Category Archives: Lunch Anyone?

These establishments are fantastic for lunch. They have specific lunch menus.

Homemade Fresh Tomato Basil Soup

It’s rainy here in Iowa today.  I can’t think of a better way to spend a rainy evening than with your kids or your pets, curled up on the couch with a good book and a cup of soup.  This would be great served with a hearty grilled cheese and avocado or pickle sandwich.  Or maybe over rice or quinoa.  Yum!

 

Homemade Fresh Tomato Basil Soup.

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Espresso 134 Lisbon, Iowa

Storefront Espresso 134

UPDATE:  Espresso 134 is now closed. 

 

It was a good thing for me that Brighton got out of school at 11:30.  After a quick lunch at home, we headed to the City Park in Lisbon.  A small historic community of around 2500 people, Lisbon has a gem sitting right on Main Street.  It’s called Espresso 134.

ATMOSPHERE:

The renovated 1881 building is more than gorgeous inside.  It’s modern and cozy and … well gorgeous!  Clad with granite countertops, bar, tables, and ledges, comfy leather chairs downstairs, and cozy chairs upstairs, the whole place just reeks of class.  Two chillers under the bar hold local wines and beer.  An odd twist to a traditional coffee shop, but with the idea of wine tastings, beer pairings, art shows, euchre tournaments, and live music, it somehow works.  Beautifully.    I just can’t say how impressed I was with the look of this place.  Each coffee shop I frequent has it’s own unique style, and Espresso 134 is no exception.

Now, from what I understand, this establishment is in the middle of a management change.  The previous owner, Eric Krob, is going to be taking ownership once again since the current owner, Jill Schaefer, is  choosing to spend more time with her 4 boys.  A reasonable option since running this kind of business takes a LOT of time.  So at this time, Just Jill’s Espresso 134 offers up breakfast, lunch and limited dinner offerings, as well as carry out prepared meals.  However, I am not sure how long that will last.   So if this is what you’re interested in, I suggest calling ahead.

DRINKS n STUFF

So how is the coffee?  Pretty good.  Coffee roasts from PT’s Roasting Company out of Topeka, KS (Direct Trade) supplies Espresso 134 with it’s premium roast.  I had a simple (boring) decaf, skim latte.  I say boring because I’m nursing a 2 month old who doesn’t care for caffeine or milk proteins.  So I didn’t get a good representation of what their coffee is REALLY like.  Brighton and I did, however, each have a Raspberry Italian Creme Soda, which was excellent.

We also each had some goodies.  Brighton had two (yes TWO) cake bites.   One chocolate and one lemon.  Which he says were “Good!” complete with a deep dimple smile (which is a positive review equal to 9 stars).  I had a chocolate truffle, which was pretty good too.  The chocolates were made by a local Cedar Rapidian business called Sweetopia Handmade Chocolates.

Also offered are local wines and happy hour specials.  Wine selections  include Cedar Ridge wines, wines for fundraising (UNITE for livestrong, MOVE for National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and INSPIRE for Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation) where actual $$ goes to the foundations for the sale of each of these wines.  Pretty cool eh?

EXTRAS:

Also available is catering for office parties/business meetings etc. just call a day ahead.  You can also rent the building for your meetings (and make a fantastic impression!)  WiFi is available, ask for a password.  Or if you need to use a computer, one is available for you on the second floor.  Which, by the way, also has a huge flat screen television, comfy chairs and a beautiful leather couch.   I’m just sayin’.

So where can I find this place?

134 Main Street, Lisbon Iowa

Phone: 319-455-2023

Facebook: just jills espresso 134

email:  jjespresso134@gmail.com

All in all I really liked this place.  Good coffee, great service, out of this world atmosphere.  So if you’re ever in the area, or in Iowa at all, stop by and say hello.  Tell them I sent you!

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.

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.

Remington’s Restaurant and Lounge Spirit Lake, IA

August 30, 2008

We went to Terril to visit our family and we always try to hit a local favorite.  Lastnight we hit Remington’s in Spirit Lake.  It is one of the local favorites, we could tell that by the line out the door.  Remington’s

is located in the Great Lakes Mall.  It’s a nondescript restaurant front so you might miss it.  It’s a simple place with a big menu.  There’s a lounge area, a private party area and a main dining area.

When we walked in, it was warm and inviting.  I thought it a little strange that the staff were all wearing t-shirts or sweatshirts and jeans or jean shorts (albeit Remington’s tshirts and sweatshirts. )  It just didn’t quite fit the atmosphere, but that’s minor.  It added to the casual atmosphere.

The food was OK.  Not great and quite greasy.  We ordered a full order of potato boats which were slathered with cheese.  Undoubtedly my favorite part of the meal.  We also ordered the Onion Brick, one of their trademark items.  It reminded me slightly of a Kitchen Nightmares episode, but they tasted good.   The items that we all ordered were a Remington Burger, Tenderloin, and Custer’s Catch fish sandwich.  The Remington Burger came with cheese, onion, and mushrooms.  This was my order.  I assumed the onions and mushrooms would be sauteed, but they weren’t.  The fresh button mushrooms were cut and placed on top of the burger.  Which I would have been fine with even though they weren’t sauteed, except that it was then drenched in cheese sauce not real cheese.  Then the green onions were sliced and put on top of that.  It wasn’t bad, it tasted fine, but I expected real cheese, not cheese sauce.  That’s probably my biggest complaint.  The fresh onions, tomato slice, and fresh mushrooms turned out to be a pleasant surprise, but I couldn’t get over the sauce.

Andrew had the tenderloin with salad and though it was OK he said it didn’t have a lot of flavor.  The Custer’s Catch was a huge deep fried cod fillet topped with sliced almonds.  My sister in law had that and she said it was OK.

Overall, this restaurant was pretty good, not somewhere I’d be craving next time we visit, but an ok place to stop and get some lunch or dinner if you’re over there.  The prices were reasonable.  For two of us plus the potato boats plus two beers (they have Amber Bock bottles) the bill came to almost $30.  The waitress was friendly but they were very busy so she seems a little frazzled, but we still got good service.

I’d recommend this place for a weekday meal with the family – probably best for lunch or early dinner as it gets pretty busy after 6.

Iguanas Grill North Liberty, Iowa

August 26, 2008

Iguanas Grill Buffet

Iguana's Grill Buffet

Every week for the past two or so years, (maybe 3) my coworkers Dr. Wayne, Jennifer, and I have gone to Iguanas almost every week for lunch. Occasionally we change it up, but Iguana’s we never get sick of. Typically, we have ordered the Chicken Chimichanga but have since started ordering the buffet, speedy gonzales, lunch fajitas, and quesadillas. We haven’t been disappointed in any of these items. The service is generally quick, friendly, and courteous. They start by getting you a basket of warm tortilla chips and salsa. Eventually, they’ll get your order and within 15 minutes you usually have your lunch.

The prices are reasonable and the food is great. They just started offering the buffet this year, and have worked out all the kinks so now it’s usually great. With items on the buffet such as chimichangas, quesadillas (beef and chicken), burritos, fruit, salad, chips, rice, beans, refried beans, tortillas to make your own burrito or taco. Those are the basics, some items may vary.

If you’re in North Liberty, check it out. You won’t be disappointed.

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.

*********

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!