Sanctuary Restaurant & Pub

Not Rated.
Sanctuary Restaurant & PubSanctuary Restaurant & Pub
BA SCORE
96
world-class

28 Ratings
Ratings: 28
Reviews: 23
rAvg: 4.44
pDev: n/a
Taps: 25
Bottles: 100
Cask: N
Beer-to-Go: N
[ Bar, Eatery ]

405 S Gilbert St
Iowa City, Iowa, 52240-4918
United States
phone: (319) 351-5692

visit their websiteWebsite view map and get directionsMap 

Notes:
On street parking is limited but there is a new "City Parking Ramp" two blocks west of the bar.

(Place added by: BeerAdvocate)
Place: Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | Likes | High | Low | Top Raters
« first ‹ prev | 1-25 | 26-50  | next › last »
Ratings: 28 | Reviews: 23 | Display Reviews Only:
Reviews by MarcatGSB:
Photo of MarcatGSB
4.75/5  rDev +7%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 4.5

Stumbled upon The Sanctuary only because I heard they had quite a few taps. I knew nothing else. I found a great world behind those pub doors.

They have 27 taps. They have a great bottle selection. Their food is fun, inventive, and tasty. The atmosphere is sophisticated and chill at the same time.

What more could you ask for?

If you are in Iowa City and would like to escape from the typical downtown frat bar scene that is Iowa City, go to the Sanctuary. They have affordable, great beer. The bartenders will treat you with respect, the music is not overwhelmingly loud, and most likely is some mellow classy jazz. No where else in Iowa City, or eastern Iowa can you get the vibe that you find at the Sanctuary. A great place to spend your hard earned dollars.

More User Reviews:
Photo of Doctor_Bogenbroom
4.45/5  rDev +0.2%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4.25

I went to the Sanctuary many times during my graduate school days, and I was always pretty impressed with the beer selection. The food is a bit on the expensive side, but the atmosphere is fairly inviting and there are a variety of different beers on tap. Service quality depends on how busy the establishment is at the time, but overall, I'd say it is worth checking out.

Photo of mbenda
4.64/5  rDev +4.5%

Photo of KAF
4.5/5  rDev +1.4%

Photo of PBIU
4.5/5  rDev +1.4%

Photo of teraflx
4.5/5  rDev +1.4%

Photo of Bkoop
4.5/5  rDev +1.4%

Photo of cpolking
4.2/5  rDev -5.4%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 4

The Sanctuary has a very good selection of Iowa craft beer (including the delicious Toppling Goliath beers), American craft beer, and Belgian beer. Quite a few selections on draft (I think at least 30?), more in bottles. There is a good selection of food, and the food is solid, not gourmet, but above the average bar food. The prices for beer and food are reasonable. It has a cozy, dark atmosphere, lots of wood. The bar staff is knowledgable about beer. Near downtown and the ped mall area. I go anytime I am in Iowa City.

Photo of quaybr
3.78/5  rDev -14.9%
vibe: 3 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4 | food: 4

Stopped by here with my wife and friends on a trip back to Ohio for the winter holiday.

I wasn't fond of the atmosphere. It was dimly lit, on the verge of dark. I could have tolerated that if it were quiet, but it wasn't. Acoustics in that place were crazy: no music, but the narrow and long room just created some kind of noise chamber.

Service wasn't great, but above average. The server had no idea what the styles of beer were that they had on tap. I'm always a little confused by a "beer bar" that employs people who aren't knowledgeable about beer.

Selection was decent. Only a small portion of the tap list was made up of regional breweries (I believe three at the time). Otherwise, some pretty standard microbrews.

Food was good, a bit expensive.

Overall, this is a nice bar given its selection. A bit too pricey for my liking.

Photo of GoinGoinGone
5/5  rDev +12.6%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 5

LOVED this place! I recently went in there on a Monday night while in Iowa City visiting some friends. Great ambiance! Blues and Jazz music playing in the background. Dimly lit with dark wood and green lanterns. This place was exquisite considering that its in a party-oriented college town.

For a Monday it was quite busy. I assuming because it was their deal night (3.45/pint). The bartender was extremely cordial - I think his name was Nick - and answered all of my wife and I's questions thoroughly on top of having us laughing our pants off. And if I didn't know any better I would say that the bartender and the two servers were related! The way they interacted was hilarious and very comfortable. It was like brothers and sisters jokingly pick at each other. They were very pleasant and made our time at the Sanctuary fun and relaxing. We felt as if we were part of a family. A+++ for service and ambiance.

The selection was pretty good. Would have liked to see some more Oktoberfests on tap, they one had one. But they had Old Rasputin on tap which was fantastic and some other notable beers including; Gulden Drak, HooblanChoufe, Framboise Lambic, and (not remarkable but oh so good!) Rogue Hazelnut Brown.

I also had the Spaghetti and Meatballs which was AMAZING. I was expecting run of the mill food, but the dish was outstanding. My wife had some MahiMahi dish which she loved.

Overall, I was incredibly surprised by the place. I can't believe I went to college/grad school there and never found it. Shame on me! But if you get the chance, you will not be wasting your time there! Service is phenomenal, food is wonderful, beer is variant and high quality, and the ambiance is low-key and relaxing. Dont miss this one!

Photo of emerge077
4.34/5  rDev -2.3%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5

Criss-crossing across Iowa, we needed a place to stop and take a break, and Sanctuary fit the bill. Late Friday night there was a manageable crowd, the bar area was only half full so we opted for a two top table.

Inside the front door, there's a door off to the left marked "Red Room" with additional dining/lounge space. Inside the narrow main room, the bar was on the right, with tables and lounge seating on the left. Antiqued leather chairs, dark wooden tables and dim green lamps gave it a cozy, relaxed vibe. The bar and tables were a dark reddish wood, and the back bar was rustic with illuminated stained glass panels. Above that there was a row of brewery mirrors and decorative wooden crates. On the exposed brick walls was an eclectic mix of framed artwork. The place had the feel of an English pub or european cafe. This was reflected in it's broad selection of import bottles, covering a variety of styles.

Seeking local Iowa beer, there were a couple that we settled on, Golden Nugget IPA from Toppling Goliath, and Hop Wrangler from Peace Tree. The bartender and patron next to me were happy to chat beer and give local recommendations. He mentioned the Hop Wrangler was the end of the keg, asked if that was ok, and only charged a short pour for it. On a shelf above the bar I noticed a bottle of Utopias and a few 750's of Saison-Brett. Bottle list was extensive, sorted by country with tasting notes.

We didn't try the food this time, but it looked good from what was coming out of the kitchen. Overall a cozy little place, a good spot to spend a couple hours with some good company and quality beers.

Photo of Yetiman420
4.36/5  rDev -1.8%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5

Stopped in on for what I thought would be a quick stop on a Tuesday around 4pm after a stop a John's Grocery (for beer glasses).

A tad bit off the beaten path which is fine for me. Meter parking around the corner. Plan exterior which opens up to a very cozy, dimly lit European interior. I made my way to the bar where there were two other people.

Twenty seven beers on tap. Eight Belgians, one cider (Ace Pear), and the rest a good blend leaning to pale/IPA.

Remarkable selections include:
Brother Thelonious 10oz $6
Framboise Lambic 10oz $7
Gulden Draak Brown Ale $7
Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast 10oz $8
New Belgium Grand Cru and La Folie 10oz $5
IPA's form local breweries Toppling Goliath and Peace Tree
Old Rasputin $6

My bartender turned out to be the owner, Woody, and I got to chat him up after his shift. Wound up spending a hour too long here as I had to be in Des Moines that night. The next set of bartenders included a guy on his first day who was a regular prior to that but I'm not quite sure he had the hang of proper glassware and pouring - no big deal.

Very nice place and highly recommended to fill the void of no brewer in a college town like this.

Photo of AugiePrimrose
4.25/5  rDev -4.3%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 5 | food: 3.5

A:A dimly lit pub with a nice sized bar area and seperated dining section. It's definitely a little more 'classy' than your average Iowa City meat market type bar. The kind of place where your worries disappear the second you walk through the door. Great vibe for conversation.

Q and S:One of Iowa's better(top 3?) tap/bottle lists. 25 or so taps from Rogue to Flying Dog and some from across the pond. A nice, well rounded selection in which there's something for everyone.

Service:Always attentive and on top of almost empty pints. Sometimes younger guys bartending, but they're not punks or meatheads.

F:Was happy to see some veggie options(not always so in Iowa) for the wife and the pizza is good enough. Probably wouldn't eat here if not for the beer selection though.

V:Can be a bit pricey on the pints($6), but they have weeknight specials which knock them down to $3. I think Monday is any pint for $3, then the other days are certain beers like Anchor Steam or Fat Tire.

Photo of AndrewD1022
4.3/5  rDev -3.2%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5

This was a great place to find in Iowa. Not familiar with the surrounding bars I found this place asking around. It is one of my favorite bars that I have visited of recent.

The pub styled restaurant is very dark but lively, the bartender was very nice and very knowledgeable in his beers. Found off the beaten path of most Iowa City bars, it did not bring in the typical college crowd.

The selection of beer was very impressive and overwhelmed me at first. With beer from all over the world I was taken aback at how many countries were represented. Even outside the common ones like Belgium, Germany and now America.

On tap there was a great selection of about 20 beers, all different.

Overall, if you are within an hour of this Beer Bar/Restaurant and want a great place to get a drink, you need to stop by. You may find something on tap or on their menu that is new.

Photo of bnietz
4.64/5  rDev +4.5%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5

Wow!

OK, so I'm getting carried away, but this place was exceptional, especially for middle america.

I counted 20 or so beers on tap and the bottle list is extensive.

I had the Blanche de Bruxelles on tap. Of course the little Manneken Pis on the beer tap drew my eye immediately. My friend had a Fuller's London Pride on tap and his wife has a Pinkus Ur Pils from a half liter bottle. Both seemed fresh and tasty.

Sad to say, it had been a long day and I was driving so I only could try one.

Not usually open over the lunch hour, so plan on going there in the evening.

Photo of cullenvens
4.8/5  rDev +8.1%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 4.5

This place is an amazing breath of fresh air in the vast open plains of Iowa. I have never been to a bar in Iowa that has such an immense selection of delicious, hard-to-obtain beers.

The selection varies from month to month, but there is always something wonderous that will surely please you, your family, or a date. Beer exploration is a must in this world. As such, I have found it necessary to keep this place on my list for years.

Don't be fooled by the location, stuck inconspicuously between two much brighter locales, or the drab interior, you will enjoy yourself if you enter. What sets it apart, other than the exceptional beer selection, is that it is not a loud college puke/slutfest. It is calm, quiet, fragrant and somber.

Enjoy.

Photo of hoffman
4.44/5  rDev 0%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5

The sanctuary is a great place to grab a beer. Tucked away off of the beaten path a bit in IC, you can escape the mardi gras esc atmosphere of the ped mall. The Sanctuary is certainly a quieter atmosphere, and is all about good beer, good wine and, from what I could tell, good food.

The 15 taps are include 4 Rogue taps, including DGA and Shakespeare 4 taps from Fullers a tap from Bells, Lindeman's Frambois and a few others.

The bottle selection was the best I have seen in a while, several Belgian options, harder to find Rouge (I2PA, Old Crusy etc). I had a pint of Fuller's ESB, a sample of North Coast Red Seal, and a 12 ounce bottle of Trubadour blonde.

I was fortunate enough to meet and converse with the owner, an engaging fellow, well traveled, and willing to discuss all things beer etc.

In addition the beer menu is laid out well with BA ratings in suffix, the service was good, I didn't like the fact that there was quite a bit of smoking going on, the beers on bottle were also plenty cold, I am nitpicking but observations none the less. Overall a great experience.

Photo of Willibomb
4.95/5  rDev +11.5%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 4.5

While planning a trip that involved driving though IC, I looked this place up on this website. After the initial reviews, my wife and I decided to give it a shot, and what a nice suprise it was!

First off, it was "Dead Guy night" with $3 pints and $9 dollar pitchers, yes pitchers of rogue. Each pitcher could pour at least 4 pints, so it was definately a cheap night out. Also, as a little bonus, the bar was recently picked up as a JLS provider, which made the trip worth it completely with just that. The rest of the selection was made of about 20 unique brews from various brewers, with the most mainstream being newcastle, and the most exotic being a brew by Lambic (which my wife got a free taste of, and was very pleased).

The bar was less than packed, so service was a sinch, most of the time, I was conversing with the bartender (Connor) about beer, college, and different places we have been. While my wife ordered garlic bread for $3 (very good), I told him that I thought that Newcastle had a strange flavor in the midwest, he disagreed and brought me a 1/2 pint of it on the house, and he was right, the last bar I had it in, was serving old beer or at least bad beer! (Buffolo Wild Wings)

If this bar is a great bar, and if you take into account that it is but a handful (3 that I have found) in iowa with rogue on tap, this bar is the top of the small beer-oriented bars in Iowa. Coupled with great food, and a great service, it is a real A+. Even give free beeradvocate magazines! What more could you ask for?

Photo of scoobybrew
4/5  rDev -9.9%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 3 | selection: 5 | food: 4

Our homebrew club stopped here for dinner on a recent trip to Iowa City. The place is dimly glowing; with dim lights everywhere, giving the bar section a very classy feeling. The dining section has a fireplace going which gives a very home like feeling. The beer list selection is unbelievable for a beer bar making selection wonderfully difficult (how often does that happen in a restaurant). The beer was also served in its appropriate glassware (Belgians & lambics had tulips & snifters, pales pint glasses and weizen glasses for wheats, etc.) The food was excellent and we really enjoyed our time spent here. My only small complaint was that I had to wait on occasion for a beer. However, I was pretty thirsty and the beer was going down easily

Photo of woodychandler
3.66/5  rDev -17.6%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 3.5

As I entered this establishment, I was faced with an immediate decision – the lady or the tiger. Oh, wait. That’s for a different review. No, here, it was “Pub Room” dead ahead or “Café Rooms” off to the left. The WoodCompass always points to “Bar” and so it was off to the former. As I entered, the stygian darkness put me in mind of my favorite bartender of all time, Russell “Rocky” Albrecht, who would come on-shift, announce, “Okay, people, nobody ever came to a bar to get a suntan!” and then dim the lights waaaay down. He would swoon over this place. I had to feel my way along, past the snug to the immediate right, past the tables and stools on the right, and finally I bumped into the long, simple, dark-wood bar with desk lamps built into the bar trough. I felt like I was in a WWII spy movie, dictating notes by the merest of lighting. The back bar was an immense wood and mirror affair with its several wine racks, and an extensive liquor selection. To the left of the bar was a short dividing wall with stools and a shelf. Further left were booths and a fireplace that utilized candles, vice wood, for illumination. In front of the fireplace were two leather couches facing each other, plus a coffee table. The washrooms were all of the way aft. Also, if you go, do take note of the “native quarried stone walls and hand-hewn timber lintels.” I love that sort of thing.

The “Café Rooms” were slightly more brightly lit, with standard restaurant tables and chairs, heavy burgundy curtains dividing the space in half, and most of the way aft, a short passageway connecting the two buildings.

The selection was decent, with sixteen (16) taps and a load of bottles in a cooler. I had a couple of beers and moved on.

Photo of Metalmonk
4.22/5  rDev -5%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4

Why oh why didn't I frequent this place more often when I lived in Iowa City? Easy answer: I was pretty much flat broke then. And I didn't have the refined taste for beer that I've gained as I've gotten older and (hopefully) wiser. But wow, what a lost opportunity to have started the beer journey years ago, extra spending money or not.

Last time I visited the place was quiet (I like going to beer bars early in the week for this very reason) as we sat and slowly sipped our beers. The selection is great, everything served in appropriate glassware. They offer a huge international variety that would take many visits to exhaust, but I couldn't help it: I went for the Belgians again. Prices were on the high side for some of the rarer and higher-ABV beers.

The service was fair, not overly friendly but certainly not rude. The atmosphere of this place is key: lots of old wood and candles, a real cozy, almost medieval pub atmosphere that enhances the quaffing of fine ales. An excellent slice of class and comfort in a wonderful little city.

Photo of Erdinger2003
4/5  rDev -9.9%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4

When I first walked into this bar I noticed the menu was filled with great beers in bottles...that you could get at John's Grocery just down the street. They have a diverse tap, but minumal for the diverse palate of an experienced beer drinker. I just wanted to ask if I could bring in my own from what I had just bought from John's Grocery. They had Fuller's Porter and ESB "extra special bitter" which I tried and got bored at the lack of people and the speedy rate I was getting hungry, so I just gulped the bitter and left. I did meet a few new people and steered them over to beer advocate. He needed a little education on the basics, but I was glad to tell him all I knew. It's unusual for me to meet people that give good beer a chance, so when it happens it's hard for me to shut up. I get a little excited. So the experience was good for about a half an hour. I will definetly try again during peek hours to find more beer advocates.

Photo of gmcfarre
4.7/5  rDev +5.9%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 4 | selection: 5 | food: 4.5

Visited twice on the same trip to Iowa City, its that great. Place is split into a pub and a restaurant side, but i believe the entire menu is available on both sides (pub is smoking permitted, while it is prohibited in restaurant side).

Atmosphere - Dark, lots of wood, much of the "booth" seating is made up of old pews (very cool). Definitely has the feel of an old english pub, but with higher ceilings (not the chain pubs found in London, actual English pubs!). Menu says the building has been around since the mid 1800s and the original stone masonry is still visible. Waitress told us they recently rebuilt the front entry and it looks very nice, much more noticable from the street. Don't worry, the usual college crowd still wasn't in attendance. Patrons seemed to be grad students and older adults avoiding the downtown scene. I was proud to be the youngest looking person in attendance (I am an undergrad myself).

Beer - Really excited to see Franziskaner Hefe on tap. Also had Anchor Steam, Guinness, Sierra Nevada (i think) and PBR(?) among others. the real story, however, is the extensive list of imports (including probably 40 Belgians as well as a good selection of English brews and American microbrews). Had an Orval on one visit, and a K-O Blonde on the next while my girlfriend had a Bink Bloesem and a Poperinge Hommel. Beers were served with appropriate glassware, and the Franziskaner Hefe had a lemon slice on the rim, for better or worse.

Service - Average speed and quite friendly. However, when I asked for the Orval she replied, "the Orval tapistry ale?" Second night's waitress seemed to have a greater knowledge of beer, and recommended the Bink as one of her favorites.

Food - Have only had the Pizza Margherita, but it was spectacular. Rest of the menu sounded varied and tasty.

Price - Pretty average prices for on tap selection (3.50 or 4.50 for most). Imports can be expensive (up to $10 and above), but most are $6 - $8. Pizza was reasonably priced for its quality ($10 for medium, serves 2). Entrees were up near $20.

Definitely one of my favorite pubs. Amazing beer selection combined with delicious food. thank god my girlfriend lives only 3 blocks away.

Photo of hero27
4.4/5  rDev -0.9%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 3.5

Finally stopped by The Sanctuary on my latest trip to Iowa City. As soon as I walked in, there was a sign that said something like "No-one under the age of 21 allowed in after 10pm.. One more stupid Iowa law." I found that to be both funny and unfortunately true.

Anyways, as soon as I walked in, the first thing I noticed was how dark it was..as my eyes adjusted to the lighting, I spotted the bar, and quickly made my way there. I grabbed a beer menu first thing. I noticed they had 10 different beers on tap...then the huge selection of bottles. As for the bottles, the bartender told me that they get their beer from, where else, but John's Grocery right down the street. The beer menu is pretty sweet, with listing by country and brewery, as well as small reviews from their own staff, Michael Jackson, and what else...but BeerAdvocate. Their entire selection is listed on their website, if you're curious.

I tried a Fuller's ESB, Anchor Steam, and Framboise Lambic, all on-tap..then we moved to a table for our meal where I had a bottle of Old Crustacean Barley Wine. I asked for a bottle of Rogue Imperial Pale Ale as well, because I haven't been able to find it anywhere for quite a while, and it was listed on their menu...unfortunately, they were out of it, which I expected since John's was out of stock as well.

The food items all seemed to have a certain unique flair to them, however I wasn't overly impressed with them. I ordered crab cakes, but the waitress came over about 15 minutes later and told me they burnt them and those were the last ones they had, so that kinda bummed me out. I went ahead and ordered the "Andouille Po’Boy", which said came on a toasted roll..but was a little more burnt than toasted. eh, I didn't care much, I was on my 3rd or 4th beer by then. Shit happens, and I wasn't there for the food. Next time I'm back, I'm sure the food will be better and I'll update my review accordingly.

Back to good things... Overall, a fantastic bar. The atmosphere is great and the selection is incredible. My recommandation if you find yourself in the middle of Iowa...hit up John's Grocery, then come here to enjoy some of the best beer on earth.

Photo of mynie
4.5/5  rDev +1.4%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4

Absolutely fantastic atmosphere. An old building, lots of wood trim. Wonderful soft lighting that doesn't come off as trashy. No loud music, no loud kids--just the pleasant chatter of middle-aged hepsters and the clink of ice against glass. The dining area is small and cozy. Everything just *works*.

The beer selection was huge and varied and the only American macro I saw sight of was PBR (which might have explained the lack of college kids in a college town at 9:00 on a Friday night). A complete list is available at their website. All the beer's were quite reasonably priced, too.

The food was good, but not great. They were fresh out of the pasta dish that my fiance and I wanted so we got a pizza instead. For a pizza it was above average, the sauce might have had a bit too much red pepper in it but that's just personal preference. I've been told that the actual entrées are a lot better.

The waiter was very nice. I didn't need to test his beer knowledge, since all the beers are summarized quite nicely on a beer menu that each tables comes replete with. The menu is a great touch in a place like this, to not have to walk up to the bar and stare down into the fridge and point to what you want like a kid at an ice cream truck). Some beers even had their high Beer Advocate scores listed next to them!

It's a hard choice between this and OC. From what I've heard about the crowds the OC draws at night, though, you might want to go there for lunch, shop downtown Iowa City for a few hours, and then stop by Sanctuary for dinner.

« first ‹ prev | 1-25 | 26-50  | next › last »
Sanctuary Restaurant & Pub in Iowa City, IA
96 out of 100 based on 28 ratings.