Giant animals on top of restaurant roofs are an excellent beacon of good things to eat. If you are traveling along Highway 14 outside of Marshalltown, Iowa, and you see a large concrete chicken looming high above the pavement, prepare to stop and eat. The chicken is the emblem of Cecil’s Café, a favorite among truck drivers, local business folks, and members of the Marshalltown Kiwanis Club, who meet here every Wednesday night.
Cecil’s is quite literally a crossroads diner, where locals and travelers meet from five o’clock in the morning through supper time for simple meals that start with bacon and eggs and cinnamon rolls to deluxe hamburgers and hot beef sandwiches. At the peak of breakfast and lunch hours, the counter and booths will likely be crowded; and while morning customers tend to linger, the turnover is fast at lunch. At every meal, the coffee keeps flowing and spirits are high.
Other than breakfast, the meal we recommend is a tenderloin. Unique to this part of the Midwest, the tenderloin is a pounded-thin patty of pork that is breaded and fried crisp and served on a bun. It is a big sandwich and a satisfying one; but it’s not at all uncommon to see the burly customers at Cecil’s Café enjoy them two by two.