The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

New owner takes over Hamburg Inn

Michael Lee stands proudly infront of Hamburg Inn No. 2, which he now owns, on March 3. Hamburg Inn No. 2 has full support from their new owner Lee, “There isn’t another restaurant like this out there.” (The Daily Iowan/Mary Mathis)

When people walk into a landmark restaurant situated on North Linn Street, the delicious aroma of burgers might immediately overwhelm them — but big changes are coming.

Hamburg Inn No. 2, 214 N. Linn St., has become an iconic restaurant and has been a part of Iowa City’s Americana since the late-1940s. Dave Panther has owned and operated the diner since 1979, when he bought it from his parents, but as of Thursday, new owner, Michael Lee, took over.

“I’ve been at it a long time now, and it’s been good for me,” Panther said. “But I want to travel with my wife and start fishing more.”
Panther said he wanted to try to keep the business in the family, but there is currently no qualified candidate. But he does have faith in Lee.

“I think he’ll do a great job,” he said. “He won’t try to change the atmosphere, which is iconic here in Iowa City.”

Former Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton and then-Sen. Barack Obama have all visited the restaurant. The restaurant is probably most famous for its omelets, burgers, and pie shakes — pieces of pie blended with ice cream.

Lee, who is from Shanghai, China, and attended the University of Iowa in the late-1960s, is excited to take over.

“When I first decided to buy the restaurant, I was so happy from my head to my toes,” he said.

Even though Panther is stepping down as owner, it does not mean he will not be involved with operations. Lee said he will do right by the Panther name.

“I won’t try to steal his family’s glory,” he said. “There isn’t another restaurant like this out there.”

Lee already has big plans for the restaurant, which include putting branches in new locations as far away as China.

“We’re hoping to have a restaurant in my hometown of Shanghai within the next year,” he said. “The only difference will be the name. The restaurant will be called ‘The American President’s Diner’ to appeal to the popularity of American politics in China.”

Seth Dudley, the general manager at the Hamburg Inn No. 2, who has worked there for six years, said it is no surprise to see Panther retire.

“[Lee is] very charismatic and enthusiastic,” Dudley said. “He seems to understand what makes this place special, and I don’t think he’s going to make a lot of impactful changes around here.”

Panther felt nostalgic on his last night at the restaurant, talking about all the wonderful events he’s helped organize at the Hamburg Inn No. 2.

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