GIARDINIERA CHICAGO KITCHEN
227 E 1st St
Iowa City, IA 52240, USA
When the term “Chicago-style dining” comes to mind, one often imagines thin-crust pizza pies (as well as those saucy, deep dishers), Polish cuisine and yes, the famous, hearty hot dogs.
Giardiniera Chicago Kitchen located at 227 East First Street in Iowa City opened about two months ago, just off bustling South Gilbert Street on Iowa City’s east side, minutes from downtown. Located in the up-and-coming Riverfront Crossings District, the restaurant certainly does not disappoint in service nor taste. The owners of this new venture are best known for opening Terrapin Coffee over a decade ago.
Housed in the former Guido’s Deli location, Giardiniera promises that everything served, (other than the Chicago dogs themselves) is made from scratch including a variety of soups, desserts and bread. For Giardiniera, Iowa-grown ingredients are lucrative to their bottom line. Their shakes are homemade by local creamery, Heyn’s Ice Cream and they proudly brew their own Terrapin Coffee as well.
We were welcomed by quiet Chicago-style jazz music playing in the background, which immediately set the mood. The atmosphere was intimate, but we didn’t feel cramped while enjoying the meal. Lime green walls accent the all black tables, chairs, bar stools and counter tops.
We ended up ordering the Chicago Style Hot Dogs ($6.50 + tax) which included two 100% Vienna Beef hotdogs loaded with a smear of yellow mustard, sliced tomatoes, red onions, Serrano chili peppers, relished green pepper and an entire Dill pickle spear topped on a homemade Italian Poppy seed white bun. With the first bite, we could tell that the bun was fresh, possessing a light, airy texture. The hot dogs were definitely not of your average, run-of-the-mill variety and were so savory that images of going to the ballpark as a young child came rushing back. Every single loaded vegetable was fresh and together, created a lively kick to the whole hot dog. What’s more, the dogs weren’t greasy or too salty. It was evident that the time was well spent in making them.
Complimenting the Chicago-style dogs were a vegetarian soup (Tomato Bisque for $3.99 + tax) along with a Chocolate-Espresso Heyn’s shake ($4.50 + tax for a 16 oz.). The soup was thick and hearty with a marinara sauce consistency and even had chunks of tomato and tomato skin mixed in. Rather than the traditional salty and sweet variety you may find straight out of a can, this soup was flavorful, with noticeable spices in every spoonful. The shakes were destinctly Heyn’s. Thick and rich: the way shakes are meant to be. Both the espresso and chocolate flavors were strong but didn’t over power the other.
Customer service at Giardiniera’s is top-notch among fast-casual dining establishments. Our meal and drink were delivered to our table within just a few minutes of ordering and the portions were very generous. Each sandwich is paired with a bag of Jay’s Chips and every soup order comes with a french baguette and saltine crackers.
Giardiniera’s target customer is seemingly anyone in the mood for true Chicago-style dining, homemade variety and local, unique flavor. To-go service and catering are available in addition to their in-house dining. Giardiniera’s has definitely found a new market niche in the competitive Iowa City restaurant/dining scene.