RESTAURANTS

Brick & Iron restaurant fires up brick oven, cast iron in Coralville's Iowa River Landing

Whisky bottles are lit from beneath behind the bar at Brick & Iron in Coralville on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The new rest
Whisky bottles are lit from beneath behind the bar at Brick & Iron in Coralville on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The new restaurant in the Latitude building uses salvaged materials in the decor to reference an old iron mill. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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It was about two years ago that Don and Kathryn Allen started thinking about opening a restaurant.

“My wife and I were on vacation, and we stopped off in (this) diner ... it was cute, and we both, at the same time, had had the same idea that, ‘Hey, we could do something like this.’ So we started researching and one thing led to another, which led us to this spot and this opportunity,” Don said.

The couple first thought about opening a diner — much like the one they were at when the idea was hatched. They also considered purchasing an existing restaurant. But once they found the location in Coralville’s River Landing, their idea for Brick & Iron really started taking shape.

“When we saw the location, we both knew that this was the best place that we could be,” Don said.

The restaurant — now open for in-person dining and carry out with plans to eventually offer delivery — held a soft opening the week of Christmas, much to the delight of the residents of The Latitude, luxury student housing.

“We are so excited to be serving residents of the building and people in the community,” said Kathryn.

Their concept is unique, inspired by a cast iron cookbook Don purchased years ago.

“We decided to do something specializing in cast iron cookware and wanted to add in pizza because everyone loves that,” Don said.

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But at Brick & Iron they aren’t just cooking in cast iron, they are serving their dishes on it, too.

“When you go to restaurants a lot of times you start talking and before you know it your food is cold,” he said. “The cast iron just lends itself to a dining experience where you can take your time and your food stays warm.”

The concept inspired the name: brick for the pizza oven and iron for the cast iron cookware and serving pieces. It also inspired the design and build out of the space.

“I wanted to do something that was industrial, a factory look and honor the blue collar worker,” Don said. “We aimed at something around the late 1800s and early 1900s, somewhat like an iron mill.”

The Allens are excited about their menu offerings, especially their selection of pizzas. They locally source their meat as much as possible and just got their Angus certification, Kathryn said.

“Our menu starts at 6:30 a.m. and the bar is open very late, so we do three meals a day,” Kathryn said.

While the Allens are new restaurateurs and many of their staff are new to working in the food service industry, they knew that lining up knowledgeable talent to manage the restaurant and the kitchen were crucial.

“We are so thrilled to have our excellent General Manager Jill Roskam who has many years of experience in the restaurant and business realm and are fortunate to have Executive Chef Scott Sukovich creating our delicious and extensive menu,” said Kathryn.

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The Allens bring a unique background to operating Brick & Iron. Don has a military background and worked for years in the casino industry.

“There have been a lot of great cooks in my family, and I have some hospitality background for working to open up several casinos,” he said. “I have always wanted to own my own business, so now this is kind of coming full circle.”

Kathryn, a certified registered nurse anesthetist at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, channels her caring for others into their new endeavor.

“I’ve always served people in my professional life, and so it’s been very rewarding to me to welcome people and our family of employees who feel like they’re a part of something. I have enjoyed that people of all ages and all walks of life are coming to our restaurant. We’ve had some nice groups and families and that’s been very, very rewarding to meet new people,” Kathryn said.

Of course, building and opening a restaurant during a pandemic brought challenges, especially with getting building materials and equipment, but the Allens are thrilled to be serving guests.

“The process of creating something and seeing it grow, and then finally be able to open up the doors and be able to deliver a product has been so rewarding,” said Don. He’s also happy to be providing employment for others. “I’m someone who likes to build things and create things, and so that’s been a great part for me.”

“We’ve had some people come from central Iowa and southern Iowa, small towns who come to the area to shop or for different events,” Kathryn said. “They have been pleasantly surprised to find us here. And we like making them happy.”

If you go

• What: Brick & Iron

• Where: 104 E. Seventh St., Coralville

• Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. everyday

• Details: (319) 471-0652; www.facebook.com/Brickandironatthelatitude

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