Here in Chainotopia, it’s hard to see a good local restaurant go. We lost a few in 2013. But we also made some gains.
What can you say about losing the Lincoln Cafe? I’m going to go ahead and smother prime locally overgrown sentiment in pureed hyperbole and dub it the best restaurant in Iowa. At least the best one I’ve ever chewed in. It was the food, of course, innovative and surprising and delicious. But it was also its really unique ability to couple its culinary cutting edge with an Iowa comfortableness. A dinner jacket worn with overalls. You could be wowed by an ambitious dinner or a burger and fries. Losing it is beyond lousy. But good luck to Chef Matt Steigerwald on his next adventure.
On the bright side, Rachel Sauter is buying the place and has plans for something new. Here’s wishing her all the luck in the world as she follows a very tough act. And the Winebar is still open.
Also on the bright side, We gained Cobble Hill in downtown Cedar Rapids, run by Carrie and Andy Schumacher, the Lincoln Cafe’s former executive chef. It opened in February and is carving out its own reputation for great, unique food. If you haven’t tried it, you should. Spend a cold winter evening there.
Back to the losses.
Efforts to revive the A&W on Ellis Road finally ended with a wrecking crew. I only got a chance to eat there once. It was the Tuesday before the Cedar River crested. Two Coney dogs with fries and a root beer. I hope somebody develops the empty spot.
Cedar Rapids lost its Spring House restaurant. You might remember it was the site of the historic Spring House Summit between newly elected Mayor Ron Corbett and then-City Manager Jim Prosser in November 2009. Corbett ordered two eggs, over-easy, and hash browns, extra-crispy. Prosser stuck with iced tea. Despite the courteous, friendly and useful meeting that day, by the following spring, Prosser’s time as manager was well done.
Gatherings, the eatery inside Bottleworks lofts closed. As did Gringo’s, the longtime downtown Mexican joint that was a go-to stop when I was an outside journo visiting this fair city to cover occasional candidate debates and other political events.
Gringo’s is now Syndicate Epicurean Pub, a place I have yet to visit.
In Marion, we lost good old reliable Huntington’s on the square. I now have no idea where the vital issues of the day will be debated over coffee. Good luck to John Huntington on his fresh start. I’ve heard rumors about other possible restaurants at that site, but nothing solid. If you have leads, please share.
We also saw gains.
Cedar Rapids regained dinner and drinks with a view when the Double Tree downtown opened in June with its restaurant/bar 350 First perched on the 16th floor. If life gets you down, rise above it and order a Manhattan, I always say. OK, I’ve never said it until now.
Dino’s Deanoz’s sports bar out front of the Town and Country strip mall along First Avenue turned into 101 Gastropub. It opened a couple of weeks ago and I have yet to go.
Emil’s Hideway, hidden away behind 2nd Wind exercise equipment and Taco John’s on First Avenue near Home Depot, became another fine local place to grab food and a big cold beer. Two even.
We gained a Sag Wagon along Cedar Lake, with great views when the weather’s warm. Remember warm weather?
And I’m not 100 percent sure that Braise Company started serving dine-in lunches this year, but that’s when I started eating them. Braise works out of the back of Benz Beverage Depot and offers a really tasty lunch menu. The meatball sub earns my vote for the city’s best sandwich. And I know that may earn me a Joensy’s tenderloin to the kisser, but I’ll take the risk. You should try the sandwich.
Yes, Braise’s owner, Shawn Price, is my next door neighbor. And yes, he has shoveled part of my sidewalk a couple of times this winter. But I wouldn’t fib about lunch.
I’m sure I’m forgetting some losses and gains. Feel free to add to the list.