Food & Drink

Lebowski's 2.0: Restaurant returns in Robins under new ownership

Business partners have owned other small-town eateries in Hills, Tiffin and Wellman

The Dude Fries at Lebowski’s Bar & Grill, 925 Robins Square Dr., in Robins. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
The Dude Fries at Lebowski’s Bar & Grill, 925 Robins Square Dr., in Robins. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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ROBINS — Once again, the dude abides in Robins.

Lebowski’s Bar and Grill, which opened in February 2016 as the only full-service restaurant in Robins, closed in late January just shy of its two-year anniversary. The restaurant’s previous owners cited an extensive street construction project, which limited access to the building, as a primary factor in their decision.

But the doors didn’t stay closed for long. The street construction is complete, and Lebowski’s — named for the cult classic 1998 comedy crime film starring Jeff Bridges as Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski — reopened April 16. And it’s been welcomed enthusiastically by longtime patrons and neighborhood residents, according to Missy Walton, one of the partners in Lebowski’s new ownership group.

“We’re totally a neighborhood restaurant. On weekends, it’s like a social gathering. It seems like everybody knows everybody.”

- Missy Walton

One of the new owners of Lebowski's in Robbins

It can be a gamble to reopen a restaurant under the same concept as its predecessor. But Walton said once she and her partners learned of the opportunity, the decision was surprisingly easy.

“It was so nice and clean, in a small community,” Walton said. “It was just a great opportunity. It’s out of the beaten path, and we just loved everything about it — the location, the people. They’re totally embracing it coming back.”

“We” refers to Walton and her experienced business partners, including brothers Steve and Brian Federspiel, former owners of the Old 218 Tap in Hills and Slim’s Saloon in Tiffin, and Jason Bender, owner of Bender’s Bar and Grill in Wellman. And Walton herself was a longtime former co-owner of the original Fieldhouse bar in Cedar Rapids.

All that experience has served the partners well, as all four work hands-on with Lebowski’s, from overall management to cooking and bookkeeping. Walton’s family also is on hand regularly, as her son is the bar manager and her sister runs the kitchen.

“It’s like a family reunion around here every day,” Walton said. “It’s a lot of fun.”

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Fans of the original Lebowski’s theme can take comfort — very little has changed in the restaurant’s new chapter. The decor is virtually identical, with images and phrases from the movie on display. And of course, a replica of the film’s iconic rug hangs just inside the front door.

“If we took down that rug, I think I’d be burned at the stake,” Walton said with a chuckle. “We didn’t want to change a lot. So many people knew Lebowski’s — we didn’t want to make them wonder.”

The menu also is largely unchanged, offering an assortment of appetizers, soups, salads, burgers, sandwiches and wraps, plus a kids’ menu. Among the more popular items: “Dude” Fries (French fries topped with cheese, onion, barbecue sauce and pulled pork) and the namesake Lebowski Burger (a single half-pound burger topped with bacon, Cheddar cheese, barbecue sauce and an onion ring).

Originally, the Lebowski was offered as a double-patty burger, and customers are still invited to “Dude” it up with a second patty. “But (as a single), we kind of made it a ‘Dudette,’ I guess,” Walton said.

Plus, you’ll still be able to order a White Russian drink from the bar. And the restaurant’s popular trivia night is back on Mondays.

Lebowski’s has proved to be a popular hangout for bike riders because of its proximity to popular trails and other bike routes, and Walton embraces them.

“Last Saturday night at 9 p.m., this Budweiser ride just showed up,” she said. “They livened the whole place up. It’s very entertaining.”

One change is in the works — Walton said the restaurant plans to add a second outdoor patio with fire pits in upcoming months. But overall, the elements that led to Lebowski’s original success will endure, Walton said.

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“We’re totally a neighborhood restaurant,” she said. “We don’t want to be just a bar. On weekends, it’s like a social gathering. It seems like everybody knows everybody.”

If you go:

— What: Lebowski’s Bar and Grill

— Where: 925 Robins Square Drive, Robins

— When: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.

— Details: (319) 536-0700, facebook.com/lebowskisrobins

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