3-day Iowa weekend

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ScreamingChicken
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2013/02/04 12:42:23 (permalink)

3-day Iowa weekend

A few weeks back a college friend threw a big party/pig roast for his 50th birthday (he's much older than me) so Mrs. Chicken and I trekked out to Des Moines, but stretched it into a 3-day trip instead of doing the standard Saturday-Sunday bit.
 
Friday afternoon, January 11
 
We left Madison about 11am and headed southwest on US-151, which is now 4 lanes all the way to Cedar Rapids.  We reached the historic town of Mineral Point at lunchtime and decided to stop for a bite at the Red Rooster Cafe.

 
The cafe was originally a bank and the building was built back in the 1880s.

 
Our lunch started with the typical offerings and Mrs. Chicken chose coleslaw while I opted for cottage cheese.  The slaw was mayo-based and she thought it was OK, but generally she prefers the vinegary version.

 
Red Rooster's house specialty is the pasty and it's served 2 ways: in wedges like we ordered and as individual pies.  The crust was nice and flaky and the filling had plenty of potato, onion, and rutabaga.


 
Since it was Friday I selected fried cod and hash browns and was very happy with both, especially the potatoes (the best I would have over the weekend).

 
After lunch we walked around a bit even though it was a damp, dreary, foggy day.  The streets were pretty quiet but during the summer Mineral Point does a brisk tourist trade, especially on weekends.



 
Guess which beer is no longer available?  Hint: the tiny PBC shield stands for Potosi Brewing Company, which reopened as the National Brewery Museum a few years ago.

 
The requisite historical marker.

 
We didn't get Travelin Manned, we got Mother Natured!  As you might expect, Betty's is a seasonal operation.

 
From Mineral Point it was on the road to our next destination...
#1

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    buffetbuster
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    Re:3-day Iowa weekend 2013/02/04 12:51:11 (permalink)
    SC-
    It's not nice to fool Mother Nature!  Love the inside look of Red Rooster Cafe.
    #2
    ScreamingChicken
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    Re:3-day Iowa weekend 2013/02/04 13:45:23 (permalink)
    Friday evening, January 11
     
    Pasties aren't the only Cornish dish Red Rooster serves; on the dessert menu is figgyhobbin (spelled several ways), which is sort of like a Fig Newton except that it's made with raisins instead of figs and is a pastry rather than a cake.  It's usually eaten warm but we got it to go as we were full, so it lasted in its happy little styro box until we reached our motel.

     
    Did I say "motel"?  I really meant "motor inn" and look, it's attached to a "supper club"!  Country Heights is located off of US-151 just a couple of miles north of Dubuque.

     
    Inside it's just like you'd expect unless you'd never been inside a supper club before, in which case you'd have no idea what to expect.

     
    This is Jerry the bartender, headed briskly in my direction.  Why is he headed briskly in my direction?

     
    Why, to mix me an Old-Fashioned, of course...the Official Drink of the Wisconsin supper club!

     
    Country Heights has a soup and salad bar instead of table service so I ladled myself a cup of French onion soup the way I like it: more broth than onion, and with a few big croutons for good measure.

     
    Prime rib is featured on Fridays and Saturdays so that was my selection, ordered "as rare as you have it".  It was a very good piece of meat with good flavor and tenderness and even though I ordered the smaller cut it was plenty.

     
    More hash browns, this time with cheese sauce.  These were drier than the ones I had a lunch but they also had some nice browning and were good dipped in the au jus.

     
    Kathy ordered the walleye and we both agreed that it was very good as the fish was nice and flaky while the batter wasn't too thick or overseasoned.

     
    After dinner it was back to the bar for a bit before heading back to our room, and for some reason I ordered a grasshopper.  I think I might've actually been thinking about some creme de menthe on the rocks but "grasshopper" is what I said, so that's what Jerry mixed.  It didn't have much alcohol but the ice cream was good, and this was the first grasshopper I'd ever seen with a drizzle of chocolate syrup.  He made it completely by hand and it was twice as tall as the glass, so we two-spooned it in order to finish before melting became an issue.  Side note: taking a sip of riesling after a spoonful of ice cream is not recommended.

     
    All in all it was a very enjoyable dinner and much of Country Heights' clientele are apparently locals and repeat diners as there was a lot of first-name conversation between them and the staff.  In fact, an older gentleman was seated at the table next to us and I think every waitress stopped by to chat with him and ask about his wife, who was a bit under the weather.
    #3
    kland01s
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    Re:3-day Iowa weekend 2013/02/04 14:07:44 (permalink)
    Brad, I haven't been to Mineral Point in 30+ years! A good friend of mine grew up there and had family still farming in the area. I need to revisit there and around Mt Horeb. SW Wisconsin is so cool!
    #4
    ScreamingChicken
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    Re:3-day Iowa weekend 2013/02/04 15:25:21 (permalink)
    Saturday morning, January 12
     
    Google had informed me that we were staying very close to the O'Leary's Lake Recreation Area so we decided to check it out first thing in the morning, hoping that maybe we'd spot an eagle or 2.  Unfortunately quite a bit of the water was iced over so there was no raptor activity, and the significantly colder temperatures really shortened our visit.  Mississippi River Lock and Dam #11 is in the background of the first photo.



     
    Kall Inn is another supper club in the area and while I would've liked to check it out that just wasn't practical this time.


     
    Our first stop in Dubuque was Dottie's Cafe (504 Central Avenue) for a quick snack before breakfast.



     
    I ordered corned beef hash and American fries and Kathy had a single biscuit with gravy.  The potatoes were very good (a close second to the hash browns at Red Rooster) but the hash while hot and crisp had a canned-ness in appearance and taste.  Still, it was more than enough to keep us going...

     
    ...until we reached Jack's Chicken Palace on University Avenue.

     
    Jack's has been a Dubuque mainstay for over 50 years and while there's a bit of variety to the menu my online research told me that chicken was what I wanted.

     
    The nerve center.  Jack's is strictly carryout and there are no frills, although there's a deli case below the menu board.

     
    Dining ala Front Seat at its finest!  Jack's chicken is pretty simple with a mild, crispy coating that does a good job of keeping the meat nice and moist, and while it may not be "spicy" or have "herbs and spices" it was pretty darn good in its own right.  The crinkle-cut fries are the frozen variety but were just fine fresh from the fryer, and Kathy gave the vinegar-based slaw good marks.

     
    Right across University Avenue is Sugar Ray's BBQ and if it had been open we undoubtedly would've made our own ribs-and-chicken combo!

     
    Well-fed, we headed west on US-20...
    #5
    mar52
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    Re:3-day Iowa weekend 2013/02/04 15:30:25 (permalink)
    Brad, is Mrs. Chicken okay???  That cole slaw dressing is teeming with gas bubbles!!!
     
    Great pictures and great food items that I would love to try. Looks like a nice trip for a youngster.
    #6
    ScreamingChicken
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    Re:3-day Iowa weekend 2013/02/04 15:36:02 (permalink)
    No ill effects to report, Mar.  Maybe the bubbles were just air that got mixed in?
    #7
    ann peeples
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    Re:3-day Iowa weekend 2013/02/04 15:36:09 (permalink)
    You got me at prime rib.........and hash browns with cheese, And french onion soup. My favorite type of place.....
     
    #8
    buffetbuster
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    Re:3-day Iowa weekend 2013/02/04 15:39:26 (permalink)
    Love that big white chicken and the faded sign for Chicken Palace.  I wish I had known about while in Dubuque last Summer.
    #9
    ScreamingChicken
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    Re:3-day Iowa weekend 2013/02/04 15:49:31 (permalink)
    Saturday afternoon, January 12 
     
    After arriving in Des Moines and getting settled we decided that we needed a little something to tide us over until the party.  I have some places picked out for future Des Moines visits but they were farther away than we wanted to travel, so we headed south on 86th Street until we came to Ted's Coney Island West.  I'm not sure but I believe this blog is authored by our own Trzhotel.

     
    The original location is closer to downtown Des Moines and yes, there really is a Ted.

     
    The menu offers a lot of suggestions but we knew what we wanted: coneys sans onions and a BPT.

     
    The coney sauce was fairly mild with only a little kick and I thought I detected some cumin.  Ted's uses an all-beef hot dog and that helps make a satisfying sandwich.

     
    The BPT was thinner than others I've eaten but had good flavor and a nice crust, and wasn't dry.

     
    While placing our order I saw a sign for homemade cheese sticks so I decided to give them a try, which turned out to be a good move.  These were some of the best cheese sticks I've had in a long time; they stayed relatively soft as they cooled (some sticks start firming up right away) and they weren't overbreaded.  Good job, Ted!

    #10
    agnesrob
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    Re:3-day Iowa weekend 2013/02/04 16:07:10 (permalink)
    Great report and pictures Brad!! Everything looks so good!
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    1bbqboy
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    Re:3-day Iowa weekend 2013/02/04 16:11:33 (permalink)
    OK, SC. I'm intrigued. What's a Carmichael Sandwich or plate?
     Any idea?
     
    #12
    kland01s
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    Re:3-day Iowa weekend 2013/02/04 16:17:58 (permalink)
    Loving this, used to visit these areas 30 years ago! My dad was a pilot and we used to fly in to Dodgeville many years and local friends would drive us to many of these places for breakfast and lunch.
    #13
    myterry2
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    Re:3-day Iowa weekend 2013/02/04 21:19:30 (permalink)
    Great report with super pictures!
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    mar52
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    Re:3-day Iowa weekend 2013/02/04 23:14:46 (permalink)
    I've not had a BPT.  That picture isn't helping the situation.  No toppings?
     
    There should be more cheese sticks served around here.
    #15
    mayor al
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    Re:3-day Iowa weekend 2013/02/05 04:17:42 (permalink)
    Mar
    Toppings vary greatly area to area. Around here the BPT usually has Lettuce, Tomato, and Mayo or catsup...much like a burger.
    My preference...and I get mine in this part of Indiana at our local Culvers, with Double grilled onion and some catsup, with the bun/roll grilled in butter. Just a personal preference. The Culvers Pork tends to be rather thick compared to that beauty in the photo from Iowa.
    #16
    ScreamingChicken
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    Re:3-day Iowa weekend 2013/02/05 08:14:28 (permalink)
    1bbqboy

    OK, SC. I'm intrigued. What's a Carmichael Sandwich or plate?
    According to chacha.com it's a specially-seasoned 1/2-lb. Angus beef burger that can be served with or without cheese, but I have no idea how accurate that answer is.  I didn't notice it at the time or I might've asked.
     
    I thought maybe it's a sub sandwich aka a hoagy...as in Hoagy Carmichael.
    post edited by ScreamingChicken - 2013/02/05 08:16:33
    #17
    ScreamingChicken
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    Re:3-day Iowa weekend 2013/02/05 08:42:34 (permalink)
    Sunday, January 13
     
    "If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.  Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away." - Henry David Thoreau
     
    "I used to be weird.  Now I'm eclectic." - Tom Holman
     
    Our final stop was at Bombfire Pizza in the island city of Sabula, Iowa, and owner Tom Holman can certainly be described by Thoreau's famous quote (the 10-minute video on the website explains a lot).

     
    What's a good use for an old album cover?  Why, as a menu!  Time to Eat Along With Mitch, everybody!

     
    Our pizza came with sausage, portobello slices, and black olives.  The crust edge had a nice doneness from the hand-built wood-burning oven and the center was softer because of the cheese; while we thought it was very good a little longer time in the oven to brown the cheese would be my preference the next time around.  Sabula's probably 2 to 2-1/2 hours from my house depending on route and weather and a summer day trip down the Great River Road would be a good reason to visit again.

     
    The pizza's good but the decor's even better and its funky, kitschy vibe would fit in well in cities like Madison or San Francisco.  We were the first customers of the day and were able to spend about 10 or 15 minutes talking with Tom after we were done eating and he's a pretty unique guy who's fortunate enough to be able to do something he really enjoys.




     
    Bombfire's idea of a forced-air heating system.  I sat with my back to the stove and it was quite cozy!

     
    After that it was time for home but we did have a chance to stop in the middle of US-52 for a minute or 2...and we finally saw some eagles!


     
    Since 1985 I think this is only the second time I've visited Iowa in the winter, late April snowstorms notwithstanding, and it was a nice change of pace and a good weekend that we both appreciated.
    post edited by ScreamingChicken - 2013/02/05 08:43:38
    #18
    mar52
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    Re:3-day Iowa weekend 2013/02/05 13:06:08 (permalink)
    Very different and somehow comforting. 
     
    I passed by two different Culver's while in Texas but they didn't fit in to the day's plans.  Darn.
    #19
    Pancho
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    Re:3-day Iowa weekend 2013/02/05 13:20:23 (permalink)
    mar52

    Very different and somehow comforting. 

    I passed by two different Culver's while in Texas but they didn't fit in to the day's plans.  Darn.
    The God of Roadfood was looking over you.

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