Milwaukee to Des Moines and Back: Part Two (Days 3 and 4)
This is a continuation of the thread "Milwaukee to Des Moines and Back: Part One (Days 1 and 2)" Day Three: Saturday, May 9, 2009 After two days on the road, I was finally in Des Moines. My plan for the morning was to visit the State Capitol, but in order to gear up properly, I had breakfast at Donut King, a locally beloved and family-run donut shop in West Des Moines (220 Grand Ave.): When I got there (mid-morning) the donuts had been pretty well picked over, but Shawn (whose father runs the store and makes the donuts) convinced me to have the last remaining toasted coconut donut: This donut was light-textured and delicious (not too sweet), and the blueberry donut I had afterward was no slouch, either. The Donut King does a brisk business, and it’s a place with lots of devoted regulars. And the vintage décor inside makes for a fun experience: After visiting the lovely Capitol downtown, I headed south of the city for Medora Prairie, a small swath of prairie protected by the Nature Conservancy. Entry into the preserve is restricted, but an adjacent road allows for ample viewing of tallgrass prairie and the creatures that inhabit it. As the afternoon unfolded, I decided to find lunch at a nearby town. In Osceola I wound up at Redman’s, a locally popular spot for typical breakfast and lunch fare. A couple leaving the restaurant recommended the Rarebit which, as it turns out, was a really good, grilled burger in a soft bun….with store-bought cheese sauce poured on top…. I wish I had ordered something else: I like melted cheese, but I’m not a fan of melted “cheese product.” Oh well…. Some more driving around led me to the town of Chariton, and when I got to the town square I noticed this little gem: Behind all of the scaffolding is Piper’s, a cute little grocery, candy, antique, and bric-a-brac store that’s been in operation at that location (NE Corner of Square) since 1905. (The business began nearby in 1903.) Though Jill, the proprietor, is not a Piper, she is originally from Chariton; her parents acquired the store after the death of Bob Piper in 1987. After leaving town and living in different parts of the country for many years, she returned to Chariton, took charge of the store as her parents retired, and now has a lovely business. There’s a small and quirky variety of groceries available, and if you’re looking for local pottery or some random antiques, she has those, too. But the strong suit here is candy: This is some of the freshest and most flavorful candy I’ve had in a long time: turtles, toffee, caramels, clusters, and fudge. The afternoon was starting to give way to evening, so I drove back toward Des Moines and rested at the hotel a bit. Soon enough, I was kind of hungry. I was feeling a bit burned out on heavy meats, though, so I decided to try the food at A Dong (1511 High St.), a highly praised Vietnamese restaurant near downtown: I was craving greens, so ordered some vegetable soup. I was also craving something light and spicy, so I had Quail with Lemongrass: Both dishes really hit the spot, but the idea of dessert was hard to resist. I tried Baudmer’s once again (no luck), but that’s okay because thanks to Brad’s I.O.W.A. report, I knew Snookie’s (1810 Beaver Ave.) was waiting: This is a delightful place, and it’s very popular with neighborhood people. The place has been an ice cream parlor and stand since the 1950s, but it’s been Snookie’s since the mid-1980s. I thoroughly enjoyed this chocolate malt: And that malt was my nightcap. I hauled myself back to the hotel and slept very well. Day Four: Sunday, May 10, 2009 This was a long day, as I drove back to Milwaukee from Des Moines. However, I still managed to squeeze in a few stops. I took some backroads to Marshalltown, where I hoped to try a Maid-Rite at Taylor’s. Unfortunately for me, Taylor’s was closed for Mothers Day! I had been holding out for Taylor’s specifically to try their Maid-Rite, but…out of luck. And I didn’t get a chance later in the day to try a Maid-Rite elsewhere, so I guess I’ll have to take care of that on my next visit to Iowa. My Plan B was a stop at Cecil’s in south Marshalltown (intersection of Hwy 30 and 14), and that was largely successful. Cecil’s was open, but only for an hour longer (they were closing early for Mothers Day), and they were only serving breakfast (I was hoping for a farewell BPT). But so be it: I had pancakes, poached eggs, and bacon. A good way to start the day: After breakfast, I pointed myself in the direction of the Badger State and started to drive. I enjoyed the backroads scenery, and after a while I entered Dubuque. What an intriguing city! I drove around the railyards a bit, scouted out the handsome downtown area, and managed to drive up to the bluffs for a good view of the lay of the land. I hope to go back someday and explore some more. Soon enough, I was on Wisconsin State Highway 11 heading east, and after finding that a few places on my list were closed, I stopped at Roelli near Shullsburg (15985 State Hwy 11) for some cheese: There’s a lot to choose from-- I bought a block of horseradish Havarti. As the afternoon wore on, I found myself in South Beloit, in search of Miss Vicky’s BBQ (722 S. Blackhawk Blvd.). I passed by a couple of other BBQ places and thought maybe Miss Vicky’s had since changed hands, and after a couple of minutes of driving I decided to pull into a gas station to get help. Well, Miss Vicky’s was right there: Fortunately, I arrived right before a thick stream of customers, so I got a table and placed my order. They were out of hot links, so I got a combo of ribs, beef tips, and “whole hog” (roast and pulled pork): The meal was delicious. The pork and tips had subtle smoke, and the ribs were quite smoky. The sauce was milder than the sauce at Jim’s Rib Haven (in Rock Island, earlier in the trip), but still very tasty. I chatted a bit with Miss Vicky; she’s very friendly. I asked her about the different spellings of her (and her restaurant’s) name—she says “Vicky” is the official spelling, but she prefers “Vikky.” Her sister was at another table with a group of friends, and they recommend the Soul Food menu, offered only on Sundays. I have a feeling I may just drive down one Sunday and try it. Just a couple of hours later, I was back in Milwaukee, unloading edible and drinkable souvenirs (some Iowa wine) from my four-day journey. Too bad I had to work the following day—I was exhausted!