In 1994, the landscape of Iowa City was forever changed when the Java House opened at 211 ½ East Washington. Its appearance heralded the arrival of the coffee craze in the general Midwest--sure, there were probably Starbucks all over Chicago at that point, but there wasn't one in Iowa City. (In fact, there wasn't a single Starbucks in Iowa City when I left in 2001, but there's one now, I saw with disappointment, though at least it's off the main drag and not nearly as crowded as other, older, cooler places.)
Iowa City's downtown features an area known as the pedestrian mall, the ped mall for short. It runs through four blocks bounded by Washington on the north, Clinton on the west, Burlington on the south, and Linn on the east. Paved with brick, dotted with trees, well-stocked with benches both in the shade and in the sun, equipped with a fountain and a playground, it's a cool place to hang out if there's no one you want to avoid; if there's someone you don't particularly want to encounter--say, for instance, an evil ex named Adam--you are sure to find him there, sitting on a bench in the sun, hitting on some undergrad who can't understand why this 30-something guy with the crazy eyebrows (his eyebrows were his worst feature, looking as they did like small furry rodents nesting on an otherwise attractive face) is putting on this act of intense and obviously fake sincerity. The restaurants, shops and bars (mostly bars) around the ped mall occupy prime retail space, because it gets so much foot traffic.
Prior to the arrival of the Java House, the only coffee house in downtown Iowa City was a place called the Tobacco Bowl, the retail equivalent of an AA meeting or an indoor cigarette break: no need to shiver in a snowstorm between classes or put up with the boozy smell of stale beer while you get your nicotine fix--heavens no! Why not enjoy a nice espresso instead of a beer and stay warm while you're at it? You can either study the cigars in the humidor--such a variety--or sit in front of a big window facing the ped mall, watching everyone who walks by! I admit I see the appeal of all that, I just don't see the appeal of smoking. I would never hang out there, even with friends who smoked, because I hated how I smelled when I left.