It has been 15 years since theAtlas Restaurant and Bar first opened its doors in Iowa City. While the longevity of the restaurant is certainly worth celebrating, it has another reason as well—Atlas was named the best overall best restaurant in the city by readers of the Iowa City Press-Citizen, the third consecutive year.
Started by Jack Piper and James Adrian, two University of Iowa alums, the Atlas Restaurant has quickly built a reputation for high-quality food and cocktails in a grown-up atmosphere.
The menu is inspired by “world cuisine,” which means it has got a little bit of everything. What’s most impressive is that it manages to do it all so well. Perhaps that’s because the menu is always changing, highly seasonal and focused on the quality over fitting into any specific niche. Reading over the menu you’ll find flavors from Greece, India, Asia and Bayou country in addition to interesting takes on a American staples.
For example, for dinner you could start with the Garam Masala spiced crispy cauliflower with pickled peppers, dates and a saffron aioli. Then move onto a Thai Chicken Satay Salad or the Creole Shrimp. Of course, this is Iowa, so you have plenty of meat to choose from. The Iowa pork tenderloin features an ancho chile rub and is served with bacon and pepper jack potato fritters, snow peas and a mango chutney. There’s also a New York strip or fillet mignon to choose from.
The Atlas burger features a half pound of black angus on a brioche bun with white cheddar, maple bacon, crispy onion strings and frite sauce. There are also burritos that you won’t find in any Mexican restaurant, including the Buffalo chicken, which features fried chicken tenderloins, Yukon potato purée, crispy onion strings, blue cheese dressing and “wings” sauce. Somehow it really works.
Atlas may be know as well for its drinks as much as its food. The extensive cocktail menu includes Mojitos (one of the best in town), martinis, old fashions and a Agave Shandy, which includes Corralejo tequila, Campari, agave nectar, fresh lime juice, 8 Bit Pale Ale. There are six beer on draught and another 12 bottles available, and the wine list offers selections from around the world.
The patio is the place to be in the summer, a prime destination for people watching at Iowa Avenue and Dubuque Street.
So take advantage of one of Iowa City’s finest destinations—you’ll see why they’re favored to win the “Best Of” survey for the fourth year in a row.