Mexican restaurant and tequila bar to open in Iowa City

The Mexican restaurant and tequila bar is expected to open in January 2023.


Isabella Cervantes

Coa Cantina is seen on Clinton St. in Iowa City on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022.

Madeleine Willis, News Reporter

Des Moines-based Mexican restaurant and tequila bar Coa Cantina will open a second location in Iowa City in January 2023.

The restaurant will open at 18 ½ S. Clinton St. — where the Clinton Street Social Club is located — and will feature made-from-scratch tortas, tacos, burritos, and nachos, as well as various drinks including its tequila. The Clinton Street Social Club is listed as “temporarily closed” on its Facebook page and last posted in 2021.

Coa Cantina co-owner Brian Rorris said he is familiar with the Iowa City area and the atmosphere, as he is the owner of Quinton’s Bar and Deli on 215 E. Washington St. Rorris is one of four partners who own Coa Cantina.

Rorris started in the bar industry in 2011. After graduating from the University of Iowa in 2009, he bought his first bar in Des Moines — Quinton’s. Rorris now owns all Quinton’s locations in Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, and Coralville.

The restaurant, coined as “Des Moines’ Finest Tequila Bar” will join other Mexican restaurants in Iowa City, including the three Cactus Mexican Grill and Cantinas, Casa Azul, Estela’s Fresh Mex, Perez Family Tacos, and others.

Additionally, the cantina joins other bars in the area, including The Airliner, Roxxy’s, Double Tap, The Stuffed Olive, The Summitt, Sports Column, and others.

The restaurant and bar will serve a long menu of cocktails, including the “Bloody Maria,” “Mexican Ashtray,” “Ranch Water,” and eight types of margaritas.

Iowa City’s Downtown District Executive Director Nancy Bird said it is beneficial that Rorris understands and is familiar with Iowa City and its customer base.

In Bird’s opinion, the Coa Cantina will be a great addition to downtown Iowa City because the clientele is similar to that of East Des Moines.

“He’s putting in really nice fixtures and finishes, and he’s working hard to make sure that the space comes to life,” Bird said. “It’s a natural fit.”

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Rorris said they have been working on fixing the building for the new tequila bar for a month.

“It’ll bring life back into that building, which has essentially been vacant and closed since COVID, so we’re glad to have this beautiful space restored and looking good again,” Bird said.

Rorris said the restaurant’s two-floor concept is being done by a construction company out of Des Moines that worked on the first location.

“The guys move pretty quick when they are traveling all the way from Des Moines. It’s an incentive just to get the job done,” Rorris said.

As for the construction process, Rorris said they are keeping the integrity of the building by maintaining the historical aspects while updating it to have the same feel as the Coa Cantina in Des Moines.

“It’s a beautiful place,” he said, “It’s going to look like a whole new place by the time we are done with it.”

The Coa Cantina aims to target four important business times throughout the day, including lunch, happy hour, dinner, and late night.

Rorris said everything from Coa Cantina’s kitchen is made from scratch.

“There’s nothing like it here. There’s no dedicated true tequila bars,” he said.

Kayla Buehring, a University of Iowa second-year student, said she is excited about Coa Cantina’s arrival in Iowa City and how it will add to the nightlife scene.

Buehring said nightlife in Iowa City is really popular, and she believes Coa Cantina will only add to it.

Overall, Rorris said he is excited to have another restaurant and bar to oversee in Iowa City.

“Iowa City itself is a good downtown market,” he said. “I’ve had success individually down here.”