What started as selling cookies at the farmers market as turned into an award-winning restaurant in Iowa City. It may not be the biggest place, but restaurateurs Masae Judge and Harriet Woodford are turning out some of the best food in town.
Those cookies, made with ground tea leaves, became such a success that the two opened up Leaf Kitchen as a 12-seat café in 2007. Their focus on the start was on local ingredients and a relaxed atmosphere.
They expanded the café to their current location, which can still be described as cozy, and continued to produce what they call “local food with global flavors.” Leaf Kitchen serves breakfast and lunch during the week and brunch on weekends, while the cookies continue to be a big seller at both the farmers market and online orders from around the world.
Both their lunch and brunch menus focus on local ingredients, often bought from their fellow vendors at the farmers market. The menu doesn’t wow you with unusual ingredients or preparations—instead it takes local foods and prepares them well. Things like a bacon, lettuce, tomato and avocado sandwich on wheat bread; a grilled chicken club with local free-range chicken; and a grilled vegetable Panini with goat cheese and a balsamic reduction on a home-baked focaccia. Desserts include a flourless chocolate cake and their famous leaf cookies.
The breakfast menu also contains some familiar favorites, like eggs Benedict, omelets, crepes and French toast. You’ll also find a ricotta pancake with caramelized organic apples, fresh berries and almonds. Or the Moroccan eggs, which feature a red bell pepper tomato sauce over two poached eggs and served with pita and hummus. And the potatoes roasted with garlic and olives go with any dish.
A wide selection of teas are on the menu any time the restaurant is serving food, plus Leaf Kitchen offers an afternoon tea service starting at 2 p.m., with reservations required.
The restaurant, with its relaxed, coffee-house vibe, is a hidden gem in downtown Iowa City. Try it and you won’t be disappointed.