Professor opens La Boheme

Abbie Moeller

Peter Sherman, professor of aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics, felt the collegiate atmosphere at Iowa State was lacking something.

So he opened La Boheme bistro two weeks ago, which offers an environment different from any other establishment in Ames, Sherman said. He described it as a restaurant, coffeehouse, nightclub and pub with a slightly European flavor and unique offerings.

“I want to enrich the student experience,” he said.

People — especially college students — need somewhere to go to learn about themselves and what they want from life, Sherman said.

He wanted to offer an experience to students here similar to what he had during his college days at University of Wisconsin — Madison.

“I probably learned more about life than about academics at Madison,” Sherman said of his alma mater. He said he does not think ISU provides students with the experiences they need beyond academics.

“It is an all-ages venue at all times,” Sherman said, “for someone who is unconventional in a social way.”

He said he wants La Boheme to promote interaction between people in a casual setting, while exposing them to diverse music and surroundings.

He is hoping it will become a hang-out for college and high school students as well as adults and families — anyone wanting a stimulating atmosphere with an international flavor.

“It’s not really something I want, but something I think people need,” he said of the bistro.

The restaurant food is healthful and includes about 50 percent vegetarian entrees, Sherman said. Lunch can be purchased for about $4. The kitchen is open until midnight, and, depending on the cooks and crowd, may serve even later.

“[It is] a place where people can get something to eat late at night [besides fast food or pizza],” Sherman said.

La Boheme serves deli sandwiches, reubens, spicy chicken, hamburgers and one of Sherman’s favorites — the two-cheese foccacia, an open sandwich with lots of toppings.

Also, coffees, teas, deserts and appetizers are always served during the business hours of 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Saturday. Sherman said this is the coffeehouse aspect of La Boheme. Although the coffee selection is not currently large, it is high-quality and is going to be expanded in the fall, Sherman said.

International music, intimate booths, live bands and good coffee will encourage discussions and togetherness for patrons, Sherman said.

The pub side of La Boheme is most evident in the evenings when people come after work or after dinner, Sherman said. He emphasized the difference between a bar and a pub, saying the pub is a relaxing, people-oriented place, whereas a bar is somewhere a person goes to drink rather than socialize. No television or pool tables will ever be found in La Boheme, Sherman said.

“I do not want to encourage a lot of drinking at all,” he said.

In order for the establishment to be open to all ages all the time, half of its sales have to be nonalcoholic, such as food and coffee. Sherman does not think that will ever be a problem.

“I want people to actually interact,” he said. Sherman hopes patrons will not pay attention to other things, but focus on life and what they want from it and others.

La Boheme frequently has live bands and dancing, and Sherman hopes to add other types of entertainment someday. He would like to see dramatic performances, special dance nights and theme nights in the fall.

Sherman also said La Boheme could become a place for informal lectures where professors could gather and have a drink or dessert and learn from someone.

About 30 people can be found in La Boheme on any given night, with more coming for concerts and special events. The building has a capacity of over 100 people, and Sherman hopes it will gain a following to fill it up.

This is Sherman’s first business venture. He did much of the remodeling and training of cooks himself. Eleven employees serve the food, coffee and drinks at La Boheme.

Sherman took off a month this summer from his position at ISU to start up his business, but he will continue to teach and do research.

La Boheme is located at 2900 West St., at the site of the old Longshot Bar.