VINTON — Behind the Greek-columned facade of a burned out bank building in Vinton rises the resurrection of a longtime Cedar Rapids dining destination — Cafe de Klos.
"I missed it," says Joan Dvorak, who along with her husband, Gary, operated the upscale eatery in Cedar Rapids for 24 years. "I missed the restaurant, the camaraderie you have with people, the sharing of their lives’ events."
That’s how customers remember the final iteration of Cafe de Klos which operated in a remodeled old brick mansion at 821 Third Ave. SE from 1986 to 2005. Today it is Daniel Arthur’s, a similar upscale restaurant with similar intimate dining areas. The Dvoraks originated the cafe in 1981 in a building now gone on Second Avenue SE.
Joan and Gary, 57 and 62, had decided to retire from the restaurant business in 2005 when they moved to Florida to further their son’s baseball career. Dakota is now a senior, on a baseball scholarship at Wagner College on Staten Island, NY.
To the Dvoraks, Florida never felt like home. They returned to Iowa to live in an inherited house east of Vinton. Every time they’d go to town, they’d think about a restaurant.
While some locations were enticing, nothing grabbed their imaginations like the four-columned facade of the old Farmers National Bank. That bank, closed in the Depression, became home to the American Legion post in 1947. A fire in 2005 destroyed the building itself, which was later torn down behind the facade. Local businessman John Ketchen bought it, hoping someone like Gary Dvorak would come along.
"I told John I wouldn’t have attempted this if it wasn’t for the columns," Gary says.
Between those columns, Gary opens an old brass door to reveal the work in progress inside a new building. Originally hoping to open for the holidays, the Dvoraks now are shooting for an opening early next year.
Inside, you see why. Uniqueness takes time.
"We decided, if we’re going to do this, it’s got to be bigger and better," Gary says.
From a short hallway you enter a two-story atrium decorated to resemble the exteriors of facing French chalets. On the ceiling, a red-tailed hawk soars in a cloud-accented sky painted by Vinton artist Brian Parr. The bar is being constructed to the right; the two-story fireplace to the left.
In all, the 6,400-square foot building will seat only 100 people in intimate areas.
For instance, "The French Quarter" will seat up to 20 below a huge skylight in a room accented by hanging plants and wrought-iron, placing you in a New Orleans courtyard. "The Bird Cage," a special room for only six guests, awaits atop a spiral staircase with a huge window overlooking the chalets. Alcove-like seating abounds throughout the rest of the restaurant.
The fine-dining menu, Joan says, will feature the high quality steaks, seafood and dishes of the past. A bar menu will be offered in the atrium. And a gift shop will feature only locally made products, including the famous Cafe de Klos secret marinade.
"We are hoping this will become a destination," Joan says. "It will help us and it will help Vinton."