Wine bar and bistro opens “Après” spring


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Each week, The Daily Iowan will provide an in-depth look at a local business.

Iowa City residents and other locals who take their dogs to Thornberry Park will soon be able to walk over to a new restaurant and grab food and drinks.

Après, 1010 Martin Street, will be a wine bar and bistro in which customers can expect a variety of different menu items after it opens in late spring.

Après, meaning “after” in French, is slang for happy hour. Bistro means “a small, modest restaurant.”

In Iowa City, both meanings will combine and form the first commercial business located in the Peninsula neighborhood. The neighborhood is located just off of Dubuque Street and Foster Road.

“To be a destination spot, we’re going to need to pull people in from outside of the neighborhood,” Emmett Carmichael, the owner of Après, said. “The way to do that is to provide the consumers something they can’t get anywhere else.”

One unique feature to the bistro atmosphere is Après’ full kitchen, in which the staff can prepare meals with nearly all new kitchen equipment.

“We want to be unique with our dishes, but we also want to make sure people aren’t intimidated when they’re ordering their food,” Carmichael said.

“Comfort food” is how Carmichael describes the menu put together by himself, executive chef Michael Rohr, and others.

“It can almost be intimidating when you look at some menu items, like ‘I don’t know what that is and I don’t know if I’m going to like it,’ ” he said. “Whereas if you look at our menu, you look at it and say ‘Oh, I recognize mac & cheese. I like mac and cheese. Oh it’s got lobster in it; I like that too.’ ”

In addition to the variety of wine imported from around the world, there will be a full alcohol menu with one of Carmichael’s favorite drinks featured: Scotch.

Inside, he describes his first restaurant to be casual yet with a clean look.

A bar seating 13 people sits in the center of the restaurant with tables surrounding it. A planned outdoor patio will seat around 30 more customers.

Upstairs, two balcony tables will overlook the main dining area, and one large party room is designed for seating.

Jake Smith, a subcontractor for Randy’s Carpets & Interiors, had worked on the project for less than a week when he oversaw the installation of the vinyl plank floors.

“[The flooring] is good for the bar,” he said. “It’ll stand up to abuse — it’ll take chairs, drinks, people, and everything else.”

Steve Stewart, project supervisor, said the rest of construction and design should be finished in four to five weeks.

He said all project staff have left to do is the finishing touches, such as cleaning up and putting the bar in. With his experience of previous projects in the area, Stewart said he sees the restaurant to be a place locals will appreciate.

“People have put a lot of effort to making it nice,” he said. “[I think it will be] a place they’ll come to all the time and keep coming back to.”

Carmichael expects to offer Swiss cheese fondue and other fondue items on the menu down the road. He also wants to sell caviar by the tin, as well as serving it in dishes.

The planning and designing process started in January for Carmichael, but he said he wouldn’t change a thing.

“Because we are in this secluded area, I think the neighborhood is going to be really supportive with it,” he said. “I want to see a lot of local people and familiar faces.”