced all while hogging that entire passageway that led to the bathrooms.

I love Short’s. I always will. It was like my Iowa City version of MacLaren’s from How I Met Your Mother. Good people. Good brews. Good food. Good times.

GospelOfMax: But 30Hop is so, so good, and has one big thing that Short’s doesn’t have: a large rooftop patio (complete with a bar!) where you can drink with all your friends. On top of that, there’s also a downstairs outdoor patio and relaxing atmosphere where you can grab a bite to eat. Want a sandwich? They have the 50/50 Burger (half beef, half bacon), pork tenderloins, and more. Their favorites include short rib tacos, chorizo mac, and salmon. And what do they have for beer? Well, they only have about 60 selections, both local favorites and beers from across America. If this place were located closer to the downtown area, this would be an EASY one seed.

Be afraid, Short’s. Be afraid.

Other Region

1 Pancheros vs. 9 George’s Gyros

JPinIC: Congratulations George’s Gyros, you snuck into the official bracket by edging out our only cupcakery in the field and your reward is facing the overwhelming favorite to take home the whole damn thing. Seriously, I’m not sure anyone needs to vote in this one. While food carts have been an Iowa City staple after dark for some time, Pancheros is the undisputed people’s champ of bar-close establishments. If you’ve been out on the town in Iowa City, you’ve had Pancheros.

If we’re being honest, it isn’t the best burrito or the most authentic Mexican dish you’re ever going to get, but this isn’t the lunch or dinner region, folks. No, this is the “other” region where places you may not touch with a ten foot pole in sobriety reign supreme. And let’s face it, you aren’t just here for food, it’s the ambiance. Nothing like waiting in a massive line, trying not to pee, only to have a great experience like our ol’ pal Boiler:

“My stone cold sober dad almost got in a fight with a super drunk guy one time.”

Truer words, my friend. I think we all have that same story. Either as the drunk guy, the guy with the dad (some of us as the dad…), or both. Sure, that could be you at the gyro cart or Marco’s or just the ped mall generally. But that WILL be you at Pancheros.

It’s not close and I don’t know that it will be from here to the Final Four.

2 Falbo Bros vs. 7 Pita Pit

Hello Jerry: I have fancied both of these establishments more times than I can even count during my four years in Iowa City as a student. So it’s only right that I share similar/quick stories for each restaurant:

  1. During the first few weeks of my freshman year, I did what normal freshman students do during their first few weeks on campus: I went to Summit, was over served by someone that was of course, the legal age (wink), and I got hungry after we left the bar. Pita Pit was right around the corner, so I jumped in line and dreamed of my buffalo chicken pita that I would soon engulf. While in line, a friend of mine was speaking with a member of the opposite sex. Things were going great, it seemed. They were hitting it off and I started thinking that the University of Iowa was a great place to be. Until, that member of the opposite sex (who to our surprise, had already eaten a pita, we eventually found out) barfed all over my friend’s shirt. And, without hesitation, that member of the opposite sex looked my friend dead in the eye, mumbled “later” and sprinted out of Pita Pit. We still proudly got and ate our pitas.
  2. When I was a much older and wiser sophomore, one of my friends and I would go to Falbo’s like clock work after our group was forced out of SpoCo. One night, while we were waiting in line, a member of the opposite sex was in front of us. She wasn’t doing very well from the looks of it, but her friend insisted she was “straight”. She was not “straight”. Not even the slightest. When it finally became her turn to order, she couldn’t muster any words that sounded like English (or Spanish for that matter). Instead, she yoga-leaned and barfed all over the counter and looking glass. She was escorted out by her friend who said she was “straight” even though she knew she was not “straight”. We still proudly got and ate our pizza.

Honestly, I don’t care what happens here. I love these places so much and the fact that I got to relive these moments in my head was worth every bit of work JPinIC and I have done to this point. God bless the “Other” category and all the memories we have in them.

PS: Whoever the artist was that did the giant cartoon vegetables on the wall of Pita Pit, hit me up on Twitter. I’m going to need some artwork for my man cave and I would love a cucumber with sunglasses and a cowboy hat somewhere.

3 Whitey’s Ice Cream vs. 6 Gumby’s Pizza

Hello Jerry: Question for all the people that voted Whitey’s Ice Cream into this bracket: When it’s midnight and you have a hankering for something bad, can you call up the CORALVILLE Whitey’s and ask them to deliver a Hot Fudge Sundae to your doorstep?

No, no you cannot.

Can you call Gumby’s and have soggy, greasy, heart-attack inducing Pokey Sticks?

Yes, yes you can.

Whitey’s making this Other category as the third seed is a travesty.

4 Marco’s Grilled Cheese vs. 5 Mesa Pizza

Hello Jerry: I regretfully waited for the final weekend of my senior year on campus to finally try a Marco’s Grilled Cheese and it was marvelous. It was life changing. It was like eating melted gold.

Looking back on it, it was probably the biggest mistake I made outside of not double majoring in Business along with English. But it’s not entirely my fault. There are just so many options at that wee hour in the morning that serve greasy, cheesy, heavy food that sop up all the extracurriculars you’ve taken part in. Plus, those other places don’t serve their product out of a glorified rickshaw.

Sometimes, as YA’s, we get stuck in the drunken moment and turn to our drunken habits. And in those drunken moments, my number one drunken habit was the GD MAC AND CHEESE PIZZA AT MESA. I didn’t care how long the line was, I didn’t care how obnoxious the bros were. If I was playing Chandeliers at SpoCo with Big Beers for multiple hours, I was stopping in for two slices of The Mac.

This is a Goliath match up in my eyes. Not only should both of them be ranked well above Whitey’s Ice Cream (which you can only get when you go to Scheel’s for another Iowa shirt you don’t need), but both offer a superior product.

May the cheesiest man win.

Alright, that’s officially it. Those are the match-ups, now it's time to make your voice heard! Vote on each matchup in the polls above. And one last shameless plug to be sure and follow us on Facebook and Twitter (@BHGP, @JPinIC_BHGP and @JerryScherwin) for updates on the voting, and check back in next Friday to see who’s advancing to the next round!