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2009/04/30 23:52:30 (permalink)


Idiot Out Wandering Around, in case you're wondering.  Last weekend it was me and here's my nice long recap; I thought about breaking it up into installments but decided to just sit down and get it over with.
At most universities Homecoming is the big celebration for students and alumni but at Drake it's the Drake Relays, and every year I go back to Des Moines to get together with friends and spend a little time watching America's Athletic Classic.  2009 just happens to mark the 100th Relays, making it one of the longest-running meets in the country.
We left home Wednesday night and made it as far as Rock Falls IL, where our hotel was conveniently next door to the Candlelight Inn.

At Candlelight the house specialty is "Chicken George", which is basically a plate of fresh chicken tenders dipped in batter, fried, and served with a homemade dipping sauce.  They were quite good, very mild and tender, and the sauce is a little on the sweet side.  Kathy preferred the house ranch dressing instead; it has a nice oniony flavor and doesn't taste like any other ranch I've tried.  The batter was light and crisp. 

I had been all set to order the chicken but Kathy beat me to it, so I had to find an alternative.  Hey, how about a pork tenderloin sandwich?

It was hot (and stayed hot), juicy, and good, although maybe just a bit on the salty side.  The batter appeared to be the same as the Chicken George batter so maybe the meat's prepped differently, as the chicken wasn't nearly as salty.  Our bartender/waiter assured us that it was a handmade tenderloin and there was no reason to doubt him.
We got an early start Thursday morning, had a light breakfast at the hotel (surprisingly good sausage gravy) and traveled along US-30 to Clinton IA.  We passed through Morrison and saw a sign for a covered bridge outside of town and at 8am it was bathed in bright sunshine.  I don't know how old it is or how long it's been there, though, as it looks like it could be new, a replacement, a restoration/restification, etc.  EDIT: Apparently it was built in 2001 and spans Rock Creek as part of Crosby Road. 

Of course, to get from Illinois to Iowa a small stream must be crossed and we chose to do it at Fulton IL, with Kathy pointing the camera out the window for the obligatory shot of Big Muddy.

Our plans for the day included a few winery visits.  We were running ahead of schedule when we reached Maquoketa so we decided to find a place to get a more substantial breakfast, and at the intersection of US-61 and IA-64 we found Flapjacks Family Restaurant.

Once again Kathy one-upped me and I settled for biscuits and gravy, which comes with sausage links on the side.  The gravy itself was rather smooth and creamy and didn't seem to have a lot of sausage in it, but the links made up for it and it tasted good either way.  The hash browns I ordered aren't shown but they sure seemed homemade to me.

Kathy ordered eggs with bacon and the house "flapjack" potatoes (hey, I wanted those!), which are slices pan-fried with sauteed onions and seasonings and are pretty darn good.  My hash browns were good but these are the breakfast potatoes to order here. 

So after a good breakfast at a reasonable price we headed west on IA-64 to find some grape juice.  We picked the Tabor Home Winery north of Baldwin,

the Daly Creek Winery in Anamosa,

and the Fireside Winery near Marengo.

We also had a non-photo stop at the Wallace Winery in West Branch (birthplace of Herbert Hoover).  Since I was driving Kathy took care of the tasting chores, and I suspect she just might've gotten the better part of that deal.  Iowa's wine industry has grown quite a bit in the past few years and the last figures I saw place it at 14th in the US for wine production...and you thought it was all just pigs and corn!  Quite a few of them have been started by younger members of farm families and there are several "Wine Trails" throughout the state. 
Thursday night is traditionally pizza night with my friend Dave at Felix & Oscar's.

There are 2 locations in the Des Moines area and we met at the Merle Hay Mall restaurant for a deep-dish "cheese topper" pizza with alfredo sauce, sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, and black olives.  It's a remarkably dense, heavy pizza that's probably offensive to pizza purists, but I couldn't care less about that because it's good.

In years past we could put away most of a medium (feeds 3-4 according to the menu) but we're older now, and after a couple of ordinary appetizers we realized a small (4 pieces) would be fine for the 3 of us.  In fact, this was the first time we walked out not stuffed to the gills and that was OK with me.
Friday morning I looked out of the window and saw something that struck me as a symbol of what's happening in many parts of the Midwest.  The light standard is in the hotel parking lot, the houses are obvious, the light brown building is a Target Greatland, the other buildings in the background are a business/industrial area, and the traffic's speeding by on I-35/80.

Yet somehow a piece of farmland, wedged between various developments and most likely doomed, has survived for at least one more summer.
Back to the story.  Awhile back I'd heard about a little place called Cecil & Rosie's Corner Cafe and that was our choice for breakfast.

Inside it's small and cozy, complete with someone wondering if I should have my camera taken away.

What can you order?

I chose Cecil's B-faster, which is a mix of eggs, cheese, and 2 optional ingredients inside a dough pocket and then baked or fried.  I chose ham and mushrooms, and baked.

It's kind of like a homemade version of one of those microwave "pocket" breakfast meals except it's much bigger and much better, and if I had to choose it was my best breakfast of the trip.
Kathy had scrambled eggs with biscuits and gravy.

We both ordered hash browns, which were very good.  The hours on the menu list 7pm as the closing time but it's 2pm on the door sticker and the window, so hopefully that's not a bad omen as this is a neat little place and I'd definitely like to go back again next year.  We were the only people in there at 9:30am and it would've been nice to see more.  For those of you local to Des Moines Cecil's is on the southwest corner of Urbandale and Merle Hay.
After breakfast it was time to walk around the Drake campus for a little bit.  Old Main is the administration building and the centerpiece of the university.

One of the long-standing Relays traditions is the Painted Street.  Dorms, fraternities/sororities, and campus organizations sign up for squares where they can paint a mural based on the annual theme, and naturally I can't remember this year's.  But I'm pretty sure it's based on the number 100.

Hubbell is the campus dining hall and since I lived on campus for all 4 years I ate many meals there, and this sign sent a chill down my spine.

I thought I'd blocked all those Poppyseed Surprises and Texas Straw Hats from my mind but the memories came flooding back...what a cruel thing to do to the alumni!" />
On our way there we passed Snookie's, a fixture at Beaver Ave. and 41st St. for many years.  Kathy's first shot was early and she captured a lovely image of a nondescript dental office, but this one came out OK.

After touring the campus we decided to get an early dinner prior to the Friday night events.  We were staying in Urbandale and there's a place in a nearby strip mall, near the Walgreens where I kept showing up with film.  It's called When Pigs Fly.

We walked in and smelled smoke - good!  After checking over the menu we decided on spare ribs, a pork sandwich, a brisket sandwich, and sides of green beans, baked beans, and the house specialty called cornbread casserole.  Things were looking good!
But unfortunately that's where the goodness stopped and things got far too ordinary.  While the air smelled good it seemed like that's where all the smoke was!  Maybe that's what sells in Des Moines, as last year the barbecue I had from Daddy O's was also on the mild side.
The ribs had some smoke but were way too tender and fell off the bone way too easy for my liking.  We were there at 3 in the afternoon so maybe they'd been held too long as the bark was pretty soft, but I won't speculate beyond that.  I did like the fattiness, though.

Kathy ordered the pork sandwich and like the ribs it had minimal smoke, but was otherwise OK.

She did like the cornbread casserole, though.

I'm not sure what's in it but it was her favorite part of the meal.
If I had to guess I'd say the beans started in a can and were doctored.  I have no problem with that but unfortunately the pork once again seemed to lack in smoke, and if there's no smoke in the meat there's none to get into the beans.

The brisket sandwich was great.  Beefy, tender, tasty...but I couldn't detect any smoke at all so from a barbecue standpoint it was disappointing.

Since the restaurant's in a strip mall it's likely that the meats are cooked off-site, stored, brought in, and then reheated.  In the case of the brisket there's no smoke ring but I've had decent barbecue without it, so I'm not going to raise a red flag over it.  Truthfully, it'd be interesting to see what the owner could do in a different location and situation but I suspect those might be hard to find in Urbandale.
The temperature during the day Friday reached into the mid 80s but that night things basically went to hell in a handbasket.  A storm blew through while we were in the Stadium, suspended the Relays for the rest of the night, and ushered in lousy weather that stayed with us for the rest of the weekend.  Saturday morning dawned cold and rainy when we set out for breakfast and we found ourselves at the Waveland Cafe West in beautiful Booneville.  You can't see it in the photos but across the street is the local ag co-op.

The original Waveland is on University Avenue in Des Moines so West is the country mouse cousin.  It was doing a good business when we walked in but we were able to find a table to sit at.  It's not a big place and there's a 6-stool counter so I imagine it fills up fast on weekends and this day 1 more person on the floor probably would've been a good thing.  Breakfast was good (the wheat toast was outstanding) but as it was crowded and there were a couple of fussy toddlers nearby it was suggested that maybe I should put the camera away this time.
After that we went to the Stadium and suffered through a miserable afternoon of light rain and temperatures 35 degrees cooler than the day before.  Dinner was the annual Saturday night cookout at the home of friends but we did manage to fit in a late afternoon Maid-Rite snack.

Sunday morning we headed for home under dreary, drizzly skies and ordinarily the story would end here.  The return trip is always as nonstop as possible; we're tired, we have to pick up the kids and the dog at my parents' house, there's unpacking and maybe some grocery shopping to do...it's time to get from A to B as fast as possible.  But by the time we reached Dixon IL the monotony of I-88 had gotten to me so I decided that we'd take IL-2 along the Rock River up to Rockford.  I didn't have anything in mind but I needed some mental stimulation and IL-2 has always been one of my favorite drives so away we went, through Dixon and Oregon and up to Byron where we spotted this (my apologies, but I think my camera has a shutter speed problem).

There's no mistaking that roof and the "ROOT BEER" signs anywhere - Sam's was at one time a Dog 'N' Suds!
Carhop service is still available and the old speakers are still in use, too.

We weren't hungry but decided that we could split a pork tenderloin sandwich and a couple of root beers.

The carhop even gave me some extra punches on my card but only after I promised to come back again this summer.
OK, that's all I got.  This post's been 4 hours in the making and I'll probably catch hell for getting into the Iowa wine and not sharing, but it's been fun.  Corrections can wait until tomorrow.
post edited by Brad_Olson - 2009/05/01 08:55:50

25 Replies Related Threads

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    Re:I.O.W.A. 2009/05/01 00:09:51 (permalink)
    Great report!

    Two things which have been on my list of to do things for quite awhile now.

    Pork tenderloin sandwich and covered bridge.

    I'm jealous!
    Double Cheeseburger
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    Re:I.O.W.A. 2009/05/01 00:26:08 (permalink)
    This is fantastic! I'm hoping to take a trip to Iowa next weekend or the weekend after, so I'm taking notes from this. I'm particularly enchanted by Snookie's; I think I'm just going to have to go there.

    It's 11:30 pm and now I'm hungry for BPT and biscuits and sausage gravy!
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    Re:I.O.W.A. 2009/05/01 03:34:16 (permalink)
    That was a great trip report Brad and a real fun read. Please thank the lovely Kathy for the pictures she took and for one-upping you on some of the orders LOL. Thank you very much .... I truly enjoyed this.

    Filet Mignon
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    Re:I.O.W.A. 2009/05/01 06:26:53 (permalink)
    Very good report, Brad.  It really gave me a feel for the area.  I especially liked the Cecil's B'faster.  I've never seen anything like that before - just meat pasties and the like.  It looks good.  So, how much wine did you bring home? 
    Double Chili Cheeseburger
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    Re:I.O.W.A. 2009/05/01 06:53:08 (permalink)
    Very nice report.  Great pictures.  I'm going to have to go out and get some biscuits and gravy!
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    Re:I.O.W.A. 2009/05/01 07:06:47 (permalink)

    Loved the report, and the photos....one thing....a trip to Iowa and NO  STUFFED PORK CHOPS???? or SOUR CREAM PIE???
    Man, I'm disappointed!
    Filet Mignon
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    Re:I.O.W.A. 2009/05/01 07:51:58 (permalink)
    I really enjoyed reading this report.  The Cecil's B'faster is not like anything I have seen before......am going to try to duplicate it at home.
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    Re:I.O.W.A. 2009/05/01 07:55:10 (permalink)
    Brad_Olson , Great trip report.  The breakfast pocket is unique, looks very good.
    I can't believe a nice guy like you doesn't care about the feelings of Pizza Purist
    Double Chili Cheeseburger
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    Re:I.O.W.A. 2009/05/01 08:01:33 (permalink)
    As a born and raised native Iowan, nice tour!

    I can never go home without getting a pork tenderloin sandwich. It's as much a must do as seeing family.
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    Re:I.O.W.A. 2009/05/01 08:21:52 (permalink)
    Those pictures seem vaguely familiar ...

    Cecil's B'faster looks like a breakfast pasty.   I've never seen that before, what a great idea. Did they offer rutabaga as a filling?

    Nice job Kathy and Brad.
    Filet Mignon
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    Re:I.O.W.A. 2009/05/01 08:28:51 (permalink)
    Yeah, Kathy may have to join buffetbuster's The Nibbler as the One-Upper.  Part of a secret cabal of Roadfood auxiliary members with special abilities.  :)

    Excellent report and pictures Brad!  You gotta figure Iowans are going to find a way to make a Roadfood version of hoooooot pockets. 
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    Re:I.O.W.A. 2009/05/01 08:42:56 (permalink)
    WJ, unfortunately I didn't have much of a chance for a pork chop.  Friday night was our only other dinner out, and The Group voted for the chain brewpub Rock Bottom.  I can't remember if one was on the menu but it was late and we decided to just have soup and salad.  As for the pie, I'm just not a dessert person and if I'm in a situation where everyone else is having some I'm more likely to order another appetizer instead.

    WT, the odd thing about the tenderloins is that we only ate them in Illinois!
    MD, we brought home a case plus 2 or 3 extra bottles, and a glass from each winery (all have websites, BTW).  So far we've opened a Catawba pink from Tabor and a white ("Storyteller") from Fireside, and both have been good.  I don't know how to use them fancy wine words so I can't say more than that.
    EDIT: That's 14-15 bottles total, not from each winery!" /> 
    While we were browsing the selections at Tabor we overheard a woman say, "We can't get over how friendly the people here in Iowa are!"  Musta been city folk...
    Hmmm...I think I need a better monitor at home.  I thought I had the photos cleaned up pretty good but the 17" I have here at work is showing a lot more noise than my 15"!
    post edited by Brad_Olson - 2009/05/01 10:19:45
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    Re:I.O.W.A. 2009/05/01 10:07:01 (permalink)
    Great report Brad. Don't apologize for the Illinois BPT. It is not odd at all. Illinois holds their own in that department. I'll be hunting down a couple of them in Illinois this month myself.

    We just passed through Iowa going south and returning north on our recent Louisiana trip. In the past few years I think we have covered just about every inch of the state and have camped in over a half dozen state parks there.
    ann peeples
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    Re:I.O.W.A. 2009/05/01 11:31:33 (permalink)
    I really enloyed this report, Brad.Great food and wonderful narrative!
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    Re:I.O.W.A. 2009/05/01 15:51:50 (permalink)

    A really great report, sometimes it is nice to be an I.O.W.A.   8^)

    Your stops looked awesome, I think the B'faster and that pizza were my fav's.  Thanks to you and Kathy for sharing your adventures.
    Double Cheeseburger
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    Re:I.O.W.A. 2009/05/02 09:23:23 (permalink)
    Tim and I are going to be I.O.W.A.-ns this summer and doing some driving between Des Moines and Kansas City, and take in the state fair.  Tenderloins and Maid-Rites definitely on our list of must-trys, and making copious notes from all of the trip reports from this area of the country!
    Double Cheeseburger
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    Re:I.O.W.A. 2009/05/05 12:47:58 (permalink)
    That pizza looked so good and hearty..mmm.
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    Re:I.O.W.A. 2009/05/05 14:50:57 (permalink)
    I'm still playing catch up, so this is my first time seeing this.....

    Any trip report that includes places named Snookies and Flapjacks is ok with me!  You have some beautiful pics and the ribs and cornbread casserole especially look good.  How did Kathy do with you taking all these food pics?  Glad you had a good time on visit back to campus!
    post edited by buffetbuster - 2009/05/05 14:52:54
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    Re:I.O.W.A. 2009/05/06 09:52:28 (permalink)

    How did Kathy do with you taking all these food pics?

    She's OK as long as it's a quiet, relatively uncrowded setting and it's not going to attract a lot of attention, which is fine with me.  I've learned to distinguish between a comment about the sanity of the process and a specific request to not do it - the first is laughed off but the second is respected.
    She's actually better about if there are as she describes it, "17 people all whipping out their cameras".
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    Re:I.O.W.A. 2009/05/06 16:34:52 (permalink)
    Being a Des Moines resident born and raised, I have to say you did an excellent job with your report.   I love the the Felix & Oscars Pizza also.  This is not the typical DM pizza though, most pizza joints around here are the thin crust. 
    I'm not sure if you seen it or not but there's a new BBQ joint on Forest right in the heart of the Drake area called Jethro's.  I've been here several times and its good food and a great atmosphere.  Possibly something to check out next year.
    Great report. 
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    Re:I.O.W.A. 2009/05/07 09:31:53 (permalink)
    Thanks B,

    We walked past Jethro's on Friday at midday and it was packed, the line was well out the door.  I walked around back and while I didn't see any smokers it sure smelled like there were some back there, so that's a good sign.

    I was hoping that it might not be too crowded but can't say that I was surprised to see that it was.  A friend of mine in Urbandale usually has a party at the end of January so the next time I'm in town for that I'm going to make an effort to hit Jethro's.

    Double Chili Cheeseburger
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    Re:I.O.W.A. 2009/05/13 13:44:23 (permalink)

    Can someone be homesick after 32 years? 

    Great report, Brad.  Being an Olson myself, our eating habits must run in the family name!  There was not a single thing pictured that I would not have ordered.

    Well done.
    Double Cheeseburger
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    Re:I.O.W.A. 2009/05/13 14:45:04 (permalink)
    Brad, excellent report. Amy moves back east from Carroll at the end of the month, and we were just talking about how sad we were that we'll no longer have an Iowa base of operations!  I truly think that Iowa may be the ultimate untapped RF state.  When I was there in March, I ate 6 BPTs in only two counties and could've easily stopped there.  I am in constant awe of Iowa.  Amy's heading up to Okoboji this weekend, and I am insanely envious.    Chris
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    Re:I.O.W.A. 2009/05/16 14:55:41 (permalink)

      Amy's heading up to Okoboji this weekend, and I am insanely envious.    Chris

    She will have driven right through my boyhood town of Sioux Rapids on Hwy 71, Chris.  The NW corner of Hwy 10 and 71, two miles north of town, is the farm where I grew up.

    Ahi Mpls.
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    Re:I.O.W.A. 2009/05/18 08:40:34 (permalink)
     How the heck did I miss this report?! Very nice,I too am in love with that pocket sandwich... My Ex is from Des Moines ( Drake-92! ) and he had 2 big ol' lizards named felix and oscar    While on a visit down there, he took me to El Rodeo in Urbandale BUT  he pronounced it  EL ro-day-O  in Ur-bohn-delay ! so idiot me thought that was how you say it....got a lot of laughs 'till I figured it out!!! " />   Dawn
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