Sep 2, 2022
Iowa City’s newest bar The Green House merges plants and cocktails for an indoor ‘oasis’
Flora takes front and center at Iowa City’s newest bar The Green House, transporting visitors to an indoor garden complete with drinks inspired by the greenery.
The Green House, which opens Saturday, marks another plant-themed bar in the state. West Des Moines welcomed its green-themed bar Pots & Shots earlier this year.
Emily Salmonson, owner of The Green House, told the Press-Citizen that the idea for the bar was born while she was at home during the pandemic and wanted to be surrounded by plants.
That and a cold Iowa winter made Salmonson crave greenery.
The Green House owner loves collecting and tending to plants. She’s not the only one.
“I feel like that was something during the pandemic that a lot of people took up as well. There (are) a lot of plant exchange Facebook groups and gardening Facebook groups. And I don’t know if it was as big before the pandemic, but I think it just took a new life of its own,” Salmonson said. “People are really getting into that and really proud of the things they create.”
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A 2021 survey from Bonnie Plants, a national plant wholesaler, found that more than 20 million Americans planted a vegetable garden for the first during the pandemic. Meanwhile, terms like “plant mom” are used frequently to describe people whose interest in their plants are akin to caring for a pet or a child.
Other plant-themed bars have sprouted across the country like Propagation, a “garden-centric neighborhood bar” in San Francisco and Little Tin Goods & Apothecary Cabinet in Seattle, which describes itself as a “speakeasy tiki garden bar.”
Learning more about plant-themed businesses was encouraging for Salmonson.
The Green House will have more than 100 plants for visitors to enjoy, a “little mini jungle” as Salmonson described it.
Among the beverages The Green House will serve include a tequila cordial that will have “a bit” of rose essence and rhubarb bitters, and a whiskey drink that ends up tasting like a “floral old fashioned.”
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Salmonson is working with Emma Barber of Rhubarb Botanicals, who makes her own tinctures, bitters and elixirs from a farm she owns outside of Mount Vernon.
For now, Salmonson will serve “elevated” bar snacks, dips like a jalapeno cashew spread from New Pioneer Food Co-op, as The Green House focuses its attention on cocktails.
‘This is exactly what I want to do’: A plant-themed bar comes together in the former Van B’s space
The location of her plant bar was important for Salmonson.
The Green House, at 505 E. Washington St. Suite 1842, was formerly Van B’s before becoming vacant in 2020.
Salmonson, who’d worked at FilmScene for years as director of operations, would walk by the building and think about how it was a “great, airy open space” with its tall windows and spacious patio space.
She wanted someone to make use of such a space.
“The more I thought of it, the more I was like, ‘No, this is exactly what I want to do,’” she said. “I don’t think (The Green House) would have happened as easily or quickly if it was a different space.”
Among the many potted, leafy greens inside the bar is a wall with framed mossy green plants and blooming, lavender-hued flowers that feels certain to be the background for Instagram-worthy pictures.
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The framed plants and the plants throughout The Green House are thanks to the creative design and work by Benito Ocampo of Beno’s Flowers and Gifts in Iowa City. He selected plants that were low-maintenance, Salmonson said.
Iowa City Bike Library director Audrey Wiedemeier adorned the outside of The Green House with plants and vibrant, blooming flowers.
It’s just one example of how Salmonson’s friends rallied behind her to support her new business.
The Green House is just slightly outside of downtown Iowa City, a perfect location for Salmonson’s vision.
“I think just being a couple of blocks from downtown offers a little bit of sanctuary from all of that excitement that’s going on. I want this to be a sanctuary and like this little oasis set off just a bit from downtown,” Salmonson said, adding that it’s not too far that folks can’t walk to.
Every Monday, The Green House will host a “planty hour” at 6 pm for folks who want to participate in a plant exchange to trade their potted pals or learn more about plants from others.
That’s the start to future plant-related programming Salmonson hopes to host at the bar. As far as community collaborations, The Green House will serve as the final destination for the Bike Library’s Farm Cycle, where bicyclists travel to local farms for a daylong, food-filled ride.
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Salmonson is eager for people to come together at the plant bar, especially for those who are a bit “trepidatious” about coming back into social situations due to the pandemic.
“I’m just very excited to offer that space, especially for those people who really love plants, people who might want to learn about different ways of propagating things and just kind of having a very safe, very kind of calming environment space for them to experience the other side of the pandemic,” she said.
Grand opening hours are 10 am to 8 pm Saturday and Sunday.
Paris Barraza covers entertainment, lifestyle and arts at the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Reach her at [email protected] or (319) 519-9731. Follow her on Twitter @ParisBarraza.
This article originally appeared on Iowa City Press-Citizen: Iowa City’s plant-themed bar The Green House seeks to be an ‘oasis’