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Little Bohemia Tavern

1317 3rd Street SE, Cedar Rapids, IA - (319) 364-9396
Posted By Steve Gravelle on 2/21/2013 1:10:00 PM
The Little Bohemia Tavern was a landmark by the 1940s, when noted Midwest regionalist artist (and local boy) Marvin Cone immortalized the corner bar in the painting that bears its name. Nearly 70 years later, Cedar Rapids arts and cultural organizations adopted Cone’s painting as a symbol of the neighborhood’s hoped-for recovery from the epic, devastating Cedar River flood of June 2008.

Happily, both the neighborhood and its namesake tavern have come back from the disaster. The river, less than a city block from the Little Bo, swept decades worth of historic photos, posters, and other local memorabilia from its walls (the big front windows were miraculously unscathed), but not the recipes handed down by the bar’s original owner.

For that menu, just know the bar was located within blocks of one of the world’s largest pork slaughterhouses, a plant whose heavily Bohemian workforce appreciated a rib-sticking meal with a cold pilsner or three. Little Bo’s pork tenderloin is near perfection, a generous hunk of pig cut, pounded flat, and breaded on premises. It's just the right thickness, the subtly herbed breading helping retain the ‘loin’s succulence.

There’s also the hot loin variation on the Midwest favorite: the same breaded tenderloin served over sliced bread and a couple scoops of mashed potatoes, topped with excellent gravy. The menu also includes the more-standard beef version. Little Bo’s goulash is an authentic bowl of neighborhood heritage, an aromatically porky stew that’s a perfect winter warmer. You’ll want it with the large dumpling slices and just maybe the sliced green onions and shredded cheddar cheese.

There’s also the standard, but well-rendered, tavern favorites – various burgers and appetizers – including a standout grilled cheese supreme with green onions, tomato, and hot mustard on marble rye. Again in keeping with the neighborhood, there’s an excellent bratwurst – made here – with kraut.
There’s always at least one regional brew on tap, and at least one appropriately Czech bottled lager in the cooler.

Children are welcome, and there’s a menu for them, too. You may want to call ahead if you're coming for lunch. It’s easy to while away an afternoon when the Little Bo becomes the neighborhood social center it’s been since Prohibition, but be warned – you could end up looking like the big-bellied clientele in Cone’s painting.

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Scorecard

3 - Overall: Excellent - Worth a Detour
Overall: Excellent - Worth a Detour
Breaded pork tenderloin
Goulash
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Reviewers Photos [Upload Your Photos]

Breaded pork tenderloin, sided here with toothsome baked beans. It doesn't get more Iowa.
"Breaded pork tenderloin, sided here with toothsome baked beans. It doesn't get more Iowa."
Steve Gravelle





Little Bo's goulash is the perfect lunch on a winter day. There's dumplings under the green onions and cheese.
"Little Bo's goulash is the perfect lunch on a winter day. There's dumplings under the green onions and cheese."
Steve Gravelle


The hot loin is a BPT variation that sees the loin served over bread and mashed potatoes, with gravy.
"The hot loin is a BPT variation that sees the loin served over bread and mashed potatoes, with gravy."
Steve Gravelle


BPT, ready for its closeup
"BPT, ready for its closeup"
Steve Gravelle


A print of local artist Marvin Cone's 1945 painting graces the bar, as well as the menu covers.
"A print of local artist Marvin Cone's 1945 painting graces the bar, as well as the menu covers."
Steve Gravelle


Saturday afternoons can get busy as the faithful regulars check in. Proprietor Jeff Melsha is slowly rebuilding the collection of neighborhood and packinghouse memorabalia, and he or the staff will be glad to point out the 8-foot high-water mark from the Cedar River's June 2008 flood.
"Saturday afternoons can get busy as the faithful regulars check in. Proprietor Jeff Melsha is slowly rebuilding the collection of neighborhood and packinghouse memorabalia, and he or the staff will be glad to point out the 8-foot high-water mark from the Cedar River's June 2008 flood."
Steve Gravelle


The Little Bohemia neighborhood's burgeoning entertainment district is a couple blocks away, but those in the know seek out the warmth on the dark end of the street.
"The Little Bohemia neighborhood's burgeoning entertainment district is a couple blocks away, but those in the know seek out the warmth on the dark end of the street."
Steve Gravelle


At the same location since 1935. The building housed a pharmacy before Little Bohemia Tavern opened after Prohibition.
"At the same location since 1935. The building housed a pharmacy before Little Bohemia Tavern opened after Prohibition."
Steve Gravelle



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