Parlor City Restaurant Spotlight

Article by Jane Claspy Nesmith
Photography by Justin Fox

Anchoring the corner of 3rd Street and 12th Avenue SE in Cedar Rapids’ New Bohemia neighborhood, the Parlor City Pub and Eatery is set to grow.

“We’ll be expanding our kitchen soon,” says Steph Jelinek who manages the pub with her family. The kitchen will more than double in size soon, making it easier for staff to create more of the food and serve more of the drinks that Cedar Rapids has come to love.

We stopped in for a late lunch one weekday and found Parlor City busy and welcoming. I always love to look at the historical Cedar Rapids photos and memorabilia that decorate the walls. There are antique signs, vintage photos of downtown, and even framed matchbook collections. One corner is dedicated to the Cedar Rapids Police Department (members of the family have served on the force), and another to the Fire Department.

The family is committed to preserving the historical nature of their business, even as they expand. They have plenty of experience. “This building took on 11 feet and one inch of water during the flood of 2008,” says Jelinek. “We had to hand-scrape the tile and walls to clean them. It would have been easier to just scrap the whole interior, but we wanted to maintain the historical feel.” The original tile floor and tin ceilings were worth the work.

Since Parlor City is known for its extensive beer selection—“56 Beers on Tap” says a sign on the window—we wanted to try some. We opted for a flight of beers, four sample-sized glasses served on a wooden paddle. Most customers like to build their own flights, choosing from the beer list, but staff can give suggestions if the huge list seems overwhelming.

We had a nice variety—a cool and tart Sutliff Cider, Tall Grass Halcyon (a wheat beer), and two darker choices: Boulder Flashback which had a hoppy flavor, and a fun Vanilla Porter—rich with a hint of sweetness.

To go with our flight, we tried a few appetizers. Everyone raved over the cheese and cracker plate which featured hand-mixed herbed goat cheese and Italian salsa. A plate of hot appetizers, the Parlor City Sampler, featured some of the most popular appetizers, many made in-house. The boneless wings featured tangy Sutliff Cider BBQ sauce, and the onion rings, hand-battered in beer batter made from Dorothy’s Lager, disappeared quickly. We liked the toasted ravioli and hand-battered mozzarella sticks, too.

Parlor City has great entrees, too. My mouth was watering for one of the famous stuffed burgers. I’ve had the Jucy Lucy here before—a half-pound burger stuffed with cheese—so I was glad to try another variation: a burger stuffed with mushrooms, bleu cheese, and bacon. It was juicy and delicious—definitely a two-fisted sandwich.

Customers love the stuffed burgers so much that they’ve become a tradition at Parlor City. “Every Thursday night is stuffed burger night,” said Jelinek. “We have suggestions for great combinations, or you can put your own together.”

Besides the famous burgers, Parlor City offers a tenderloin sandwich that’s been cut, tenderized, and breaded in-house. It had the perfect ratio of breading to meat, and was served with Parlor City’s famous crinkle-cut sweet potato fries. We also tried a Neapolitan pizza, made with marinara, mozzarella, goat cheese, Italian salsa and fresh spinach—a great vegetarian option.

I hadn’t known that Parlor City was open for brunch on Saturday and Sunday. You can order off the breakfast menu or enjoy the breakfast buffet that features a Bloody Mary Bar.

At the end of our meal, we needed boxes to take home our leftovers—the portions here are generous. As we walked out we wondered when we’d be back next—maybe on a warm day when we could sit on the patio around back. Or maybe some evening when a favorite band would be playing. One thing we knew: it would be soon.

Parlor City Pub and Eatery
1125 3rd Street SE Cedar Rapids, Iowa

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