The Italian restaurant Crust was something of an infamous spot on the downtown Dubuque map. The food and staff could often divide opinion, but there were certainly plenty of us that were regular patrons on the weekend. The restaurant, which was run by Sarah Thiltgen and her large team, was the place to go on Main Street for a great Italian dishes. Sadly, the restaurant closed in February 2016. It may have been eight months now since we lost Crust, but many of we still feel the loss. That is why I choose to celebrate the good times and lament the closure here today.
Crust’s Owner Was Adamant That The Closure Had Nothing To Do With Poor Business.
Locals may joke about the quality of the food and service at Crust, but we cannot pretend that it wasn’t a favorite haunt with regular business. It knew its audience well and was able to cater to them throughout their five-year run. Thiltgen also managed to maintain a great relationship with her staff. She once stated that the staffs were like family to her, which is crucial when creating such a family friendly atmosphere in an Italian establishment. She also kindly helped them find new jobs on announcing her decision to leave.
Thiltgen simply decided to leave Dubuque for Chicago, stating that it was time for her to “move on.” It was reported at the time that she had accepted a position in the food and beverage industry in Chicago, so it is not clear exactly what she was going to be doing in the city. Critics that slated Crust’s attempts at pizza may joke that she is going to the home of the Chicago deep-dish to see how it should be made. This is unfair to women that spent five strong years maintaining a traditional Italian restaurant in the heart of Dubuque. This was particularly the case when myself and others celebrated the range of flavors and options that this establishment provided. They weren’t perfect, but they were tasty, affordable and family friendly.
This is about all we know about the decision to pack up and close Crust’s doors for the final time. It all sounds a little vague to those of us that hoped there was a juicer story to it all. The truth is that as much as we hate to believe it, things never stay the same for very long. Restaurants leave and new ones rise out of the ashes.
When The Restaurant Closed It Hit The Area Hard, And The Absence Is Still Noticeable.
At the time, the executive director of Dubuque Main Street (apparently that is a real role) spoke about the “void” that the departure would create in the area. The prominent position of the Crust restaurant was part of its charm. The Main Street location was ideal for those of us that wanted an accessible lunch in town. Also, many Aquarium visitors were sent their way with the kids after their day out. It didn’t take long before the building was taken over to capitalize on this market.
A new branch of the Barrel House now sits on that prime piece of real estate. This well-known business promised to bring a taste of Mexico to space, with quesadillas and tacos on the menu. It was also interesting that they decided to expand with a pizza menu. The developers say that this is because of the kitchen space in this great building. The rest of us can’t help but wonder whether it was a nod to the great pizza that came before them.
Crust May Be Gone, But It Is Not Forgotten.
There will be many obituaries to this downtown Dubuque institution from patrons with differing memories of the place. Many of us will miss the awareness and dependency of Crust. It was, after all, the ideal location to take the kids when we couldn’t decide on a venue. Others from out of town will add their remarks about pasta meals and family treats from their visit. It has been a few periods since the Crust restaurant closed for good. For better or worse, many of us can still taste the dough balls that made the place so famous. Most of us are undoubtedly sad that we won’t get to do so again.