Category Archives: Americana

Good ol’ Americana food. These are the places where you can get breakfast all day long, order a hand dipped shake with your dinner, eat chicken fried steak for lunch, and liver and onions are on special. Oh yeah, and there’s always a good selection of homemade pies (if you get there on time to get a slice.)

Al’s Blue Toad

Well, it sure has been a busy year!!!  Building houses, having babies…(ok ONE house and ONE baby…but that sure is enough!) no rest at the Oberbreckling home!  Needless to say, our outings have been limited, but we did manage one really fantastic one recently.  Al’s Blue Toad in historic and rebuilding Czech Village in Cedar Rapids.

Al’s Blue Toad is a Czech homestyle pub style restaurant in the heart of historic Czech Village in the old Zindricks restaurant.  With fabulous traditional Czech recipes as well as just good ol’ rib stickin’ food.    Rebuilt after the flood of 2008, this restaurant shows no sign of slowing down.   With a facebook fan base of over 1000 fans, Al’s Blue Toad is definitely helping the flood recovery in Czech Village stand out and stay afloat (no pun intended).

The first time I ate at the toad was with my bestie from San Diego, Jill, her daughter and mom.  Jill had the Paprika Chicken, her mom  had the Tender Roast Pork Loin (seems to be their specialty – everyone orders it!), and I had the Breaded Pork Tenderloin with fries (an Iowa favorite).  We all tasted each other’s dish and were all delighted.  Even the 4 year old enjoyed the food.  I wasn’t equipped with a camera at the time but made a mental note to bring one next time.

The next time I went with my family and one of the first things I noticed at the Toad was how clean the place was and smelled.   Being a diabetic at the time (gestational diabetes) I had to excuse myself to the restroom several times for tests and shots, which smelled and looked clean.  Even the garbage cans were clean and freshly changed.  Impressive for such a busy bustling place.   Then came the menu.  Which is full of great food at great prices.  I will say, though, not much on the menu for kids.  I ordered the Tender Roast Pork Loin with the yummiest dumplings and my husband, the Czech Burger which is adorned with bavarian kraut and caraway swiss.  Both were fantastic.  So much so that I completely forgot to take photos of our meals until they were almost gone.  So, much to my husband’s chagrin, I chased the waitress around when I saw her bring out one popular appetizer, the homemade breaded mac and cheese.   I again, didn’t have my good camera or even my point-and-shoot but I managed a bad photo with my camera phone.  The others were stolen from the facebook fan page.  🙂

Stop in some time and say hello, and tell them I sent you!  The Toad is located at 86 16th Avenue SW Cedar Rapids Iowa. Their phone number is 319-265-8623 and the hours are Monday through Sunday 11AM to 2 AM and Sunday 11 AM to 10 PM.  Maybe I’ll see you there!!

Have you eaten at the Toad?  Tell me what you think?!

Alger’s Pizza Palace Mount Vernon, Iowa

Located on the Main Street in the Historic College town (Home of Cornell College) of Mount Vernon, (we all know College kids take their pizza very VERY seriously) lies a Royal little pizza place called Pizza Palace.

Hawaiian Thick Crust Pizza

Hawaiian Thick Crust Pizza

Oh yum.  Is all I have to say.  Andrew, Brighton, and I stopped by there on a Thursday evening.  The place was almost empty less a few late comers such as ourselves, but the pizza (we ordered the Hawaiian with a thick crust) was absolutely outstanding.

Made by the owner himself, Rawley Alger, the cheese was perfectly melted and browned, the crust was crispy and full of flavor, the ingredients including pineapple and Canadian bacon, didn’t “wet” the pizza down like Hawaiian pizza can sometimes be.  Instead, it was wonderfully fresh and just about the most perfect pizza I have ever had.    In addition, the price is extremely reasonable, the service is excellent, and the atmosphere is fun and feels very historic and homey.  A large Hawaiian pizza costs the same, maybe a dollar more, than a large Casey’s specialty pizza on sale.  And for the price of about $14, you get local service, great food, and you get to support a locally and family owned (since 1986) business.  Which just makes it taste a little better… 🙂

Alger’s Pizza Palace is located at 106 1st Street West in Mount Vernon Iowa.  Their phone number (for carry out!) is (319) 895-6971.  If you visit, you can pass the time by searching the mural on the wall for the treasure hunt items listed in the middle on the list. Extra points if you can find the mice (of which only 3 people know the locations of…)

If any coupons are available, you can find them here.

Find out more about Mount Vernon here.

Find out more about Mount Vernon Commerce here.

Mechanicsville Fireman’s Breakfast Mechanicsville, Iowa

October 5, 2008

Ever see these kinds of signs when you’re driving through a small town?  “Spaghetti Dinner!” 

“Catfish Fry!” “Pancake Breakfast!”  Well, no one makes breakfast like the Mechanicsville Volunteer Firemen and Paramedics.  The entire town and then some comes out to have breakfast and to support our local fire and ambulance.  I’ve gone to this with my husband and mother in law every year since I’ve lived here.  It’s one of the things I look forward to every fall.  It’s $6 for adults and $4 for kids 4-12 free for kids 3 and under.  

You get in line, hand them or buy your ticket, and then wait in line for your plate.  You get your food from hard working paramedics and fireman, then go sit down at a table where the minute your plate is empty or your cup of coffee, milk, or juice is empty, there is someone there to give you another pancake, sausage, egg, potatoes, etc etc or more to drink.  You don’t leave hungry EVER and there is more than enough food and joy to go around.  It certainly gives you a sense of community and friendship when you see all the smiles and are greeted with “hellos” and “how are yas” and “hey, how’s that crop comin’. ”  

It’s a great way to see a community and to get a small town Norman Rockwell feel as you crowd into the firehouse, sit shoulder to shoulder and share a bottle of syrup and a smile.  

Next time you see one of these signs, consider stopping.  It’ll be worth it.  🙂

Dittos Stanwood, Iowa

Ditto’s is one of those wonderful restaurants that you find in almost every small town.  Especially in Iowa. You can order a skillet breakfast any time of the day, have a porkchop home style lunch complete with mashed potatoes, and supper of liver and onions with a hand dipped milk shake and finish off with a huge slice of homemade pies (if you’re lucky enough to get one before they’re gone.)

Brighton and I and occasionally Andrew, can be found on a lazy Sunday morning having breakfast.  We occasionally go there for lunch or dinner and scoop up their huge nummy tenderloin.

Service is usually pretty good, they’re often busy and so it may take a while to get your first cup of coffee, but besides that, you won’t wait long.  The owner can often be found in the kitchen in the morning and early afternoons.  Speaking of coffee, they serve Farmers Brothers coffee, which is usually served at these kinds of little diners.

Dittos is located on Highway 30 on your way out of Stanwood or on your way into Stanwood – depending on which way you’re coming – or going.  Stanwood is on the north side of Hwy 30.  You can’t really miss it.   And you shouldn’t.

Looney’s Family Dining and Catering Mechanicsville, IA

I AM SORRY TO SAY THAT LOONEY’S IS NOW CLOSED

August 22, 2008

Jamie Looney and LeaAnn Cords took a chance in this small Iowa town, and it’s serving the community and them well. After working in the restaurant business for over 30 years, Jamie moved to Iowa to be nearer to famliy. He met LeaAnn and they immediately got to work to open up Looney’s. Brighton and I stopped in on a sunny Friday morning for breakfast, to try it out. I’m glad we did! Not only was the service friendly, the food was great. Jamie and LeaAnn signed the lease on July 2 and had the place up and running and opened the doors the first time to hundreds of Ragbrai riders on July 21. But these crowds didn’t scare off the one and only chef, Jamie. Jamie worked in the Colorado State Penitentiary cooking up food for over 3500 inmates three times a day. So he knows how to make people happy.

Looney’s is an American dining cafe. Complete with chocolate chip pancakes, friendly service, homemade pies, good coffee, and good down home cookin’. I had a breakfast burrito that made me feel like I’d stepped into the Arizona desert. Brighton had a chocolate chip pancake (funny face pancake) that filled his plate and his tummy for two meals.

We’re sure glad that Jamie and LeaAnn decided to take a chance in the small town of Mechanicsville. I sure hope they stay a while.

Looney’s is located on East First Street along the Old Lincoln Highway that intersects the town. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday 7 AM to 8:30 PM. Sunday Brunch from 9-2 for $8.99. Friday night special is always surf and turf for $11.99. Thursday night special is BBQ chicken and Ribs for $11.99 and they also offer an all you can eat buffet for $8.99.

They will accommodate truckers and construction workers, so if you plan to stop and it’s before or after hours, just give them a ring. They are closed on Monday. They’re also available for parties during off hours.

Fran and Cherie’s Skillet Cafe and Bakery Mount Vernon Iowa

August 15, 2008

We were so pumped that there is a new breakfast place in our area!  The Skillet Cafe is located on the corner of the main intersection in Mount Vernon, Iowa.  Brighton and I decided to test the breakfast menu.  Just the right amount of choices made ordering a breeze.  I chose the “Build Your Own Omelet” which came with american fries and toast.   There is no ala carte menu, so of course I had to over order for Brighton from the “Kids Menu” that wasn’t on the board, but instead on a small paper menu beside the register.   I ordered a coffee, which was in carafe’s and made for the multiples (which is OK by me – I can get my own and don’t have to wait for someone to serve it to me) but it was a little weak for my taste.  All the condiments and silver were on a cart beside the self serve soda machine.  It was an interesting take on breakfast but a good one.

They take your order when you walk in, then when it’s ready, they bring it out to you, but you are responsible for getting your own napkins, silverware, coffee, condiments, etc., as well as bussing your own table.  Some people may not like this feature, but I rather enjoyed it.  The price wasn’t outrageous, you could do things at your own pace (which is important with a toddler in tow) and you didn’t get a lot of things that you didn’t need.  You certainly don’t go broke or hungry eating here, but your coffee buzz might be lacking a tad, that is if you drink the stuff.

Don’t skip it if you visit Mount Vernon.

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Brighton’s Pancake Review:  They were Good.

Mom’s Pancake Review:   Kinda big, and a lot for him, so I feel like I wasted $3 unnecessarily, but they tasted great.

UPDATE:  October 3, 2008

Brighton and I went back to Skillet Cafe this morning for breakfast.  I had a philly omelet that had steak, onion, green and red pepper, and swiss cheese.  It was great!  They’ve started giving kids only 1 pancake (which makes sense) though the price is the same.  The coffee was good.  And despite my earlier post, you do NOT have to bus your own table.  You CAN if you want to help out the staff, but they will come by and pick it up.  It was a nice morning experience and the cafe was full which was a great thing to see!!  Oh!  And they’ve added free Wi-Fi.  🙂  So bring your iPod or laptop!