The University of Iowa University of Iowa

522XX Tour Guide: Introduction

Hey all, I am a third-year English and Creative Writing major who is also pursuing a Media Entrepreneurialism certificate at the University of Iowa. This semester I’m going to be roaming around Iowa City in search of interesting coffee shops, restaurants, study spaces, liquor stores, and snack vendors. Hailing from Chicago (yes the ACTUAL city, not the suburbs), my standards will start high. Being a college student, my budget will be low. How might these conflicting factors resolve themselves? Over the next fifteen weeks, one young man’s mind, stomach, and wallet will be put to the test in order to answer that question.


Image via Politifact

Each place that I explore will be detailed based on their atmosphere, item quality, and service. Detailed is an apt word because my judgements can only offer a reflection of personal tastes. For instance, I may be inclined to love lobster bisque, and you might have a shellfish allergy. I might love sitting next to a pirate when I eat, while you might prefer to get your food to go in lieu of dining with marauders. This column doesn’t aim to be a collection of self-important food reviews; those services exist elsewhere. Instead, I hope to chronicle interesting places around the city and inspire you to visit them on your own if you haven’t  done so already. Nevertheless, I should still address the variables that I’ve listed above in regards to how they may shape the expectations I bring to each venue.


Image via thedrewster783 blog


  • What is my first impression of the place itself? What informs this impression?
  • Is there music? If so, how does the music selection influence one’s experience?
  • Does the space have a certain style? (e.g. Chipotle has a modern aesthetic based on its sleek metallic decorum)
  • Is there a general crowd that seems to be attracted to this location?
  • Does the crowd inform the style that the location attempts to convey or vice-versa (a preexisting style attracts the predominant customer-base)?
  • What is my final impression? Has anything changed, and why?


Item Quality

  • How satisfied am I by my purchase?
  • Do I find the price of the item reasonable based on the satisfaction it gives me?
  • Is the item presented in an interesting manner? (e.g. latte art or creative plating)
  • How does their item compare to similar offerings at other locations?
  • If this is a study space, is it conducive to doing work? Am I easily distracted?
  • If this is liquor store or snack vendor, do they have a vast selection?



  • Is it a timely experience or should I expect to clear out space in my schedule prior to visiting this place?
  • Are the servers and cashiers friendly?
  • If it’s a liquor store, do the employees make helpful suggestions?
  • How do those suggestions turn out?
  • Do the workers add to the overall experience of this place or do they seem to just be floating around in the background?
  • If this is a study space, are there restrooms near by? Somewhere to get a snack? Outlets to charge a phone?


This quest will formally begin next month with a profile of Cortado–the recently opened café on 26 S. Clinton Street. In March, I’ll be bringing my former interview podcast–“One Story”– to KRUI’s online content section and begin rotating between these two concepts bi-monthly.  Feel free to contact me with suggestions regarding places to visit or people to talk to around the Iowa City area.

Image via Katherine L, Yelp



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