Guild Wurst Tavern ~ Coralville, Iowa

While visiting friends in the Iowa City area, they offered to take us out to a newer restaurant in the area: Guild Wurst Tavern. Guild Wurst Tavern is located on the Coralville Strip and is so much cooler than it looks on the outside!

Guild Wurst Tavern is also home to the Boot ‘N Flute Brewery and the inside is completly done up like an old German Tavern. They also have lots of unique art for sale on their walls.

Andrew and I aren’t beer drinkers, so we didn’t indulge in any of their home brews, but rather looked further into the food on the menu. I opted to go for their pretzel rolls which were served with beer cheese sauce and Andrew went with the grilled cheese with Gouda and Cheddar. He also opted to add bacon to his sandwich and had a side of beans.

My pretzels rolls were super tasty and so much bigger than I was expecting! These five rolls quickly filled me up and the beer cheese sauce was superb! Andrew also really enjoyed his grilled cheese and bacon sandwich and said the beans were top notch as well! It’s probably a good thing we no longer live in the Iowa City area, because otherwise we would probably come here all the time!

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Holiday Inn Express and Suites~ Coralville, Iowa

Normally when staying at hotels, Andrew and I tend to lean toward Wyndham properties. We are members of their rewards program and they are usually the most cost effective for our budget, even if they aren’t always the “nicest” hotels on the block. However, over Memorial Weekend, since we were back preaching for our vicarage church, the church put us up in the Holiday Inn Express, and I’ve got to say, our experience has me seriously considering them the next time we need a hotel stay, because the perks just might be worth the extra money for the night.

Church had already picked up the hotel keys for us, so we didn’t have to deal with the check in process, so I have no opinion on how well that process works. When we first made it to our room I was immediately impressed with how spacious it was.

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The bathroom was located directly to the left before you reached the closet in the above picture.

Andrew really appreciated the height on the shower head, since many hotels have shorter shower heads installed and it makes it tricky for a taller guy like him to shower comfortably.

After walking past the closet, there is a nice seating area with a couch with large ottoman and a small table for two. This table would come in handy if you were staying there for awhile and wanted to take advantage of the next feature…

…the kitchenette! As you can see the cupboards were well stocked with a nice assortment of dishes, and they even provided a small bottle of dish soap to rinse the dishes after use. We made use of the fridge as we had leftovers from our Satay Platters at Blackstones.

Beyond the living area was the King bed and a nice area to place our suitcases. There also was a desk and large TV.

We were on one of the upper levels so we had a nice view out our window of the parking lot and hotel next door. This hotel is also located right by the mall, so if shopping is your thing, this is a great place to be! Plus there are lots of great chain restaurants nearby, but personally I suggest heading into downtown Iowa City for some good local restaurants.

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The final awesome aspect about this room was that the temperature was controlled by a wall thermostat instead of just trying to control it on an AC wall unit.

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I don’t have any pictures of the area as it was quite busy with it being Memorial Weekend, but the breakfast was also super good for a hotel breakfast. They had a great selection of eggs, a breakfast meat, biscuits and gravy, several cereals and fruits, and even a pancake machine. They also had an indoor pool, but again, due to several families utilizing the hotel, we did not use it ourselves.

We had a great stay and would gladly stay again and look forward to staying at Holiday Inns in the future!

BlackStones~ Iowa City, IA

Over Memorial Weekend, Andrew and I had the joy of revisiting our vicarage congregation in Iowa City, as Andrew was invited to preach for the services. Of course, being back in Iowa City meant we had to hit up our old favorite restaurants that we loved during our year living there. For some reason, I never wrote up a blog post about BlackStones which is so weird because it’s the first local restaurant we ever had the chance to eat at! So here is our long overdue post about our favorite Iowa City restaurant!

BlackStones is an upscale contemporary restaurant found on the far east side of Iowa City. While the decor and feel of the restaurant are upscale, the prices are still very reasonable for what you receive in food portions. Our first time there was when we initially visited our congregation, so members from the church had reserved a private room for our party of 10. I believe they have two private rooms. They also have a bar area and two or three main dining areas with tables and booths.

During our first visit, we ordered a few Satay Samplers as appetizers for the tables to share. I also ordered a burger and Andrew tried the Mac and Cheese. It was all fantastic. We took family there various times when they visited and also went there for our own special occasions for date nights. Always we’d come back to starting our meals off with the Satay Sampler.

Now what is the Satay Sampler you may ask? You are served three skewers of meat: chicken, shrimp, and beef. The chicken and beef are both seasoned and various Asian sauces are drizzled over the platter. There also is a pile of seaweed served in the middle of the plate for added presentation, but my mom usually enjoyed eating her way through that as well.

This sampler alone could be your meal if you didn’t want to share with anyone. For a few times, Andrew and I would order one to share and each order a side of Mac and Cheese or Fries to go with it, but on our most recent visit, we each just ordered the Satay Sampler. Neither Andrew and I are shrimp fans, but they will gladly accommodate and let you choose another beef or chicken to sub in the shrimps place. I personally love the beef the best so I subbed in a second portion of that.

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This is hands down my favorite meal to eat in Iowa City and anytime we visit I will gladly return to BlackStones. There is often a wait during the dinner hour, but it is so worth the wait!

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Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen ~ Coralville, Iowa

As everyone who has ever been part of a moving process knows, it’s easiest to eat out for a last meal before moving. We had driven past Cheddar’s multiple times in our year of living in Iowa City and always intended to stop in, so our last night in Iowa City seemed as good of time as any.

While it is technically a franchise restaurant, their locations seem to be few and far between, so I figured a review was in order, especially since it was such a wonderful meal!

Andrew was driving, so this allowed me to order a drink. Those who know me, know I rarely order a drink at a restaurant anyways (usually to keep the budget down), but a move seemed to be reason to celebrate as we would begin Andrew’s last year of schooling. The Maui Margarita seemed right up my alley; it was a nice mix of strawberry, mango, and even a little kiwi. We also ordered an appetizer of Wisconsin cheese bites. They were some of the most delicious cheese curds I have had up to that point.

For our main course, I ordered the Homemade Baked Potato Soup and Andrew got Chicken Tenders. We both were very happy with our entrees, but nothing could top those cheese curds…except perhaps the dessert we chose to order.

For dessert, we couldn’t say no to Cheddar’s Legendary Monster Cookie. We ordered it without chopped nuts or the cherry seeing as how we don’t like either. It does take a little longer to cook, so plan accordingly, but it is so worth the time you wait!

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We really enjoyed our last meal in the Iowa City area and would gladly go to another Cheddar’s should we stumble upon another one!

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Amana Colonies~ Amana, Iowa

Just a short half hour drive from Iowa City is the town of Amana, part of the Amana colonies. The Amana Colonies are known for their quaint, German heritage. The town of Amana is the main town within the colonies area, and contains several restaurants, wineries, and little stores. They also have a furniture store and butcher shop in the area. Andrew and I visited once on our own, and we also returned the weekend we were packing up to move from Iowa City with my parents.

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The architecture of all the buildings is absolutely beautiful. One of our favorite shops was filled with crafts made by local artists. We also enjoyed the main winery on the main road that had lots of fruity wines. The other shop where we got lots of pictures was a chocolate shop that also had some wonderful drinks. The last time we visited it was very warm so having a nice cool drink was very refreshing.

As you can see, Andrew loves the homemade peanut butter cups and I like my chocolate truffles. We also both really enjoyed our cookies and cream frappes which also came with a free chocolate covered Oreo which was also delightful!

We highly recommend a trip to the Amana Colonies for anyone venturing through the Iowa City/Cedar Rapids area. It feels like a step back in time and each shop is filled with unique treasures.

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Wig & Pen ~ Coralville, IA

Wig & Pen is a British themed pizza pub located on the Coralville strip, and quickly became one of our favorite restaurants. The first time we went I tried one of their “Flying Tomato” personal pan pizzas sans tomatoes because I hate the texture of tomatoes. The pizza was really good, but the Mac and Cheese on the menu also sounded very tempting. The second time we went, I tried to Mac and Cheese and dubbed it the best restaurant Mac and Cheese I’d ever eaten. So much so that I ate the entire thing in one sitting which is something I rarely do.

Since Wig & Pen was one of our favorite restaurants we decided to return there for our anniversary. Bonus that it also happened to be National Mac and Cheese Day! (What a great day to share our anniversary with right?) Since we hadn’t done as much walking that day since we’d been in the car for nearly 5 hours, we choose to walk the riverfront trail to get over to Wig & Pen. Not our best idea as it was still quite warm outside and the walk was a little longer than we anticipated given the fact that the path curved a bit.

We hooked into the trail to begin with by walking up to the Iowa Riverfront Landing where the Marriot is located. From there we took the trail south along the river, including some time walking near the dam, as well as past the outdoor seating area of the fancy Iowa River Power Restaurant.

We had originally considered eating outside at the restaurant but after that hot walk all we wanted was to sit in some air conditioning for awhile. I enjoyed the British themed wall decor located by our booth.

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Did I mention how awesome this oven baked Mac and Cheese is? No? Well even if I did here’s a picture or two to show you how it arrives at the table and also how much cheesy goodness is hidden under that layer of initial baked cheese.

As I said, this is our favorite restaurant in the Iowa City area. They also have a location on the East side of Iowa City that does carry out only for their pizzas. No matter what, if you go, plan to have it be for a longer time as good food takes a decent amount of time to cook!

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Best Western Cantebury Inn and Suites~ Coralville, IA

Due to the nature of Andrew’s vicarage our annual anniversary trip had to be more of a staycation. We boarded our pup, Theo at Lucky Pawz in Iowa City and spent two nights at the Best Western Cantebury Inn and Suites in the sister city, Coralville.

Because we were staying local, we splurged a little more than normal for a hotel as we would only have a few miles to drive. Plus it was our 5th anniversary so it seemed right to splurge just a little. This hotel caught my eye because of it’s unique medieval theme. Bonus was they had two different suites. I booked the one that I thought was located inside one of the turrets, but when we got there they actually placed us in the other one that is on a level all of it’s own. This meant our room was on just one level, instead of the two different levels with a spiral staircase, but we actually preferred this as it meant absolutely no neighbors and very little noise from the outside as well. The turret room would have probably had some road noise, especially since they were doing some road construction nearby.

Our suite was called the Royal Knight Suite and was not even located on the hotel map. We could enter though a side door and then walk up two different flights of stairs that led right to the doorway of our room. It’s pretty exciting to have your own staircase!

When we entered the room, we walked right into the living room/kitchenette space. The whirlpool tub/shower that was in our room is located between the living room and bathroom area, but I suppose this could be nice if you want to watch TV while in the whirlpool.

I loved the unique architecture of the space and it was a great plus to have a nice fridge and microwave for use as we knew we’d have leftovers to keep over the next few nights. Yes, we could have run them home the few miles, but that would have ruined the “trip” atmosphere.

The bathroom area had a nice long sink space with double sinks, a closet, and a toilet in it’s own separate room. Andrew always is a fan of that; I don’t really care either way! As said before the shower was built into the whirlpool area. It had three different shower heads which was amazing, but confusing to figure out which knob went with each at first. We also found the quickest way to fill the whirlpool was to also run all the shower heads.

Through another set of doors was the bedroom space. Since it was July, we did not utilize the gas fireplace found in the bedroom, but I imagine it would be nice and cozy in the winter. The bedroom also had a TV of it’s own and a very misleading short set of stairs leading to a locked door that would lead out to the roof if you could get out.

The Best Western also had a nice pool area. The picture online will show a cool stained glass ceiling, but that doesn’t actually exist anymore. The pool area also has what looks to be an old bar, but it isn’t in use, more than likely for safety reasons. They have lots of tables that you can sit around and eat snacks just outside the fenced pool area. Several rooms have patio or balcony space overlooking the pool. Some vending and laundry was located nearby and they also had a Foosball and pool table.  The hotel supposedly had a workout room, but as we wandered through the rather dark lower level, we had no luck in finding it to snap some pictures.

The hotel also had a nice breakfast. Pretty standard hotel fair, including a waffle maker and biscuits and gravy. They had plenty of seating in the breakfast area, which was nice because that’s not always the case. If you stay during the week they also provide a complimentary dinner. Not sure what that entails as the Thursday evening that we checked in we had eaten at Old Chicago right before. There are several great restaurants within a short drive down on the Coralville strip.

If you are in the Coralville/ Iowa City area and are looking for a unique hotel stay, I definitely recommend the Best Western! I would gladly return again!

Mesa Pizza ~ Iowa City, IA

Boy it’s a good thing we didn’t discover this place until late into our year in Iowa City. I’m pretty sure way too much of our money would have gone here otherwise!

Mesa Pizza is an eclectic counter-serve pizza place in downtown Iowa City that serves Pizza by the Slice. It is one of the most narrow restaurants I’ve ever been in, and I’m sad I didn’t get any pictures of the inside, but I also always felt weird trying to get pictures inside because since the place is so small and narrow, other people were sometimes giving me weird looks. I’m not one to intrude on privacy, so I quit trying.

It’s a pretty dark and warehouse-y feeling space, with alien graffiti murals painted along one wall. The counter where you order is all the way in the back. I like that they have their pizza counter split into two categories. The meat side and the vegetarian side. I’m not vegetarian, but am usually pretty plain Jane when it comes to pizza so the vegetarian side is usually my go to. They have several different types of pizzas pre-made at the counter. The easiest thing to do is just start asking the person working what each type you think looks interesting as on it.

Andrew and I both opted for the Macaroni and cheese pizza. They take the giant slices and pop them in the oven for a few minutes to warm them back up to a great pizza temperature and then hand them over to you.

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What I love about this place, besides the whole pizza by the slice thing, is that you can also get a can of soda. Sometimes all I want is a can, but most places only do fountain drinks. Even better was the fact that I could get a Mountain Dew Throwback (another rare restaurant occurrence) and they also had a variety of Crush sodas to choose from in cans which made Andrew happy as well.

The one downside is that while they have several pizzas in each category made up at the counter, there’s no sure way of knowing what options will be available when you walk up to the counter. Each time we visited they had the Macaroni pizza, but I never saw a plain cheese slice there. They have several other interesting sounding pizza types on their menu online, but again, not all were always available. I’m guessing you could probably put in a request when you get there, but you’d have to wait awhile for it to cook. Online it also says they can deliver, so I’m sure that would be another way to get something different that might not be available out on the counter.

I love that one slice of pizza here was large enough to fill me up and that it was quite budget friendly.

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Scratch Cupcakes ~ Coralville, IA

I had visited the Scratch Cupcakes location in West Des Moines, IA a few years ago on a “spring break” trip. I had remembered having a really good Chocolate Chip Cookie cupcake and so I was rather excited to discover that there was a location near us in Coralville.

This location is located on one of the side streets down by the Iowa Riverfront area by the Marriott hotel. It’s a very nice and ritzy feeling area. It was easy to find a quick parking spot just a few shops down from the storefront.

This store location seemed a little smaller than the one I’d been to before, but that could just be poor remembering on my part. I will say that I am a person who needs to really look at all the flavor options available for quite awhile before choosing what I want. That being said, the young girl who was working gave me a very impatient and rather sarcastic sounding ” is there anything you are interested in? Are you actually buying something?” That put me off immediately and had I not been craving a cupcake, I probably would have left. I also knew I wanted to compare it to Molly’s Cupcakes located in downtown Iowa City, so since I was there chose to pick one out, get it to go, and never come back to this location again!

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I believe I picked the Chocoholic, given that it appears everything about it is Chocolate. It’s a good cupcake, but I do have to say that I enjoy Molly’s more. This one just wasn’t as moist. I did enjoy my cupcake more when visiting the West Des Moines location so perhaps this one just wasn’t as great of a flavor choice, or perhaps not as fresh given that we went later in the afternoon. If you choose to visit the Coralville location I certainly hope you receive less snarky service than I did!

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Stella ~ Iowa City, IA

Stella is one of the best restaurant choices in Iowa City. During our year in Iowa City, I ate here 3 times and also ate at their sister restaurant, Short’s Burgers once. All the burgers on the menu at Short’s can also be found at Stella. I of course always got a simple burger with pepper jack cheese.

The first time I went to Stella with my friend Carrie and a friend of hers in November. We sat outside on the side patio. The second time we went with Andrew’s parents in June and sat inside. The final time we went in July with my parents and sat on the front patio.

Stella is located close by to Kinnick Stadium, so is popular on game days but is also a great place to come to watch the away games as well. They have a small bar inside and a few TV’s placed around the inside eating area.

Here’s the burger I always choose to order.

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When we came with Andrew’s family, he and I both ordered the exact same burger and his parents both got the Pork Tenderloin sandwich, apparently an Iowa staple that his mom was hoping she’d find during our visit.

When we went with my parents my Mom tried this Basil and Mint Martini. It had a nice layer of sugar around the rim. This drink was on the summer specials menu.

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I of course, ordered my burger again as a main course. Did I mention their fries here are also amazing?!  Andrew got the Italian pizza. My mom ordered the Crawfish Etouffee and my dad got the Fremont Chicken sandwich which includes jerk spiced chicken with pepper jack cheese and mango jalapeno salsa.

As full as we all were after that my mom and dad decided to split dessert, as did Andrew and I. They had a wonderful Salted Caramel Brownie on the dessert menu.

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Any meal at Stella is always great. The servings are giant and the service is always wonderful. Follow along with our travel journeys by following sitesandbitesjournal on Instagram or have blog updates sent to your e-mail.