Luke Johnson and his mother, Dixie, were in town Tuesday visiting his daughter, Kate, a freshman at the University of Iowa.
As the trio walked along Dubuque Street pondering where to eat, Johnson, 44, of Dixion, Ill spotted Micky’s Irish Pub, one of his favorite destinations from when he was at the University in the late 1980s. He insisted on heading over and eating there.
And as luck would have it, Micky’s was open. In fact, the Iowa City staple pub was celebrating its grand reopening, 32 years to day after it first opened at its 11 South Dubuque Street location.
Christa Walrath, 31, manager at Micky’s, said she hopes other fans from Micky’s history in Iowa City will be able to rediscover the spot.
“There are a lot of Micky’s fans out there that have been waiting for it to be open again,” Walrath said.
Micky’s was closed for several months this past summer by the previous owner. At this point, Jim Mondanaro resumed ownership and pledged to give the location a refresh.
While the bar, more than a century old, is still present, many other things about the interior have been changed. The flooring is new, the walls have been painted a blue green color in a change from the previous orange. The wood panels have been stained a deep chocolatey brown. The window space has been expanded, a chandelier installed. Sixteen beers are on tap stored in kegs held within a new cooler, feeding via new keg lines to the customer’s glass at a frosty 28 degrees.
“We’re saying it’s the coldest beer in town,” Walrath said.
The menu retains many of the old classics: the Micky’s burger, the cub salad, the conglomeration. The popular brunches will also still be held on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
Walrath said there are a few tweaks to the menu, to much like the establishment’s appearance, spruce things up a little bit and place more of a focus on pub food. The corn beef is now made in house, and the bread, sausage, and dressings will be made fresh at the Bread Garden. New items include a Micky’s Dog (hot dog or brautwurst) cover in bacon and pickled queso, and Irish Egg Roles, crispy shells filled with corn beef.
But Walruth said it was intentional that much of what made Micky’s popular will remain the same.
“Iowa City as a town generates this transient population where people are here for four years than move on,” she said. “So having something constant like Micky’s where people can come back to is a big deal.”
That’s something that’s important for people like Luke Johnson, who grinned as his daughter noted that this would be the first time she would eat at the restaurant that served as one of his haunts decades ago.
“It’s cool,” Kate said. “It’s like a family reunion.”