New restaurant coming to Crust location

A new restaurant will move into the building that housed Crust until the business closed in February. 

It didn’t take long for a new restaurant and bar to snatch up prime real estate on the corner of Third and Main streets in downtown Dubuque.

Barrel House, a restaurant and bar with extensive roots in the Quad Cities, has signed a 12-year lease to occupy the property at 299 Main St., according to co-owner Jimmy Holt. Crust Italian Kitchen + Bar operated out of that location for more than five years before closing its doors in February.

Holt said Barrel House aims to begin construction “within the next month” and open late this summer.

“We have been looking to expand outside of the Quad Cities market for a while now, and Dubuque has been on our radar for more than two years,” Holt said. “We think there is a lot of momentum in the downtown and Main Street area, and we are excited to be a part of that.”

Holt and his business partner, Michael DeWitte, operate two restaurants in Davenport, Iowa, and one in Moline, Ill., under the name Barrel House 211. A fourth location will open this spring in Silvis, Ill.

Holt said the restaurant likely will drop the “211” portion of the name for its Dubuque location.

Holt said existing locations are known for burgers, chicken sandwiches and salads, specialty tacos and quesadillas, and an expansive beer selection.

In addition to offering these staples, Barrel House in Dubuque will throw thin-crust pizza into the mix.

“One thing we really like about this location was the size of the space, which allowed for a larger kitchen and gave us a chance to expand our menu,” Holt said.

Mark Seckman, vice president of national marketing for Greater Dubuque Development Corp., does not expect Barrel House to have any trouble bringing in customers at its newest location.

“This location is a prime corner in the Dubuque market,” Seckman said. “I believe Barrel House will add a lot to what is transpiring there. Those types of restaurants and bars really create that nightlife buzz that people look for in a downtown community.”

Holt said Barrel House will be open daily from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., serving a full menu until 9 p.m. and half-priced appetizers thereafter.

Holt said he and DeWitte have watched the Dubuque market for more than two years. The owners previously considered opening in the Millwork District and the German Bank building at 342 Main St. but “couldn’t get the right deal done.”

When the co-owners learned about the availability at 299 Main St., they jumped at the opportunity.

“We were up there on the second or third day it became available,” Holt recalled.

Holt said the project remains in the “planning and design” phase. But he and DeWitte already have a general idea of what they want to do with the property.

“We are going to go in and totally reface the inside, make a new bar and give the interior something new and fresh,” he said. “We want to bring a Chicago-style pub atmosphere to downtown Dubuque.”

Holt said the owners plan to change relatively little with the exterior, noting that the property’s brick facade already blends nicely into the historic character of the downtown district. He also said Barrel House will strive to provide outdoor seating.

Barrel House plans to employ 50 to 60 people, which Holt said would be a combination of full- and part-time employees.