Top 5 Restaurants in Iowa City

Most college students can’t afford to buy Alaskan king crab for dinner every night. Lack of finances leave university attendees feasting on a steady diet of Ramen noodles and Easy Mac.

But if you find the right spots, a tasty and affordable meal could be just a short walk away. Here are five restaurants in Iowa City’s downtown area that are diverse and delicious, but won’t break the bank.



1.    Shorts Burgers and Shine- 18 South Clinton Street

·          My top pick for Iowa City. Shorts is a burger bar that features twenty top-notch burgers, twelve chicken sandwiches, and five black bean burgers. That’s it. No salads, soups, or appetizers, just hearty and creative sandwiches that will not disappoint. The beef burgers are the sole reason why Shorts is on top of the list. And at $8.99 for a burger and fries, it is a good value. These thick patties are fresh and juicy, and the toppings are numerous. The “Thornton” burger features chorizo, mozzarella, and avocado mayonnaise atop a fresh patty. The “Gravity” has caramelized onions, bacon, green chili, and jalapeno cream cheese. And a local favorite, “The Dundee” includes sautéed mushrooms, bacon, garlic aioli, cheese, and a fried egg. The choices are abundant. And to wash the food down, Shorts has ten draft beers that are dedicated to breweries around Iowa.

2.    Mondo’s Saloon- 112 East College St. (Ped Mall)

·          Mondo’s is an authentic Mexican restaurant in the middle of Iowa City’s pedestrian mall. With outdoor and indoor seating, it is the perfect place to stop by with friends and enjoy great food and drinks. The pricing on the food menu ranges from cheap, to expensive. If you want to get fancy and go on a date, then focus on the broiled and chile rubbed salmon filet for $18. But if you are looking for a quick and affordable meal, you can build your own delicious burrito for $7.50. Try their homemade tequila margaritas during happy hour.

3.    The Airliner- 22 South Clinton Street

·         Airliner is known for its bar, and is a hotbed for nighttime partying. But during the day, they serve great food. Their pizza is among the city’s best, and they have a variety of signature sandwiches and salads to choose from. Airliner’s taco pizza is the best item on the menu, with perfectly seasoned meat and toppings on a substantial crispy crust. Sandwich meals with fries average around $7 and a two-person specialty pizza runs around $12. Stick around for a drink (or four) at the bar.

4.    Hamburg Inn No. 2- 214 North Linn Street

·         The Hamburg Inn made this list because of their excellent breakfast. Their early morning food selection is the best in the area, with every item offering a comforting and filling start to the day. They have fifteen delicious specialty omelets served with your choice of side, at an average price of $8. But the pancakes take the cake at this establishment. One is all you need because it has the circumference of a manhole cover, and at $1.99, it will be the best two dollars you will ever spend.

5.    Thai Flavors- 340 East Burlington Street * Sleeper Pick *

·         Tucked near the corner of Burlington and Gilbert, Thai Flavors is a delicious under the radar restaurant. They serve authentic thai food with curry, noodle, and rice dishes. The flavors are intense and it is always good to try amazing new food. Go during lunch and every dish on the menu is only $6.95.

Image Credit Megan Woods Photography