Stop into The Dingo Bar: A Coffee House in Iowa City and you can grab a cup of coffee, an artisanal toast, some conversation with the neighbors and a bit of literary history.
The new coffee shop is named for the Dingo American Bar and Restaurant in Paris, which was frequented by authors like Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
In their honor, bookshelves are tucked into the walls, with books on the Lost Generation those author embodied alongside a free library shelf where patrons can pick up or leave a book.
“I love that period in literary history,” co-owner Jessica Kinney said.
She and the other owner, Adam Pretorius, met in the executive Master of Business program at the University of Iowa. Pretorius’s background is real estate and marketing and Kinney’s is in restaurants; she spent 13 years in Boston, where she worked under award-winning chef Barbara Lynch. Kinney and Pretorius realized they could pair her restaurant experience with his marketing acumen.
“We complimented each other very well,” Pretorius said. “We realized if we came together, we could do something.”
The Dingo Bar opened Oct. 26 in the Peninsula neighborhood. Designed on the concepts of “new urbanism,” the neighborhood features new homes built in older styles, many with wide front porches meant to encourage neighborliness. The new urbanism concept is meant to encourage walkability and community building, and Pretorius and Kinney are hoping their coffee shop fits in that mold.
“The neighborhood has really been wanting a coffee shop for a long time,” Pretorius said. “We want this to be a community gathering spot.”
The space is small, 710 square feet, with shiny gold chairs, a black-and-white floor and blue subway tile under the coffee bar. Their coffee is sourced from Bow Truss Coffee Roasters in Chicago, and the food menu is small, with a handful of breakfast and lunch sandwich options. Ingredients are locally focused, with suppliers including baked goods from Rustic Hearth, That One Cupcake Place, Deluxe and Local Crumb, milk from Dan & Debbie’s Creamery, meat from Big Boy Meats and more.
But the most unique offering is the toast bar, a concept Kinney has seen in bigger cities but that hasn’t quite spread to Iowa yet. Diners start with two slices of toast and then either pick a house-recommended combination or add toppings of their own choosing. Examples of house toasts include the avocado toast with arugula, dill and shaved radish and the sweet ricotta toast with honey, cinnamon sugar and dried cranberries.
Going from fine French dining to toast and coffee has been an adjustment for Kinney, but she said she’s enjoying working in a more relaxed atmosphere where her five-year-old can enjoy the menu and the space.
“It’s a coffee shop. It’s meant to be fun,” she said.
WHERE: 1040 Martin St., Iowa City
WHEN: 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday to Friday and 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
DETAILS: (319) 400-2741, dingocoffee.com