You may not have heard of nodo.
In case you're wondering, that's nodo with a lowercase 'n'.
You may not have even noticed the coffee and carry out restaurant sitting there tucked slightly off to the side as you entered the building at 600 N. Dodge St.
But chances are, if you have heard of it, you've probably heard good things.
"I just want people to find us," said owner Bryan Asklof. "Word of mouth is by far your best way to market, and I only hear positive things so we must be doing something right."
Asklof is hoping this word-of-mouth model will work for his business in Iowa City's competitive restaurant environment.
Nodo, which will celeberate its one-year anniversary in December, is a small carry out diner and coffee place that offers everything from coffee, cookies and scones to salads, homemade hummus, and deli style wraps and sandwiches. All is made to order at an affordable price. (View the full menus here)
Asklof said instead of building the menu around a set theme or cuisine, he wanted to offer a variety of options that would cater to a broad spectrum of people. He said that the one common thread among all the items that he offers is simplicity and high quality across the board.
"There's not anything on there that I wouldn't eat," Asklof said. "Here I know that we're consistent and that's important in this business."
A perfect example of a nodo menu item is the C & P: a corned beef, pastrami and swiss sandwich on grilled rye, with added zest thanks to the additonal coleslaw and dijon mustard. Asklof said like the other items on the menu, the inspiration for is his slightly unique take on the C&P came from the sandwiches he's loved over the years working in restaraunts, as well as cooking experiments he's done in his own kitchen.
"I've always loved that sandwich," Asklof said. "When I was making the menu, that was the first one that I knew that I was going to do."
Nodo, short for North Dodge, fits in nicely in the former space inhabited by the Goosetown Market in Iowa City's historic Goosetown Neighborhood. Asklof, a veteran cook, server and bartender with tours in several downtown Iowa City restaurants, started the business year ago after the space, which had been converted into a prep kitchen, was about to be sold.
"It actually all came together fairly easily," said Asklof, who has never run a business before nodo.
Asklof also offers catering options and private dining for small groups, although he said he prefers to provide small groups so he can emphasize quality.
The coffee is high quality brewed Cafe Del Sol. They also offer different coffee drinks, such as mochas, at request.
Although Asklof said the food is appreciated by his many regulars, he admitted location can be challenging. Customers heading to Ace Hardware aren't likely to associate it with high quality carry out cuisine. The space is also physically small, meaning that despite the free wireless Internet and coffee, students aren't apt to flock there to hang out and study. Nodo is also the only spot for several blocks that offers food.
"We're sort of on an island here," Asklof said. "The neighborhood I've got in my back pocket. It's the students that really need to realize that we're here."
Despite the challenges, Asklof said he likes where he's at. The restaurant is still going in a difficult economy. And he's building a loyal following in the northside neighborhood that he's come to love. He's even open-enrolled his kids into nearby .
"I really like the neighborhood," Asklof said. "It's a historic part of Iowa City, I love the history that's here."
Nodo is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.