On a night out with a girlfriend recently, we challenged ourselves to two things; it was a Tuesday after all. The first was to only visit places with patios, despite the fact that it was 90-plus degrees. Second was to only go to patios we’d never been to before.
We started heading to the south end of the Corridor, but exited at the airport for a stop at The Class Act at The Hotel at Kirkwood Center. It could’ve been the heat or the weekday evening, but we were the first ones to hit the patio that night. I’ve always enjoyed the juxtaposition of the modern new hotel sitting among the fields of horses and cows. The restaurant’s patio is actually on the opposite side of the hotel, facing the street, but a spacious green area and patio décor creates enough of a buffer between your seat and the street.
We settled into some plastic armchairs under the bright coral canvas awnings and ordered two drinks — a martini and a Crispin Cider. (My friend has dietary restrictions due to Celiac’s Disease and thus appreciates beer lists that contain gluten-free beers or ciders.)
If you like modern architecture, a steely mix of metals, natural rock and sculptural accents amid the fields of Iowa, this is the best place to find it in the corridor. The martini was shaken and served at our table. The hard apple cider was refreshing, but it was too hot for a long stay, and we were off to our next destination.
Our second stop landed us at Graze in the Pedestrian Mall in Iowa City. A much smaller patio on the brick mall in front of the restaurant, this outdoor area has about five tables and would only seat about 20. But if you enjoy people watching and taking in a spontaneous piano performance, as well as an adventurous list of cocktails, this is your place. The beverage menu boasts almost 50 martinis, a “cello” flight and beers, including Peacetree, John’s and Tallgrass. The best part is the ingredients in the cocktails — lavender or ginger syrup, sriracha, chili syrup, Kraken rum, or chipotle-infused agave nectar. After subjecting our waiter to no less than 20 questions, I settled on the Ginger Lime with a wasabi rim. I figured why not, I was already sweating.
It was sweet, spicy, complex, and herbaceous — just as the menu and the waiter promised. We shared the patio with another couple, and quickly realized sensitive conversations would inevitably be shared with neighboring tables in this setting. With other patios and cool treats at Yotopia in sight, we decided to keep exploring.
Our last stop of the evening was possibly the most random we could imagine. But, we had established the rules of our evening and we were not about to fall short. So on our return to Cedar Rapids we exited on Fifth Avenue and headed to City Beat.
In an area of town not frequented by many at night, we were the second car in the parking lot. We ordered two drinks that required the bartender to search through a random stash of booze on a rickety island, and went to plug the jukebox. To our delight, we found some great listening options for our nightcap and then headed outside to explore the “pool.” And a pool is exactly what we found. In a genius move to cool down bike riders and patrons, a small backyard pool — the type used by toddlers — filled with a few inches of water was sitting outside. In what I would more accurately be called a refreshing puddle, we sat outside enjoying our drink on the spacious wooden patio. The bartender informed us as we left that they have live music, movie nights and more reasons for us to come back again.
In summary, if you like the appeal of big cities in their modern and funky offerings but want to feel like you’re on a respite in the country, head to The Class Act patio. If you like the youthful feel and creative flair of Iowa City and like to people watch, hit up Graze on the Ped Mall. And finally, if you like the dive bar vibe, but want to avoid the unfriendly leer of regulars and a musty smell, explore the outdoor option at City Beat.
At the end of the night, I considered our adventure a success. Depending on what you’re in the mood for, there is a patio in the Corridor for everyone.
The only thing we are really missing is a “rooftop patio.” When someone opens a bar on a rooftop, we’ll really be in business.
— Laura Kaiden