La Wine Bar replaces BeerBurger
BeerBurger on Burlington Street closed its doors at the beginning of the summer, but a new restaurant will soon open along the busy street. La Wine Bar & Restaurant will bring a unique, Asian vibe owner ShanShan Kong promises.
“I've heard from a lot of the Chinese students that they feel so (lost) because they don’t know how to set up their life in America," said Kong, who also owns La Care Spa. "When they go to the bar or to the club it’s totally different than in China.”
She first saw the East Burlington Street vacancy back in July. With experience operating a restaurant on the east coast and a desire to add a secondary revenue source during La Care Spa's slow season, she decided to look at the space. Within two weeks, she was signing paperwork to lease it.
Her hope is the restaurant can offer a comfortable venue for international students looking for a place like home, but also wants to make sure her American customers feel welcomed.
“I just really want to bring in real Asian stuff to local people," said Kong. “We want to add more of the similar American food so people have more choice."
Things like onion rings, chicken wings and pasta will be on the menu next to Kong's own authentic Chinese recipes.
Originally from northern China and a member of the Korean ethnic group, Kong's cuisine and culture are a mix of both countries.
"Things like the rice and the cold noodle soup, Korean style fried chicken and some grilled stuff," Kong described alongside bubble tea. "We have seafood, we have meat. We focus more on the fried stuff and the grilled stuff... but it's a different style."
Her dedication to authenticity extends to the decor. While Kong likes the looks of the walls after BeerBurger's tenure in the space, much of the furniture will be ordered from China. She plans to bring in some colored strobe lights as well as an interactive floor projection to project images like a beach or waterfall in the space.
Kong also plans to put a stage in the northeast corner for karaoke, live music and possibly DJs. Right now, she's in the midst of planning a Halloween party during which the restaurant will look like a scary hospital and patrons will get their drinks from hospital IVs.
Before that though, Nick Tong, a friend of Kong's with the University of Iowa's Chinese Music Club (CMC), will be coming in with his four-person band to perform opening night.
"I want more Americans to know about Chinese music," said Tong. "That's what CMC wants to do for this semester."
With its proximity to campus, diverse entertainment and appeal to a wide variety of people, Kong believes La Wine Bar will fill a unique niche in the Iowa City dining scene.
“I want the place people hang out to be here,” said Kong, motioning to the soon to be bar space. “I’m going to put up our logo. It’s very simple: ‘Why are we here? For fun!’ People can have a good time right here."
Isaac Hamlet covers arts, entertainment and culture at the Press-Citizen. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (319)-688-4247, follow him on Twitter @IsaacHamlet