Crust Dubuque


By: support | August 02, 2017

Italian Restaurant Crust

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.

By: support | May 08, 2017

About  Crust Dubuque 

Restaurant Reviews

Most people in Dubuque are sure to remember the name, Crust. If they didn’t pay a regular visit to this Italian restaurant, then they will have walked past it on Main Street. The crust was a big part of the dining scene in the area for five years. It made the most of its prominent position in town and drew in couples, local families and people on day trips to the city. It was regularly busy as keen patrons tried new dishes or returned for old favourites. It also got its fair share of positive and negative reviews.

My kids loved making a mess at the pasta bar and enjoyed the deserts. My wife appreciated the chance to try new flavours and pizza combinations at a fair price. I was merely a creature of habit that went back for appetizers and signature dishes that I had grown to love. We cannot enjoy those meals anymore, but we still remember them fondly and have taken to trying to recreate them at home.

The Range Of Reviews That The Crust Kitchen And Bar Received Over Those Five Years Show That We Are Not Alone.

Restaurant Reviews

The reviews about Crust are pretty mixed. For every local like me that appreciated everything that the establishment was trying to do, there was someone that didn’t. There are some that criticized the shabby feel of the décor while others felt that it was welcoming. The food was not five star, but there was the choice. Many came for the pizza and pasta but found themselves won over by the interesting starters. There were also mixed comments on the price, even though we always felt that it was affordable and fair.


The location of Crust was a significant factor in its success over the years, but the biggest draw was the food. Many happy reviewers talk about the pizza and specialty dishes. The pasta was not the best in the world, but the pizza was the best in Dubuque. Just before Crust closed, one reviewer said that “Their pizza menu is extensive and has some fresh options. Three Little Pigs is my favorite. Great wine list too”. The drinks menu is something that I don’t see mentioned so often. Perhaps we are all too busy celebrating the food. There was always a good selection of drinks on offer for the whole family. I never had to settle for a basic red or a bland beer.


Some buyers were less than impressed with the atmosphere of this restaurant, although I am not sure what they expected. The basic information about Crust clearly states that this was a child-friendly restaurant with a casual feel. There was a full bar for local couples that wanted a drink. Children were tolerated, and it was never too noisy. One analyst stated that “the staff was very friendly, and it seems like a good place to go with a group.” This raises an interesting point. I often heard that Crust was best for group lunches and a casual family affair. Few people chose the place for an intimate, romantic date.


This atmosphere was enhanced by the service of the food. Some people had trouble with slow service and problem orders. However, Crust were always happy to train up the new staff that had the right demeanor. I could forgive a misplaced drink if there were an apology and a smile. One visitor from out of town mentioned that the “service was attentive but not overly. The place was clean and quiet”. This shows that while mistakes were made, the team was generally in good form.


This comment from a Dixon resident sums the place up nicely “Great location, friendly service, social atmosphere and delicious food. Definitely will be visiting again and cannot recommend highly enough.” Many of us became regulars for a good reason. We could always be sure that everyone had been well-fed and could settle the bill without groaning. Some felt that the takeaway charges were a little steep but we always felt that the in-house prices were fair.

Crust Kitchen And Bar Closed In February This Year And Many Of  Us Are Still Noticing Its Absence.

Restaurant Reviews

The crust was a massive part of the downtown scene in Dubuque, and its absence is still noticeable. The real void in Main Street has since been filled with a new restaurant, but it is not the same. It didn’t take long for a new owner to take over the property. The Barrel House now serves a range of exotic dishes there, as they expand their territory. The bones of the building and that prime location mean that it wasn’t a surprise that it was snapped up so quickly. We just didn’t get long to deal with the passing of Crust.


The closure of the restaurant was announced in February. Space was bought out in April, and the transformation was completed over the summer. We have been back and had an excellent meal at The Barrel House. The only problem was that we found ourselves making comparisons to the old site. It was like going back to a childhood home after the new owners gutted your old bedroom. The departure of Crust was sad and sudden. The reports claimed that the owner was offered a new position in Chicago and only felt it was time to move on. Five years is a long time in the restaurant game, so she was probably right. Sadly, within those five years, Crust kitchen and bar had become something of an institution in the area.

Now, All That We Can Do Is To Celebrate Crust And Share Our Fond Memories Of The Place.

Out-of-towners took pleasure in writing their negative reviews about the food and vibe of this restaurant. We appreciate that Crust never offered the standard of fine dining that some were after, but that was never the point. They still provided a great meal with great choices and catered for families in a way that “better” establishments cannot match. Many of us miss Crust for their amazing pizzas, those signature dough balls and the general atmosphere of the place. Ordering a takeaway pizza on the weekend just doesn’t provide the same experience.

By: support | September 22, 2016

Crust  Italian Restaurant In Dubuque

Restaurant Reviews

The crust was a well-known Italian restaurant in Dubuque, Iowa. Those of us that remember it fondly may still have trouble saying “was” ever since it became the Barrel House. If you are like me, the departure of Crust was a blow to the area because of the style of dining offered. Others would disagree and say that it is no loss at all because of the quality of the food. I cannot quarrel with the fact that it certainly divided opinion in its time. It had the ambiance, location and pizza options to be a winner with local families. However, it also had some failings that brought out the inner critic in many diners. I want to look back on the triumphs and mistakes of Crust to see precisely what made this restaurant so well-known.

The Location Of Crust Always Brought In The Diners, Regardless Of What Was On The Menu.

This establishment was well-situated on Main St, near the Aquarium. It was in just the right spot that we could pop in whenever we were unsure where to go with the family. It also brought in out-of-town diners coming to the area for the first time. It was local, accessible, family-friendly and had a mid-range menu where everyone could usually find something to enjoy. Naturally, this lower-end dining experience meant that there was a mix of comments about the food on offer. The crust was always a reliable pizza joint with some excellent desserts, both at a good rate. However, I can understand why some felt that the methods and flavors paled in comparison to more high-end Italian restaurants.

The Food Was The Aspect Of Crust That Received The Most Mixed Responses From Its Consumer Reviews.

I am not the only one to must appreciated the food here. Some would say that it is because we lowered our expectations, but I saw nothing wrong with that. Some former patrons were less impressed with the quality of the cooking and the range on the menu. Three elements jumped up multiple times in reviews, to the point where Crust became famous for them. They were the pizza, doughballs, and pasta.


Unsurprisingly, this Italian restaurant specialized in pizza. Many of us commended the chefs for their range of specialty pizzas with some unusual toppings and great flavors. A personal selling point to this Iowan take on Italian cuisine was the selection of dishes on the menu. I admit that this could vary based on the season, but there were usually salads, sandwiches, and other options. One Yelp reviewer that visited in March of 2015 took the time to point out that Crust were happy to cater the gluten-free crowd. “The front desk mentioned this place as a viable option for us since we needed a gluten-free menu. We were not disappointed. The food was great.”


The oddity of the “make-your-own-pasta” bar received some mixed responses. Some felt uncomfortable with the concept, preferring a set menu of choices. Personally, I felt it added to the relaxing atmosphere of the restaurant. The pasta was delightful, but there were just too many times when it was poorly made. One Yelp reviewer left the following in May of 2015: “about the food, the pasta leaves a lot to be desired. In my experiences, it's usually overcooked or seems like it's been sitting under a heat lamp while it's been waiting to come out”. Sadly I understand precisely where they are coming from.


The most famous part of the menu, however, had to be the dough balls. It seems strange to me now, but this freebie was the biggest point of contention. Many of us regulars loved the way that those fried doughy balls complimented the meal. This was especially true whenever we had the excess sauce to mop up. One reviewer, in July 2015, gave a 5 star Yelp review stating “my husband and I were excited with the free bread that came with our dinner. It was like little-fried pieces of heaven”. The problem was that some diners saw through the cheap dough and grease and felt that these nibbles were a little sub-par.


What About The Ambiance And Overall Dining Experience?

Restaurant Reviews

There is a vast chasm between some of the 2 star and 5-star consumer reviews that are seen online. The food played a big part here, but so did the service. The worst example I have heard of has to be this experience from a diner in April 2015: “someone in our party ordered a vegetarian salad, and it came slathered in an extreme amount of bacon, I ordered a glass of pinot noir and instead received a glass of Moscato.” This is pretty unforgivable. Thankfully, many diners like myself were always greeted with a smile and a good meal in a reasonable time-frame.

The service and laid-back feel of the place added to the ambiance that Crust provided. As was often mentioned by local diners in consumer reviews, this was not the high-end Italian joint for a fancy meal. Instead, this was where we went for a cheap date night with a long-time partner or a place to bring the kids. Mediocre is not a word I like to use when talking about restaurants, but it works here. There was nothing about the décor and feel to make people go wow, but they couldn’t complain either. The table arrangements and the décor may have been a little tired, but you could still let the kids make a mess.


The Crust Is A Restaurant That Will Be Missed By Some In The Dubuque Area, But Not All.


Restaurant Reviews

This was never the most extravagant Italian premise in town. However, I stand my view that it could still provide a decent, affordable pizza for a family meal. Those of us that understood it and appreciated the basic feel could forgive the sloppy techniques and menu options. It was a place for local couples wanting to get out of the house for a freshly made pizza and a gelato treat. It was not for the foodies that tried to compare the food to Chicago pizza and “real” recipes. The dough balls may be gone, but I and countless others will remember them fondly. The loss of the pasta, on the other hand, is not being mourned. 

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