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

Atlas restaurant to re-open as “Saint Burch”

The Daily Iowan; Photos by Gaoyu
A outside view of Atlas, Feb 26, 2018. (The Daily Iowan, Gaoyuan Pan)

Atlas Restaurant & Bar, 127 Iowa Ave., will be taken off the map and replaced with a new concept and menu.

Atlas was established by Jack Piper and James Adrian in 2000, almost 18 years ago. However, last winter Piper and Adrian approached Cory Kent, a member of a group that owns several restaurants in Iowa City, including Pullman Diner and Big Grove Brewery, about selling Atlas.

“Our interest was immediately piqued — what a great location and staple of Iowa City, what a great history,” Kent said. “We were very excited and worked out a great deal. Our initial goal was to operate as is and observe the workers and diners.”

Kent and the group officially bought Atlas in April 2017.

When the purchase was made, Kent had no plans to make any major changes to Atlas. But after a few months of ownership, the group members decided they wanted to try something new.

Their decision resulted in an overhaul of Atlas’s theme, interior decoration, and menu, culminating in a new establishment called Saint Burch.

Saint Burch will feature two themes in one, separated between the downstairs and upstairs portion of the establishment. Both areas will be renovated with new chairs and tables, light fixtures, paint, walls, and several subtle touches.

The downstairs level will replace the more traditional setting of Atlas with Saint Burch’s own tavern-inspired one. It will have old stone walls and throwback furniture and cutlery.

The upstairs level will be the more elegant of the two, including a new raw bar that will feature an array of fresh fish, oysters, clams, shrimp, crab legs, and more. The decoration will be more contemporary than that of the downstairs, which Kent hopes will create an interesting and inviting contrast.

“The downstairs portion is more of a dive, we want it to feel like Grandpa’s basement, a throwback to the ’70s and ’80s,” he said, “Upstairs will be beautiful, with a more modern layout as well as new flatware and glassware.”

Ben Smart, head chef and stakeholder in several restaurants around the city, including Atlas, is excited about the changes appearing in the menu of Saint Burch. He said it will be very different from that of Atlas but a few staples will remain.

Smart also touched on the price of the food at Saint Burch.

“We are still in the process of finalizing the prices, but they will range on affordability,” he said. “Downstairs, we will have items like sandwiches that will be around $5 or $6. Upstairs, we will have some nicer dishes, like if someone wanted to buy an expensive, quality meal for a date night.”

Atlas has been at its current location for 17 years, an impressive feat for a restaurant in Iowa City, said Nancy Bird, the executive director of the Iowa City Downtown District. But in the restaurant business, things must change in order to stay ahead, she noted.

“There has been a lot of change coming to Iowa City lately,” Bird said. “Kudos to Cory Kent and his partners for staying ahead of the curve.”

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