Iowa Eats: Shuey’s Restaurant and Lounge; Shueyville, IA!

This past weekend I had some time to hang out with my oldest and I asked him where/what he wanted to eat. He simply responded, “Bar food”. So after a quick trip to Big Grove in Solon we headed to Shueyville, about 10-15 minutes from Solon, and hit up Shuey’s Restaurant and Lounge.

We were greeted right in by a very friendly staff and had drinks ordered within seconds. Easy Eddy for me, root beer for the lad. Tap lines were typical of your small town bar with some craft on, Easy Eddy seems to be an option no matter what bar you hit and tastes good all the time so the choice was relatively simple.

Although I wasn’t very hungry, their menu has a lot of intriguing options. I let my sign go crazy, if queso is on the menu, he’s going to order it, that with an order of sliders and a mushroom swiss burger. A lot more than I anticipated but was game to try it all.
Queso came out first and was delicious, warm and crispy tortilla chips. Paired well with the beer.
Sliders and burger next, meat quality tasted wonderful, perfectly seasoned. The crinkle cut fries served as the side also went well with the queso dip.

Overall, so much more I want to try. The food was delicious and tasted fresh, the staff was friendly and welcoming, the feel of your small town bar was definitely there but also a place you could bring your whole family for a delicious meal. A place I will frequent and a place you should check out too!

Iowa Eats: the hip-stir opens in Marion! A Must Visit Restaurant!

Last night I was lucky enough to get to visit the latest restaurant being opened by the guys who have brought us Bricks, Local Pour, Cliff’s Dive Bar, and Moco Game Room! The hip-stir in Marion is officially opened and let me tell you, you’re going to want to check this place out! The food, ambiance, drinks, and staff made this a place that I will be frequenting!

Upon entering from the back alley you walk up a small flight of stairs and are greeted with a amazingly creative interior. Booth seats enveloped by wooden barrels and old parlor-esque hanging lamps coming down from the ceilings really give the comfortable vibe of your favorite speakeasy/pub. Upon being greeted by the friendly staff, we were sat in one of the wooden barrel booths to the delight of my kids.

Waters for the kids…beer for me. A nice mix of craft beers and domestic bottles were available along with some creative cocktails (ordering at least 1 next time) and a number of wines for the wine lover to choose. The hard part was coming up….narrowing down what to order! Every single thing on the menu sounded unique, creative, and most importantly delicious. I could be wrong but many items seem to be asian inspired which is perfectly fine with me! Onto the food:

*CALLAHAN WINGS – the wings were mammoth! Definitely not your traditional wing, these were oven baked and had a tangy/spicy sauce that seemed to be a mix of a buffalo/sweet and sour/orange chicken combination with big chunks of funky blue cheese. Terrific! These were a meal in itself and that tangy sauce hit the spot!

*HOT FRIED CHICKEN SANDWICH – Usually when your read hot fried chicken you are thinking Nashville hot or maybe a spicy breading, well the hip-stirs’ version might be even better. A kimchi sauce…that’s right…kimchi sauced chicken sandwich with black garlic ranch. Simply delicious! Sweet and spicy and don’t forget those seasoned waffle fries on the side!

*BIGGER BETTER BURGER #1 – just an outstanding hamburger. Probably a top 5 all time burger. Two brisket patties, velveeta cheese, mustard sauce, onion, the coup de grace…pickled fresno chiles. The taste of the burger patties itself was delicious, add the accompaniments and it’s on another level. I’m a huge fresno chile fan and to get these pickled on this burger added a wonderful sweet and briney heat element. Excellent burger!

*PORK BELLY STEAM BUNS – this item right here will be ordered every time…without question. Sometimes steam buns can either be too pillowy and thick and too sweet…the hip-stir completely nailed the buns themselves. Not super thick, but enough to hold the ingredients on the inside. The pork belly was crispy and delicious and every steam bun needs that crunch and freshness from a cucumber. Add the kimchi sauce and you have a deathbed meal right here! THE BEST!!

OVERALL: Can’t say enough good things about the place really. I was blown away and it will be a place I return to frequently. My picture taking skills are shit and don’t do it justice by any means so you simply have to visit on your own. Marion has some great things going for it and the hip-stir certainly adds a unique and delicious destination to an up and coming area! Thank you Tim and staff!

Iowa Eats: MIX Sushi; Cedar Rapids, IA

The beautiful thing about getting a particular craving when you live in between Cedar Rapids and Iowa City is that you can simply hop in your car and head towards either destination and places in between and satisfy that craving with one of the many amazing, locally owned restaurants/bars/breweries/pubs!

Sushi is definitely a craving I have often. There are a few very good sushi options in the IC/CR area and after reading and seeing many posts about this place, I finally made it to MIX sushi in downtown Cedar Rapids! MIX (210 3rd Avenue, Cedar Rapids) not only serves up some of the best sushi I’ve had, but also has options for the vegetarian and gluten free crowd!

I usually go overboard on ordering when I visit a new place and I did the same visiting MIX. I started off with the the “Angry Shrimp”. 3 jumbo shrimp stuffed with a sweet chilli jalapeno cream cheese blend, hand breaded and deep fried and served with some excellent sweet and sour sauce. This is also a gluten free option! The perfect start to the meal. Spicy, fresh, and delicious. It doesn’t need the sweet and sour because they are extremely flavorful but the sweet and sour is so good I doused mine in it! Would order again and on every single visit!

Next up – sushi time! Mix tuna roll – Spicy white tuna, cucumber, and avocado inside the roll with seared red tuna, mayo, spicy mayo, unagi sauce, and scallions on the outside. Refreshing, tasty, and just what I needed. A little dab of wasabi and I could hammer this roll all day long.

White Dragon Roll – Tempura battered and fried shrimp with cream cheese, cucumber inside and ebi shrimp, white tuna, honey mayo on the outside. The battered and fried shrimp give this roll and wonderful crunch and the honey mayo sweetness blends really well with a little tab of wasabi. Excellent roll!

Fire Dragon Roll – spicy tuna, cucumber inside. red tuna, red tobiko, spicy mayo outside. I didn’t think it was spicy as advertised but I really enjoyed this roll too. Refreshing, a bit spicy, and delicious and pairs perfectly with a cold Kirin Ichiban.

MIX is definitely worth visiting for the sushi crowd. Excellent service and wonderful food options. I would order the same things I ordered on my visit but I know I want to try it all! Check out MIX soon!

Iowa Eats: Ramen Belly; Iowa City, IA!

Start driving to Iowa City, take the Dubuque Street exit, come to the stop light before the Mayflower and hang a ralph, drive up and yes, it’s all houses/homes/condos/etc. keep going until you hit the Peninsula Neighborhood. Don’t worry, if you think you are totally missing a restaurant because it’s all houses, you would be correct, but just get to Martin Street and you’ll run into a legit restaurant…you’ve made it..1010 Martin Street in Iowa City….get your taste buds ready for Ramen Belly!

Nestled back in a beautiful Iowa City neighborhood is where you can get an extremely satisfying and fulfilling Asian meal. Ramen Belly has a small seating capacity with some outdoor tables which makes it charming and hospitable as do the wait staff and owners. You are given menus, but you place your order after scanning a QR code and the staff are eager to help if need be. The menu itself is mouth-water….potstickers, short ribs, poke bowls, and what I came there to eat…RAMEN!!! When I hit a new place and the menu has many options that appease they eye, it’s time to order a shit load of food! Before the food…the beer…….Ichiban on tap…get one, Japan’s pale ale, or get a Sapporo while you’re feeding your face. For the Iowa Craft scene, Easy Eddy was on the lines!

DISH 1 – Braised Pork and Mushroom Pot Stickers:

Potstickers are always an easy thing to order because they are usually extremely tasty if done correctly, and Ramen Belly does them extremely well. A bit of crunch on the outside, steamed perfectly, and the mushroom/roasted pork combo paired wonderfully. Definitely worth another order.

DISH 2 – Tuna Tartare

Fresh tuna tossed in a sriracha aioli with house pickled cucumbers, wonton strips, and thin strips of nori. Refreshing with a little punch of heat from the aioli, paired perfectly with a cold Ichiban.

DISH 3 – Poke Bowl

Yes, this dish and the one above look similar. Underneath this one however is some delicious white rice and a sesame flavored seaweed salad to go along with the mouth watering tuna. Refreshing, filling, and extremely tasty. The seaweed salad is the game changer in this dish. Those house cucumbers in there make for a perfect bite!

DISH 4 – RAMEN!!!

I went with the house blend ramen broth on this one and after talking to the owner you can appreciate it all those flavors that you get from it. The broth is cooked down for 36 hours before blending with others broths for at least an additional 18 hours. Packed full of flavor for all the lovely parts of chicken, pork, veggies, beef and then strained over al dente noodles, a big slab of the best tasting korean grilled short rib I’ll ever eat, soft boiled egg, and bean sprouts.

OVERALL

I want to go back tomorrow. Every dish was delicious, flavorful, and well-executed. My one regret…I should have ordered a bunch of short ribs! I will not make that mistake again! Forget chicken noodle soup, Ramen is the way to go! Check out Ramen Belly on Facebook by clicking HERE and get over there and get some awesome food!

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!

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!