I have only been to The Airliner a handful of times, and only twice with friends to drink at the bar. One of those times was for the purpose of this blog. Whenever I have gone there it has been for drinks and lunch on the weekends, or for a student organization banquet upstairs.
The Airliner originally opened in 1944, and has consistently been a popular spot for great, cheap pizza ever since. People literally rave about how good the pizza is, and I will agree that it is delicious. The reason I have not gone there as much is because I think of it more as a restaurant than a bar. In fact, it is the only drinking establishment in Iowa City that was awarded an exemption to the 21-ordinance because 50 percent or more of its sales comes from the food. The good thing is, because the food is so important so is the cleanliness. It is one of the few bars in Iowa City I will say has always been consistently clean. Where other bars will have flies swarming around your food, or vomit on the bathroom floor I have never experienced this at The Airliner.
If you do go there later at night to drink it is best to find a table or booth to sit at and wait for a waitress to serve you. The area around the bar is very small and it is impossible to stand around it with a group of your friends. You either can’t get to the bar, or once you are there will not be able to leave it.
The Airliner has a long tradition as a great spot to go and watch the football games. During Sunday and Monday football games they have pitchers of beer specials that start at $4 during the first quarter and change to $5.50 by the third and fourth. On Tuesday nights they have $5 mason jars, similar to Brothers’ Mug Club, that you can refill at anytime for $1. The best in my opinion is $1 bud lights on Wednesday and Fridays.
Blue Moose Tap House is the jack of all trades when it comes to Iowa City bars. While some bars in Iowa City attract a limited group of students, Blue Moose offers something for everyone. The patrons in the bar are as diverse as the student population at The University of Iowa.
Part of Blue Moose’s success is due to their concerts. The bar is one of the few drinking establishments in Iowa City that doubles as a music venue, and among those it is the largest with two stages. A few nights a week the bar hosts a variety of music acts with the ability to entertain over 200 people at the upstairs stage, and almost 600 people at the downstairs stage. The venue has made a point of putting on “all-ages” shows that end at 10 p.m. so underage students are able to enter the bar and see a concert, even though they cannot legally drink. Tickets for their concerts can be found at ticketfly.com
On a regular night the bar offers a fun environment with vintage decorations. There is a fully functioning juke box, and the walls are decorated with vintage music posters and handbills. The bar also has a retro basketball game and funhouse mirrors that keep patrons entertained for hours. There are also large flat-screen televisions for sports fans to watch a game while they socialize. The decor of Blue Moose is also unique with their homemade tables made from Templeton Rye Whiskey Barrels, and their recycled keg barstools.
Blue Moose is definitely a beer lovers bar with 24 different beers on tap. There are a number of different specials for every night of the week, but the most popular are the half priced boots on Thursdays. The boots are 3 liters of a beer of your choice. They also offer mini boot specials on Friday. If you are going to try and attempt to drink a full boot on your own I highly suggest you do not have anything else to drink that night! I once tried to drink a whole boot on a dare after a few whiskey and cokes, and don’t remember anything after I finished half the boot… But do order a boot and share it with a few friends, it is a great way to save money.
Even though there are many great qualities about Blue Moose there are a few things to watch out for. Friends of mine have complained that the bartenders have refused to give them a glass of water, and told them they had to pay for bottled water instead. I don’t think I have ever had this problem, but I have heard it enough times to believe that it happens occasionally. Also if you have a tab, make sure you pay attention to the number of drinks your order throughout the night and how much they cost. I have heard of instances where people have been wrongfully charged on their bills for extra drinks they did not order. Obviously these problems are not exclusive to Blue Moose or Iowa City bars, it is just something I have heard and urge everyone to look out for when they are out at any bar.
The overwhelming number of bars in Iowa City can make it seem like drinking is the only thing to do. However, not all University of Iowa students like to drink, and those that do don’t every weekend. They might be hard to find, but Iowa City does offer alternative places for students to spend time with friends on the weekends. One of those places is Hala Hala Hookah, one of Iowa City’s two hookah lounges.
Two University of Iowa students, Amy Skarnulis and Kelly Loch enjoy going to Hala Hala Hookah with friends for the relaxed cultural environment and atmosphere.
“It’s a nice break from the bars,” Skarnulis said. “It’s more chill, I like the vide and there’s less people coming in and out.”
The environment is so relaxed, Loch suggested it as an easy place to study.
“Sometimes you can bring your computer here and the WIFI is nice. You can type a paper and just hang out with your friends.”
Hala Hala Hookah is located at 327 S. Gilbert in Iowa City, and is open seven days a week. It is the largest of the two hookah lounges in the city, and offers over 40 different flavors of tobacco. The lounge does not serve alcohol but guests are allowed to bring their own alcohol with a $5 corking fee for wine. They do sell imported sodas from around the world.
Even though alcohol is allowed in Hala Hala Hookah it is a far cry from the craziness of Union or Brothers. If drinking is not your thing, or you want to explore other ways to have fun in college without drinking, a hookah lounge offers a new and interesting cultural experience.
Martinis has set itself apart from the other bars in Iowa City, but in a way that works for them. While they do have a daily happy hour, they do not offer specials that are meant to bring in patrons en masse. Because of this their clientele appears to be mostly upperclassmen, and the bar is never too crowded that you cannot enjoy yourself.
One of Martinis’ best features is it’s beer garden. Durning the late spring, summer, and fall months the beer garden is open with plenty of seating and is lit up at night. Even though it is next to an alley that can smell in the heat, it is a great atmosphere to sit, drink and eat pizza with a group of friends.
Even though there are no specials, it does not mean that you cannot drink at Martinis on a budget. The bar offers more than 20 martinis at $7. Most of their beer is $3 or $4 and their mixed drinks are usually about $5, depending on the type of alcohol you order. The daily happy hour, which ends at 7 p.m., offers half priced martinis, $3 wells, $4 domestic pitchers, and $2 domestic draughts and bottles. However, if you have money to blow you can order bottle service and reserve the VIP area in the front of the bar. I have only seen people in the VIP area a few times, and they definitely felt a lot cooler than they looked.
The biggest downside to Martinis are the bathrooms. Even with its bottle service, VIP area, and $7 martinis, Martinis is still a college bar and the bathrooms are always disgusting. It is not uncommon to find vomit all over the floor( it will be there all night), or an overflowing toilet.
There is no argument that Brothers is the most popular bar for University of Iowa students in Iowa City. However, just because it is the most popular does not make it the best. I won’t say I don’t like going there, because I am there frequently, but there is plenty to detract me from going there if I can help it.
Brothers has a lot to offer when it comes to space. It is one of the largest bars in Iowa City with a variety of areas. The bar has a large outdoor patio, a good sized dance floor, pool tables, and plenty of sitting and standing room. However, even with all the space the bar fills up quickly after 10 p.m. and is one of the few places you will have to wait in line to get into. The only other bar that regularly has a line is Union.
After waiting in line to get inside of Brothers, expect to be waiting for the rest of the night. Like moths to a flame so is the UI student to the bar. Working your way up to the bar can seem like hours, and once you’re there its more waiting to get the bartender’s attention. If you can make your way to the farthest part of the bar from the front door you will have the most luck getting drinks. I don’t know why but the bartender’s seem to congregate there, and most patrons are in the front and middle sections of the bar.
One of the great things about Brothers is their extensive list of specials. Thursday night’s Mug Club is their most popular where you can buy and then save a mug for $5 and then get refills on well drinks, long islands, Busch light and Keystone for $1 all night. I suggest sticking with the beer because the well alcohol is most definitely watered down to the point where you aren’t effected by the drink at all.
While there is a lot of waiting involved when you go to Brothers, there is a reason it is the most popular bar.
I don’t know that reason, but it is, so if you want to go out with some friends and know you will run into more friends and recognize/meet people from class, Brothers is the bar.
Joe’s Place is probably the most diverse bar in Iowa City. On a typical night you are likely to see a mix of UI students, university faculty, and locals of all ages. While it is not the “hipster” bar that many students would like to believe, the crowd is definitely the opposite of what you will find at Brothers.
Joe’s place is a lot bigger than it appears from the street. With two bars across three rooms, and an outdoor beer garden there is always somewhere to sit or stand even when the bar is at its busiest. The environment is very relaxed and casual, which makes it easy to sit with friends and enjoy a conversation, play pool, darts, foosball and video games without many distractions. It is also a very affordable bar with $3 tall boy beers on Fridays and Saturdays and $2.50 specialty shots. The bar is also proud that it is one of the oldest drinking establishments in Iowa City and has never needed to charge a cover.
Besides being affordable and fun, the staff at Joe’s Place are great with customers and do their best to make sure you are having a good time. If you are sitting at a table waitresses regularly come around to make sure you have everything you need, and the bartenders enjoy recommending different shots to try and like to join the fun and take one with you.
I have met a lot of people at UI that will say they have no interest in going to Joe’s because they have some preconceived notion that it is only for “hipsters” or is not student friendly. If you are reading this and are one of those people, I highly recommend you give Joe’s a chance and see for yourself what a great time it is.
If I had to choose the best bar in Iowa City for daily and FAC specials it would be DC’s. While some bars are completely empty until the sun goes down, DC’s is consistently busy throughout the day with people eating and drinking. The bar is also attractive because of its balcony levels and Chicago theme.
When I stayed in Iowa City over the summer my friends and I always ended up at DC’s in the afternoons for their Everyday Happy Hour Special. From 4-8 p.m. domestic steins are $4 and premium steins are only $4.25. There is nothing better than sitting outside with a stein of Blue Moon on a warm summer afternoon.
On Fridays during FAC it is pretty much a given that DC’s is going to be extremely packed, almost to the point that it will be hard to walk around. However, the $4 fishbowls are worth it. If you can think it, you can drink it; whatever alcohol and soft drink combination you can imagine the bartenders will make for you, and they are extremely generous in their pours. I usually get a long island fishbowl because for the amount of alcohol it is the most cost efficient. After learning my lesson the hard way too many times I recommend only ordering one long island fishbowl and then switching to $3 domestic steins for the rest of the night.
My only complaint about DC’s is their men’s bathrooms are ridiculously unkept. For some reason there are only two small bathrooms for men so lines are common and you regret waiting once you see the state the bathroom is in. However, on the plus side there is always free popcorn!