A Mexican restaurant and a tequila bar will open in Iowa City

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The Mexican restaurant and tequila bar are scheduled to open in January 2023.

Isabelle Cervantes

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


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. — home of the Clinton Street Social Club — and will offer homemade tortas, tacos, burritos and nachos, as well as a variety of beverages, 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 knows the Iowa City area and atmosphere well, as he is the owner of Quinton’s Bar and Deli at 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 of Quinton’s locations in Cedar Rapids, Des Moines and Coralville.

The restaurant, dubbed “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 canteen joins other bars in the area including The Airliner, Roxxy’s, Double Tap, The Stuffed Olive, The Summitt, Sports Column and many more.

The restaurant and bar will serve an extensive cocktail menu, including “Bloody Maria”, “Mexican Ashtray”, “Ranch Water” and eight types of margaritas.

Iowa City Downtown District Executive Director Nancy Bird said it was beneficial for Rorris to understand and know Iowa City and its customer base.

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

Rorris said they had been working on repairing the building for the new tequila bar for a month.

“It will breathe new life into this building, which has been essentially vacant and closed since COVID, so we are happy to have this beautiful space restored and beautiful again,” Bird said.

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

“Guys move pretty fast when they travel from Des Moines. It’s a fair incentive to get the job done,” Rorris said.

Regarding the construction process, Rorris said they are preserving the integrity of the building by retaining the historic 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 feel like a whole new place by the time we’re done.”

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

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

“There is nothing like it here. There are no real dedicated tequila bars,” he said.

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

Buehring said the nightlife in Iowa City is very popular and she thinks Coa Cantina will only add to that.

Overall, Rorris said he was thrilled 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 here.”

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