Opening a restaurant is no small feat, but opening your doors for the first time in the middle of a global pandemic is next level. These new spots are worthy of a gold star. Named for the brightly colored Mexican folk art sculptures you’ll notice dotted throughout this new upscale Mexican restaurant, Alebrije occupies the corner space of the Hyatt Place hotel in Iowa City’s Riverfront Crossings district. This alluring two-level restaurant has an open airy feel with colorful artisan-made hammocks, handcrafted lanterns and string lights hung from the rafters, and even an indoor patio with a “living wall.” Dining in on a cold winter night, I forgot, however briefly, that I was in frigid Iowa. If only for a moment, I envisioned a warm-weather locale and dining al fresco.