Ground Floor: Cobble Hill in Cedar Rapids stays true to original vision

Smaller menu provides challenges, but owner says restaurant is growing niche

George Ford
Published: February 4 2014 | 7:00 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 3:07 am in

When Cobble Hill appeared in the Ground Floor on Feb. 12, 2013, the restaurant was just opening its doors.

Next week, owners Andy and Carrie Schumacher will celebrate the first birthday of their downtown Cedar Rapids business.

Andy Schumacher, Cobble Hill’s chef, and Carrie the general manager, said the couple have stayed true to their original vision for the restaurant -- to connect people with their food, farmers and community.

“We focus on small batch producers at the front of house and bar,” he said. “We make our food from scratch with a lot of attention to detail.”

Schumacher noted that while a customer ordering a Jack and Coke at the bar may be surprised to learn that Cobble Hill serves neither Jack Daniels nor Coca-Cola, the customer can have a similar drink featuring premium small batch whiskey and soda from regional producers.

Schumacher admitted that Cobble Hill’s smaller, focused menu has presented some challenges in the market, but said the restaurant is establishing a niche.

“Not a lot of people do what we do,” Schumacher said. “It’s harder for us to reach a wider audience but we’ve generated a core group of people who think we provide a special experience.”

That experience recalls the Schumachers’ time in Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill neighborhood when they lived in New York. Details like the restaurant’s exposed brick interior suggest the brick row houses of its historic namesake.

“We tried to emulate our experience out there in terms of the restaurants and the neighborhood,” Schumacher said.

The Schumachers returned to their native Iowa in 2008. Andy took a job as the executive chef at Lincoln Café in Mount Vernon, where he worked until the end of 2012.

Schumacher said it came as a surprise to him when Lincoln Café closed its doors in late 2013.

“It held a lot of memories and history for me since I spent such a big part of my career there,” he said.

While Schumacher said he understands his former employer’s desire to do something else, he has been too focused on the ins and outs of being a new business owner to contemplate a time when he might feel the same way.

One of the biggest surprises in his new role has been discovering all the extra things he has to deal with now that he’s “not just a chef cooking all the time.” One change made since Cobble Hill first opened a year ago is the addition of a lunch menu, although Schumacher said lunch was always part of the plan.

“We wanted to make sure we had dinner service running smoothly before adding on lunch,” Schumacher said. “It was a good decision. It gave us the ability to focus on what we needed to do before taking the next step.”

Other changes have included the introduction of live music, special wine and beer tasting menus and events like a “Prohibition Party” featuring classic cocktails.

Schumacher said Cobble Hill will celebrate its first birthday on Feb. 12 with drink and menu specials and live music by Richard Wagor and Ryan Phelan as the Murf-Tones Duo.

“We had a really good first year and a lot to be thankful for.”

Know a company in business for less than a year that would be ideal for “The Ground Floor”? Contact assistant business editor George C. Ford at George.Ford@sourcemedia.net

At a glance

  • Owners: Andy and Carrie Schumacher
  • Business: Cobble Hill
  • Address: 219 Second St. SE, Cedar Rapids
  • Phone: (319) 366-3177
  • Website: www.Cobblehillrestaurant.com

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