Iowa Eats: The Red Frog – Cedar Rapids, IA

As the weather warms and the itch of getting outside is finally getting scratched, the streets and sidewalks start to come to life in the Czech Village in Cedar Rapids. There are many locally owned restaurants, breweries, bars, and shops in the few blocks that make up the Czech Village area and this past weekend I was able to pay my first visit to The Red Frog. The Red Frog is owned by Jake Brummer and Amy Winkler, who had opened up the Kingston Pub only for the Derecho to rip its roof off. The Red Frog is located in what used to be Dirty Shirleys, tucked in between Anvil Meat Market and Luckys.

The Red Frog could fit the dive bar definition, which I love and appreciate, but the uniqueness and variety of their food menu is what many restaurants strive to achieve and many miss the boat. Great appetizers, sandwiches, and smoked meats make up the menu the but the Frog also serves breakfast on the weekends.

BEER
10 tap lines filled with a nice mix of styles and many local beers. Tank Puncher, Easy Eddy, Witch Slap, Tip the Cow, and a few more to go along with your typical domestics along with some breakfast cocktails if you choose to go that route. I went with a Witch Slap (a few of them) to go along with my food.

FOOD
Went with my buddy’s recommendations at the started with Sriracha cheese balls. A brilliant call from him on this one, I know I have a lot of Top 5 lists, but these cheese balls definitely hit that list, maybe even to the top. The spice added to the breading from the sriracha and how perfectly cooked and creamy they were make for the perfect start and will wake up your taste buds a bit. Glad I had that cold beer next to me.
Next up, the Reuben Wontons. Take your favorite wonton from your favorite chinese restaurant, and stuff that baby with a reuben mixture of swiss, kraut, and corned beef, add a side of homemade 1,000 island and you have an Irish twist on a delicious dish. So far, 2 for 2 at the Red Frog. Lastly, had to try something from the smoker. Really wanted the ribs but after devouring 2 apps I was getting a bit full, so I went with the smoked wing basket. 6 plump and juicy wings with the perfect amount of smoke, accompanied by one of the best blue cheese dressings I’ve had, raspberry habanero sauce, and regular wing sauce hit the spot. The wings were crispy, filling, and tasty.

OVERALL
There are so many things on their menu that I haven’t tried yet that I would love to get a taste of. Do yourself a favor, head to the Czech Village and check out the many restaurants/bars/stores in that area, and then stop by The Red Frog and get yourself those sriracha cheese balls and a beer and just sit back and enjoy! Check out their menu by clicking HERE or their website by clicking HERE!

Iowa Eats: Tribute in IRL is worth a visit!

As the restaurant industry goes through the most trying times, it’s so important to visit and support your favorite establishments now more than ever. If that means curbside pickup, a quick to go order, or if you’re feeling comfortable dining in, do it, order, get there, and help keep these folks in business. We are so lucky to have the variety of restaurants in Eastern Iowa that we do and when a new venture pops up in a trying time it’s definitely worth the time to check it out…so…on to Tribute we go.

Tribute is directly across the street from 30hop in Coralville in the Iowa River Landing location and has the same ownership group of the 30hop crew. As a dine in situation, I was extremely comfortable with the staff being masked up, the spacing between tables, and the availability of getting to go/pick up orders if I choose that.

The restaurant itself is a perfect blend of business, date night, and every day casual. It’s a place where all circumstances are welcome. A beautiful bar with give or take 12 taps, and a nice menu of cocktails and an extensive wine list lends something to every drinker. What about the food? I love a place that doesn’t have a 14 page menu and Tribute doesn’t. They have an assortment of appetizers, salads, and sandwiches that can satisfy any palate. So here’s what went down:


BEER
Clock House Witch Slap on tap. I always appreciate having local brews represented and Big Grove, Lion Bridge, Reunion, and Barn Town all had something on the lines. Went with a Witch Slap to pair with the starter of:

STARTER
*Black and Bleu Chips – here’s the thing about this dish, I love bleu cheese, and I know it’s a funky ass flavor that some people can’t get behind, but Tribute takes this pungent cheese, makes a fondue, makes HOMEMADE potato chips and dusts them in a buffalo spice blend and VIOLA! An amazing starter that everyone should try! The chips alone should be bagged and sold separately, absolutely delicious, and the bleu cheese fondue is tangy but not overly funky for those who scoff at that cheese. A dish to crave, a dish for a football day or for a quick app. Craveable.

*Deviled Eggs– your grandma’s deviled eggs keep getting a makeover with restaurants as of late. Don’t get me wrong, Grandma made a fine ass deviled egg, but that chive oil and pickled shallot put these over the top.

*Ahi Stack – a dish that satisfies the Asian craving. You hungry for Chinese? You want sushi? You need a light dish? This checks all those boxes. A bed of ahi tuna mixed with a ginger soy sauce with perfectly grilled bread. Decadent, light, and mouth watering. You want this in your life.



*French Onion Burger – the flavor is in the name. If you’re a French onion soup fan, then it’s easy to say this burger is for your. Swiss cheese, onions, parsley chutney, served on brioche bun with some onion jus on the side is exactly what you’d expect for the delicious soup transformed into a burger. Don’t forget to double dip that burger!!



-Tribute has something for everyone. No matter your dietary needs they can hit on it. If you just like a wide arrange of delicious food, give them a look. Head in for a comfortable/socially distant experience or get an order to go. Worth a look folks, they’re doing it right!

Tribute Eatery and Bar opening in Coralville’s Iowa River Landing!

From the folks who brought you 30hop, comes Tribute! A new restaurant that should be opening its doors in mid to late October! Here’s more on this new dining option:

IOWA RIVER LANDING LOCATION UNDERGOES RENOVATION ACROSS THE STREET FROM THE NEW XTREAM ARENA!

CORALVILLE, IA – 30hop Restaurant is excited to introduce it’s newest full service concept, Tribute Eatery & Bar to the corridor. With an anticipated opening date in the second half of October, Tribute is currently undergoing a full renovation with a brand new design.

Tribute aims to bring sophisticated and fresh cuisine to a smart and convivial crowd. Its menu focuses on delivering artisanal sandwiches, shareable snacks, hearty salads and seasonal favorites with its inviting, classic space and laid back vibe anchored by a spanning warm wood bartop.

Tribute Eatery & Bar is brought to you by the 30hop team. We are exciting to announce 30hop Cedar Rapids Managing Partner, Darin Blum, will function as its General Manager. Coralville’s current Sous Chef, Cody Sammons, has been appointed to Executive Chef and current Assistant Manager, Blake Laughton, will act as the Assistant General Manager!

Tribute is now hiring for all front and back house positions. We encourage those will all degrees of experience to apply!

Small Town Iowa Eats: Kula’s It’s Just the Sauce; Walker, IA!

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If you’re looking for some excellent BBQ you need to head to Walker, IA. Yes, that is correct…Walker, IA. Once you get to town, roll your window down and let the aroma of smoking meats fill your car! Sitting on the main drag of Walker is Kula’s, It’s Just the Sauce BBQ!

Kulas is barely a year old and besides a Casey’s General Store, is about the only place to dine in this small town. What used to be a bowling alley is now a refurbished bbq joint where three smokers are filled with delicious meats!

During my visit there was a brisket sandwich special but I definitely wanted to try the wings and why not some fries smothered in pulled pork, bbq sauce, and cheese sauce?

THE FOOD

The brisket was tender with the perfect amount of smoke and just a little bit of bbq sauce, I also got horseradish sauce on mine. The wings were smokey and crispy, smoking the wings and then flashing frying them leads to tender and delicious meat, accompanied by a few sides of Kula’s famous sauces! The Carolina fries were exactly what I was expecting; delicious pulled pork, tangy bbq sauce, and cheese sauce. A great item to share.

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The menu has something for everyone. If you’re not a bbq fan, they’ve got homemade pizzas which is something I need to try for sure and I also hear that their Friday fish fry is phenomenal as well. Smoked chicken dinners, smoked prime rib…etc., so many great specials on any given day at Kula’s! Make sure you check their Facebook page by clicking HERE to see what specials they have and to also view their hours!

BEER

Kula’s has your pretty typical tap offerings that you would find in most small Iowa towns but a big plus for me was seeing that Big Grove Easy Eddy tap handle!

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OVERALL

Kula’s has given me enough reason to make the 25 minute drive to Walker to have some excellent BBQ. There are so many other menu items that I would love to try so if you’re driving around the Cedar Rapid’s area and craving some ‘Q head to Walker and to Kula’s, you won’t be disappointed!

Small Town Iowa Eats: JR’s Place; Wheatland, IA – Chicken Wing Friday Nights!

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It’s Friday night and you’re craving chicken wings. Where do you go? JR’s Place of course! This hidden gem is located off of Highway 30 in Wheatland, IA and has some of the best chicken wings I’ve had!

JR’s is the type of place every small town needs but most towns in general are lacking. A focus on doing something really good that people will come in for. On Friday nights, Wheatland will see a bigger influx of people make their way downtown because that is the ONLY night that JR’s has their chicken wings available. Get them breaded or naked, sauced or unsauced, spicy or mild, however you’d like!

BEER

A decent amount of cans and bottles available and on tap was Bud Light or Keystone Light, so we went with a few pitchers of Keystone Light. Any beer would work with the wings at this joint really.

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WINGS

I went with the breaded hot wings. The part I love about JR’s hot wings is that the spice is in the breading. I didn’t need them to be doused in a sauce which in some cases turns the wing into mush. They are perfectly spiced and a side of hot sauce to dip was all I needed! I added a side of some fried shrimp as well and they were damn tasty. I also tried the half bbq/half wing sauce wing and that was very flavorful. The wings held up to the sauce so the breading stayed nice and crispy as well.

So…if you’re looking for a new place to try out and are craving some wings. Get on Highway 30, head to Clinton County and stop in Wheatland! Grab a pitcher of beer, order a few baskets of wings and you’ve got yourself a nice little Friday night!

Pullman/Kroul Farm Dinner Year #4: Truly Delicious!

Year #4 of the popular Pullman/Kroul farm dinner is in the books and once again the staff outdid themselves. Chef Smart and Pullman staff continue to present inspiring and beautiful dishes to attendees of this event and this year was no different. Considering they were cooking over an open flame on a close to 90 degree Sunday, you may have thought there would be hiccup….not at all! Every dish, start to finish was excellent!

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DISH #1
Za’atar eggplant gallette, sungold tomato, ricotta salata, green chile zhoug
Canteloupe gazpacho, coconut, cucumber, mint
Rosemary skewered Mussels, lemon-caper aioli, roasted red pepper

The perfect way to start the evening! A chilled gazpacho with melon and cucumber to cool off the hot evening and then digging into the mussel with a fresh caper aioli. Finish it off the somewhat spicy gallette and its flaky crust….I’ll take more of that gallette please!

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DISH #2

Wood-fired chanterelle mushrooms, grilled diver sea scallop, sweet corn, brown butter sabayon, pickled apple, hazelnut, sweet basil

The second dish might be my favorite of the night! A perfectly cooked scallop served alongside sweet corn and chanterelle mushrooms…absolutely outstanding! And anytime brown butter is added to a dish it makes it that much more exquisite…just an outstanding dish.

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DISH #3

Cedar plank trout, herb roasted marble potatoes, marinated cherry tomato, blistered green beans, horseradish & smoked trout roe cream, fines herbes

Extremely fresh fish and perfectly cooked vegetables made this the perfectly placed dish amongst the courses. The added touch of the horseradish to give it a little bite was very nicely done.

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DISH #4

Pavelka’s point Lamb Merguez with blistered shishito & onion
Roasted zucchini, confit summer squash, blistered radish, garlic, mint & red chimichurri

I love the idea of serving dishes family style and this lamb sausage dish not only tasted wonderful but was visually appealing as well. The sausage had a little heat to it and blistered shishito peppers were the perfect accompaniment. Delicious!

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DISH #5

Short rib Shepherd’s pie, roasted carrot, onion, celery root, thyme
Grilled prime cut of Kroul Farm’s beef
Roasted pumpkin & bitter greens with fresh chevre & apple-onion-pancetta agrodolce

I did say the scallop was my favorite until I remembered the short rib shepherd’s pie! Creamy and delicious with melt in your mouth beef. This is a dish for the cooler months for sure but it tasted damn good on a warm Sunday night as well! The prime cut of beef was perfectly cooked and seasoned and was melt in your mouth!

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DISH #6

Gooey butter cake & bourbon poached pears with maple cream, rosemary caramel, spiced streusel & candied ginger

I don’t consider myself much of a dessert guy but all 4 years of this dinner the crew has put together some of tastiest desserts I’ve ever had and this year was no different. The butter cake was extremely moist and the poached pears still had some crunch in them and were not mushy at all. The cake was paired wonderfully with one of the best coffees I’ve ever had, a chai cream coffee.

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Special thank you to the Kroul family for hosting once again and to Cory Kent and Chef Ben Smart and staff. A truly remarkable meal and I look forward to next year’s event! Cheers!

 

Iowa Eats: Goldfinch Tap & Eatery; Marion, IA

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Last night I was lucky enough to attend a soft opening at Goldfinch Tap & Eatery (740 10th St. Marion) and I’m already eager to get back and try some more things on their menu.

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Goldfinch is headed by Andi Sofranko (Lincoln Winebar fame) and Chef Brandon Banaszek (Pullman fame) and is located in the old Louie’s Scoreboard location in Marion. With the addition of Goldfinch, Marion has a lot of beer/food offerings. Ramseys, Uptown Snug, Zoeys, and Tomasos are all located in the same area, so definitely an up and coming spot!

Let’s get to the nitty gritty. First thing on my mind…..

BEER
What looks to be an ever changing tap list that appeals to every beer drinker. Many local brews from Lion Bridge, Big Grove, SingleSpeed, Clockhouse and more to go along with the domestics of a Busch Light. Easy Eddy was my pick and it went down great with the apps we had.

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FOOD
The appetizer selections at Goldfinch are going to be a hot spot. A lot of great options to choose from, at the time they were out of the Buffalo Cholouah wings so we went with french onion dip, cheese balls, and loaded fries. Great pub food selections. The french onion dip was outstanding. I was worried it would be too sweet but was not, excellent starter. Cheese balls were good and crispy on the outside and served with a side of ranch..what’s not to love? The cheese fries were a nice combo of crispy bacon, green onion, and then a cheddar cheese/ranch combo which played together nicely. My kids loved them all!

 

At the time we arrived, they were out of their main entrees, which wasn’t a problem, although every one of them sounded great. Cavatelli with a sweet corn sauce??? YES PLEASE!! We went with some mac and cheese, pork tenderloin, and their burger. All tasty, all packed with flavor. The pork tenderloin will no doubt be an item they sell a lot of and this one is crispy and not over breaded. The burger was wonderful. I love a burger where the meat shines and this one does! Mac and cheese with crumbled bacon is just something that everyone should have!

 

Tip of the cap to the chefs and staff at Goldfinch, a busy soft opening night that they pulled off. They will be opening their doors to the public this Friday (9/13) @ 3:00 p.m. and then 2:45 on Saturday for the Iowa/Iowa State game. Happy hour is everyday from 3-6 so make sure to take advantage of their awesome list of cocktails, beers, and wine! Check it out!

Iowa Eats Destination: Luna Valley Farm; Decorah, IA

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Sitting on a beautiful farmstead somewhere on the outskirts of Decorah, Iowa is one of the best hidden food destinations Iowa has to offer. Luna Valley Farm and their brick oven pizza coupled with the setting that they offer make this an Iowa eats destination for sure.

Most of my blog visitors have more than likely been to Decorah as it has two of Iowa’s most popular breweries in Toppling Goliath and Pulpit Rock. Both places are well worth the drive there as well and I’m also a big fan of Mabe’s pizza…BUT…..if you are there on a Friday night, no dinner plans, get google maps up and get to Luna Valley. Not only can you eat there, drink some great local brews, but you can also go glamping in one of their cabin/tents! Also, they are only open from 4-8 and ONLY on Fridays! Get there early, grab a seat in the barn, and enjoy.

Seeing how many people made it there on this particular Friday night makes me want to rethink calling it a “hidden” food destination. It’s a popular spot, very popular. Once the dough is out, that’s all she wrote. Luckily, we got there in time and got our orders in. The first thing I noticed when ordering was the excellent beer selection! Pulpit Rock, TG, PIVO and a few others on tap. I ordered a Saftig, and that beer and that setting is about as good as it gets!

 

The pizza was wonderful. Chewy crust, fresh toppings, and a great sauce. We went with the Iowaiian – bacon, pineapple, and jalapeno and the margherita and friends got the Pepperoncini pizza. All 3 were fantastic! Even with how busy they were the staff was extremely friendly, helpful and added to what was a memorable evening! Check it out the next time you hit Decorah on Friday night, you won’t be disappointed in this Iowa Eats Destination!

Small Town Iowa Eats: Marlee and Me; Spragueville, IA

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If you ever find yourself in Jackson County and you have quite an appetite, drive on over to Spragueville and head on into Marlee and Me and you will get more than plenty to fill you up!

Spragueville is about a 20 minute drive from Maquoketa, right off of Highway 64 and is a town (maybe a town?) of not even 100 people. Marlee and Me is a can’t miss spot, literally, if you drive through town you can’t miss it. It’s settled into what looks like an old two story home and is as Mom and Pop and family friendly as it gets…exactly what you’d expect in small town Iowa.

So, finding myself on a fun road trip with my parents, doing a little small town bar hopping, we ended up in Spragueville. We stopped at Marlee and Me intending on just having a quick beer but the food that was coming out of the kitchen signaled that this was our last stop, our meal stop.

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Huge slabs of prime rib with hash brown casserole piled high next to it. The plates were overflowing with beefy goodness and I couldn’t wait to dig in. We walked passed the salad bar as we headed to our seats and I noted the braunschweiger dip and planned to eat my weight in that. One of the great things about small town restaurants like this is there is always a great salad bar. Homemade pasta + potato salads and tons of dips. As this is a beer blog, I should note the beesr I had….Busch Light and a Coors Light. I’m not even sure what the options were, just went with a blue yummy. My parents decided to try the wings. Deep fried wings that were tossed in a jalapeno jelly….never thought of tossing wings in a jelly but these were delicious. I hammered the salad bar and the braunschweiger was as good as I’ve had.

Now it’s time for the main course. A HUGE cut of prime rib, cooked perfect to medium rare and a side of hash brown casserole that could feed a family of four. The steak was perfectly seasoned, a nice crust on the outside. The potatoes were loaded with cheese and garlic and the beer was cold. The perfect Saturday night meal.

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Soooo….if you find yourself on a little road trip, don’t ignore those small town diner/restaurants. And if you find yourself in Jackson County with a big appetite and a hankering for a huge cut of meat…head to Spragueville and Marlee and Me! Worth the trip!