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Tavern Blue brings mini golf, Neapolitan pizza to Coralville
New restaurant offers beach-side experience here in Iowa
CORALVILLE — Summer may be drawing to a close, but Tavern Blue’s warm vibes are just getting started.
With nine holes of mini golf, diners at Tavern Blue, opening the week of Aug. 16 at 805 Second St., can enjoy a beach-side bar and restaurant any time of year.
“It’s designed to bring the beach to Iowa, that’s the idea,” said majority owner Karim Abdel-Malek.
The sprawling 15,000 square-foot space, previously home to retail stores, has undergone extensive renovations over the past year and a half to bring a new vision to the space.
Where: 805 Second St., Coralville
Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday
Phone: (319) 569-1136
Details: Opening the week of Aug. 16. Pizzas, sandwiches, appetizers and cocktails available for dine-in. Mini golf is $5, and players can go through as many times as they like as long as they don’t putt into the ninth hole.
With an emphasis on shareable appetizers, the restaurant’s signature entree, wood-fired Neapolitan-style pizza, features high-quality ingredients like 00 flour (a finely ground Italian flour) and San Marzano tomato sauce.
The San Marzano sauce, pizza sauce made from tomatoes grown in the volcanic mountains of Italy, delivers slightly more acidity with mozzarella cheese when baked in a brick oven. At a $10 to $15 price point, it won’t break the bank, either.
Chef Tim Howard, with experience at Cafe Dodici in Washington, Iowa, is well-versed in Italian cuisine.
With a thinner crust that’s not baked on a conveyor belt, a signature of the pizza style is that each pie is a little different, with charred hot spots and imperfections that come from using a brick oven.
“He did a good job of tailoring the menu to trends in the area and putting our own little twist on it,” general manager Josh Burkholder said.
With two full bars — one serving as an island centering the space and another tiki bar in the corner — there will be plenty of drinks to go around with the pizza and games.
At the main bar, diners will find more than 20 Iowa beers and classic cocktails. Sports fans can catch a game on the TVs surrounding the bar.
At the tiki bar, diners and golfers can enjoy tropical-themed drinks like a Tavern Rainbow, Frozen Blue Water, Blue Hawaiian or Miami Vice. In addition to fishbowl cocktails for sharing, mocktails will be available for children in the family-friendly environment.
“Coralville really needs a place you can go where you can take your kids, give them a little free running area and still enjoy yourself, have some food,” Burkholder said.
To bring warmth to a place with harsh winters, owner Abdel-Malek said he wanted to create a family-oriented place with entertainment where he could actually enjoy himself. An investor in tech companies, he said this investment was closer to his heart, with his favorite pizza and a theme that reminds him of the Jordan coast he used to live on.
“I’ve survived 27 years of winter,” Abdel-Malek said. “I want to be able to, as my kids leave home, go hang out at my place. Friends can come over, I feel good.”
He’s even created an indoor parking garage for guests, ensuring they never have to walk in the elements to get inside.
Although he has owned the building for years, Abdel-Malek said the location is primed for success, given the 30,000 vehicles that travel the Second Street strip every day. After considering an Iowa City location, he decided on Coralville because of the saturation of entertainment options in Iowa City that were more focused on college students.
In addition to mini golf, games like foosball, Jenga, giant Connect Four and bean bag games will be available.
With plenty of large tables, the owner envisions an environment where groups can share food and drinks, and walk around to play as many games as they like.
“In the middle of January, we want them to feel like it’s not Iowa, it’s just a nice sunny environment,” Abdel-Malek said.
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