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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?!

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.  🙂

Fuel Espresso Mount Vernon, Iowa

August 18 2008

Anyone who knows me, knows I have a fascination with Fuel. The place. I can often be seen with a fuel mug or to go cup in my hand on my way to work, on a lazy Sunday Afternoon, on a Saturday getting some work done. I admit it, Fuel is my weakness. The proprietor, Tommie, is one of the nicest people you would ever meet. And if you ever met her mom, (the one who’s great pastry recipes grace the food platters) you’ll know why. And the staff is just as sweet and considerate.

Mount Vernon was chosen as one of Iowa’s Main Street Communities. And Fuel is most definitely a tribute to the town.  Along with other eclectic shops and many antique stores, Mount Vernon is a nice day get away.

Fuel offers several different kinds of independently roasted coffee including: Grumpy Monkey, Organic Love, House, Rocket Fuel, and they make their special Black and Tan. They have a full menu of coffee drinks, hot and cold as well as a counter full of mom’s made from scratch homemade goodness. Which includes fruit cream scones, carrot bars topped with a cream cheese frosting, rice krispie treats, a variety of home made cookies and the occasional Texas Sheet Cake. They also carry an assortment of organic teas, caffeinated and decaf.

The gift part of the shop is just as wonderful. With everything from assorted antique wooden bread bowls to dia de muerto gifts to french soap. If you are looking for something unique, stop here. And have a great cup of joe with a carrot bar.

Kids are always welcome at Fuel, but it’s a little touch and go if you have an antsy toddler from a mom’s point of view. The first time I ever visited fuel, it was after a long walk around Mount Vernon with my then <1 year old child (I think) Anyway, he was in a stroller, a Jeep stroller, made to go on rough terrain. So it’s not small. Tommie, the owner, and her mom welcomed me in and even helped me carry the stroller into the shop. Since then, my son has grown and no longer needs a stroller, and really enjoys going to Fuel. That said, I still keep an eagle eye on him in the shop because he likes all the pretties just as much as mom does 🙂

However, don’t go driving to Mount Vernon expecting Fuel to be open into the wee hours in the morning.  Fuel is open Tuesday through Sunday from 7 AM to 5 PM.  So get your java on early in the day.

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!

Zoey’s Pizza Marion, Iowa

Chicago Style Zoeys Pizza

Chicago Style Zoey's Pizza

Zoey’s Pizza

Marion, Iowa

August 2, 2008

I am happy for the first post in my food blog to be from Zoey’s Pizza in Marion Iowa.  Zoey’s has been around for a long time and they are famous for their Chicago Style Pizza.  They opened their doors in 1991 and have been serving up great pizza ever since.  One of the best things about Zoey’s (aside from their pizza) is their location.  They are right on the “strip” in Marion and in a quaint building decorated with eclectic and retro wallpaper, pictures, and memorabilia that fits in with the antique shops and historical sites surrounding it.

Staff was well dressed, clean, fast and friendly.  Immediately bringing my 3 year old son crayons and a picture to color.   The restaurant is clean and inviting.  Menus are easy to read and simple though the options are great.  If you arrive after 5:30 or so, especially on the weekend, expect to wait at least 10-20 minutes.  The wait can be tedious because there is only a small area inside to stand in and no sheltered area outside.  The prices vary with Chicago style being the most expensive overall, but you will NOT leave hungry and can easily make 3 or more meals out of a large Chicago Style pizza.  Please visit their website to see the menu.

Garlic Cheese Bread from Zoeys Pizzaria

Garlic Cheese Bread from Zoey's Pizzaria