There are lots of places in the USA that stand abandoned. Once upon a time, the Millwork District in Dubuque was one of those places. The milling factories closed up and left the brick buildings empty and unused, but not anymore! The Millwork District is now one of my favourite places in Downtown Dubuque Iowa, featuring cute coffee shops, restaurants and taprooms!
The Millwork District Dubuque
The old factory has been completely renovated, yet they have tried to keep as much of the old architecture as possible making it a really cool place to photograph!
As part of the Distinctively Dubuque programme I had the chance to wander around some of the upstairs Millwork District apartments and the hallways are decorated with some of the old artefacts from the factory!
The Millwork District aims to create a community atmosphere with the apartments on the upper floors, office space for non profit businesses and an art studio in the basement and the ground floor is home to businesses and places to shop, such as a yoga wear store, gym, a gallery space (Gallery C) and a bridal shop, as well as restaurants and cafes. The Millwork Marketplace, is a newly renovated space in the Millwork District with, a mini grocery store, a cocktail bar, an event centre and a comedy club
There’s even a new hotel that’s been built, making it even easier for out of town visitors to enjoy the area!
The ‘Millwork Night Market’ is similar to the Saturday morning Dubuque Farmers Market but on a Thursday evening once a month and includes live music and local craft beer vendors as well as some of the usual weekend vendors! They also hold the ‘Merry Millwork Market‘, the Christmas version of the night market, for one weekend at the beginning of December. They even host their own Oktoberfest, called ‘Blocktoberfest’, where they have live music and BMX and skateboarding competitions!
Don’t forget to check out ‘Zor Zor Zor’, one of Dubuque’s many new murals and this one is located in the heart of the Millwork District! It was one of the first murals to be completed.
Related Reading: 40 Things To Do in Dubuque Iowa
Dubuque Millwork District Restaurants & Bars
Here are some of my top picks on where to eat and drink in the Millwork District!
I first discovered the Inspire Cafe when I found out about their English Afternoon Teas that they have on the last Sunday of the month. The food is awesome and they have a huge range of teas and are always coming up with new flavours for coffee based drinks! They have special evening events throughout the month such as live music, authors and a yoga and wine night!
They ‘draw’ fancy designs in the top of the coffees and each is served with a chocolate covered coffee bean. They also offer free WiFi so you’ll often see people using the Inspire Cafe as a work space!
Brazen Open Kitchen & Bar
The focal point of Brazen is that the kitchen is open so you can see the food being prepared! Behind the scenes, the restaurant actually has no freezers! They work alongside local farmers to bring the freshest food to the table. They recently held a special ‘Farm to Table’ event. They also have their own garden on the edge of Dubuque, where they grow produce to use in the restaurant! Sticking with the look and feel of the Millwork District, the inside has lots of exposed brickwork and dark wood furniture! Dishes are on the pricey side but are very tasty and complimentary bread and butter is served.
Related Reading: 8+ Best Restaurants in Dubuque Iowa (Recommended By A Local)!
7 Hills Brewing Company
The Dubuque Millwork District is still being renovated, one block is completely finished but it’s a project that is expanding into other buildings within the area. 7 Hills Brewing Company is located on the next block along. What makes this place special is that there’s a working brewery inside the bar and restaurant! It has a unique ‘cooked beer’ smell and you can see the workers checking on stages of the brewing process!
A lot of the tables are long banquet style so you may be sitting quite close to the party next door (yes I saw you leaning closer trying to listen to my accent…). You can buy a ‘Flight of 4’ beers for $7, allowing you to choose and sample several of their different beers. I recommend the Pretzel Crust Pizza, the pizza is basically cooked on a giant salted soft pretzel! It’s really tasty but very filling (and I had it minus the cheese)!
Southern Ego is a new addition to the Dubuque Millwork District and it’s pretty special! It’s in the style of a food truck AND belongs to Chef Gerron Hurt, the winner of Masterchef Season 9 (yay Gordon Ramsey!). Of course being a Masterchef winner the food is a little bit more fancy that just a boring cheese burger and they do include ‘Southern’ flavours. I had the ‘Blazin’ Bird’ which was a fried chicken tenderloin cooked in ‘Nashville Hot Oil’ and severed on a croissant. Chef Gerron was there when I was at the Millwork District in December but he wasn’t there during my last visit in February. There’s not much seating, just a couple of tables and stalls.
Backpocket Taproom and Beercade
Backpocket Brewing is based out of Coralville Iowa, but they have a Taproom location in the Dubuque Millwork District! This fun bar now has an Beercade with over 30 vintage arcade games. Children are allowed in the Beercade up until 9pm (I believe) which is good for families. It’s actually located on the lower level of the Novelty Ironworks Building and be accessed though either Backpocket Brewing on via the staircase just outside of Southern Ego. Many of the machines take 2 quarters (a few take 4, such as the pinball machines) so it’s quite good value for money.
Every Tuesday Backpocket Taproom host a free trivia night (I went to a Sunday Harry Potter special)! They have a range of craft beer on tap as well as their own root beer. For those looking for a unique twist, you’ll find beer cocktails on the menu too!
Related Reading: A Guide To Dubuque Iowa Breweries
Practical Information for visiting the Millwork District Dubuque
The Millwork District is a little further out of the way from the main Downtown area in Dubuque. Currently, the main part is located between 9th and 11th Street and Jackson and Washington Street.
(The centre courtyard of the Millwork District Dubuque is pedestrianised)
The streets directly around the main blocks are metred, costing $0.25 for 20 minutes. However if visiting on a Sunday (all day) or in the evening after 5pm, on street parking is free. If you are prepared to walk, there are some unmetred streets nearby. Please check for signs in case it’s a resident only area etc.
There is a parking ramp right opposite the Inspire Cafe (351 E 9th Street) with a flat rate of $1 per hour with a daily maximum of $10. During special events, it is recommended to use the parking ramp as there is more space there compared to parking on the street. You’ll also find an outdoor parking lot alongside the main garage (entrance opposite Backpocket), which is free to park in during the evenings and weekends, however it does fill up quite quickly.
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