Milwaukee to Des Moines and Back: Part One (Days 1 and 2)

Double Cheeseburger
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2009/05/14 00:53:03 (permalink)

Milwaukee to Des Moines and Back: Part One (Days 1 and 2)

Hey Roadfooders—Last weekend I made my long anticipated trip from Milwaukee to Des Moines and back. I left on Thursday, May 7 and meandered my way to the Quad Cities for the evening. One objective of this trip was to do a bit of birding, and I’m glad to say that the meadowlarks didn’t disappoint me….

But another important purpose of the trip was simply to explore, celebrate spring, and take a break from work. This excursion lasted four days total, so I’m dividing this report into two parts. I figured I’d do it this way in order to help readers with “photo overload” and other bandwidth issues….
Day One: Thursday, May 7, 2009
I left Milwaukee a bit too early to justify a trip to Fred’s in Burlington, so I pressed on toward Rockford, IL and got there in time for lunch. However, since I hadn’t had breakfast, I was craving breakfast food, so I stopped at the Stockholm Inn (2420 Charles St.) on Rockford’s east side:

The restaurant’s location in a strip mall might deter some people, but the neighborhood shows a significant Swedish legacy, so I figured this place could be a gem regardless. And it was! The place is a very popular family restaurant, with a Swedish twist. I sat at the counter (in back) and ordered Swedish pancakes, lingonberries, poached eggs, and sausage links:

The Swedish pancakes are kind of like thick crepes, and are quite light and delicious. The lingonberries gave the pancakes a nice sweet and tart kick. A guy sitting next to me said that his family is Swedish-American, and they used to get lingonberries from big barrels in the area grocery stores. But at the Stockholm Inn’s own gift shop you can get all sorts of items, including lingonberries and baked goods featuring lingonberries:

After leaving the Stockholm Inn I ambled toward Route 20, and I happened upon this nifty old place in Rockford’s south side:

Bing’s Drive-In (3613 S. Main St.) has a lot of vintage charm, but not so charming was the breaded pork tenderloin sandwich I had:

As I headed west on Route 20, I made a detour to Lena Maid Meats in Lena, IL (500 W. Main). This place was recommended to me on my “Where should I eat?” thread, and I’m glad I went. The store itself is small, but it’s packed with all sorts of fresh, frozen, and smoked meats:

I had just missed the day’s slaughter, but was reassured that all meats are processed and prepared on-site.  Most of the animals used come from the Lena vicinity, but some also come from Iowa and southern Wisconsin.
Back on Route 20, I stopped at the L.A. Drive-In (216 E. North Ave.) in Stockton for a little ice cream:

It’s a funky place with farm equipment parked in front of the building…. And they make a tasty strawberry malt (using Cedar Crest ice cream).
Eventually, I made it to Illinois SR-84 (the scenic Mississippi River Road). As I headed toward the Quad Cities, I passed by a few fisheries such as this one:

In spite of all of my stops, I managed to get to my hotel (in Bettendorf) before sundown. After a few minutes’ rest, I figured I should probably get something to eat. I considered staying at the hotel and eating in my room….

….but decided to head to Rock Island for Jim’s Rib Haven (531 24th St.):

I had a hard time deciding what to get (I was hungry, but not that hungry), so I went with a “four ribs platter” and a side of potato salad:

As it turns out, they gave me five very meaty back ribs. The ribs were deliciously smoky, and the sauce was nicely balanced—not too sweet, not too tangy, not too tomatoey. My only quibble is that the sauce, touted as “hot” (versus mild), could have been more fiery for my liking. But hey—I loved it anyway.
After I left Jim’s, night had fallen and I was about to fall into some sort of slumber…but not before having some ice cream at Whitey’s (Bettendorf location: 3515 Middle Rd.):

This scoop of banana ice cream was a luscious antidote to the ribs; a perfect way to end an evening. The next day (see the thread labeled Part 2) took me from the Quad Cities to Des Moines.
Day Two: Friday, May 8, 2009
Though on Thursday’s Milwaukee-to-Quad Cities segment I managed to squeeze in a lot of roadfood, on Friday I didn’t quite have such a packed itinerary.  From the Quad Cities I drove west to Wilton, IA, with hopes of visiting the Wilton Candy Kitchen (310 Cedar St.). Unfortunately, it was closed when I got there, so all I could do was gawk at the funky building, admire the window display, and peer into the shop’s cute interior. I had a late breakfast at the nearby Wilton Café (116 W. 4th St.). I had a ham and cheese omelet and a side of biscuits and gravy:  

Sorry about the bad lighting on these shots. After this meal I returned to the Candy Kitchen but it was still closed. I found out later that the owner has had some surgeries lately, and hours are irregular for the time being.
From Wilton I took various backroads to beautiful Iowa City, where I quickly looked over the U of Iowa campus (including the old State Capitol) and the adjacent pedestrian mall. I didn’t stop at the Hamburg Inn this time around because I had a date with a Breaded Pork Tenderloin Sandwich at Augusta Restaurant (101 S. Augusta Ave.) in the nearby town of Oxford:

There’s a lot of tempting stuff on the menu, but I already knew what I was going to order:

While waiting for my BPT, I enjoyed reading a book called The Oxford Project (, a slice-of-American-life compilation of photos and biographical profiles about dozens of town residents:

The BPT arrived and I was not disappointed. In fact, it was bigger and better than I imagined. This was real pork, and lots of it—a far cry from the puny sandwich I had in Rockford the previous day:

The sides were fries and sweet potato chips. After eating half of the BPT, I had to admit defeat and get the rest boxed up. Yes, I was defeated, but at least I knew what I was having for dinner later!
Pretty soon I was back on the road, headed for Grinnell. I found both the Grinnell College campus and the city of Grinnell to be quite enchanting—similar in some respects to Stevens Point in Wisconsin. My only stop in Grinnell was the Danish Maid Bakery (818 4th Ave.), but what a stop it was! Bill Hansen, the bakery’s owner, is a really nice guy. As it so happens, Bill is originally from Racine, WI. His grandfather and father operated a bakery on Washington Ave. called (believe it or not) Hansen’s. Hanging on a wall in the store is a certificate issued long ago to Bill’s grandfather for the Racine store. It’s hard to read the writing, and the information (such as exact address) is not complete, but it’s a great testament to the Power of Kringle.
Though Bill and his wife don’t make kringle, they do make cookies, cakes, donuts, and other tasty treats. The bakery is known in Iowa for its Cream-filled Coney (sort of like a Long John). I didn’t try it, but the Coney did make the Des Moines Register’s “100 Things to Eat in Iowa Before You Die” list:

The Coney is number 52 on the list, and Bill says many people just ask for “a fifty-two.” There are some Coneys on the right side of this pic:

That list, by the way, could very well inspire a whole host of Roadfood outings….
After Grinnell, I drove around some more backroads and did some birdwatching. As I approached Des Moines I got caught in a huge downpour, but I made it to my hotel. And the rest of the evening? Well, I had the BPT leftovers for dinner, then tried going to Baudmer’s Pharmacy, but it closes early. I eventually went downtown for some drinks. That was it for the day!
(Report continued in "Milwaukee to Des Moines and Back: Part Two [Days 3 and 4])

post edited by quijote - 2009/05/14 01:36:01

3 Replies Related Threads

    Ahi Mpls.
    Double Cheeseburger
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    Re:Milwaukee to Des Moines and Back: Part One (Days 1 and 2) 2009/05/14 08:30:16 (permalink)

    Very nice!  that 2nd BPT is bee-youtiful!!! I must know what the " Boney Box " is from Jim's...very mysterious!! 
    Buffalo Tarheel
    Double Cheeseburger
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    Re:Milwaukee to Des Moines and Back: Part One (Days 1 and 2) 2009/05/14 12:32:34 (permalink)
    Great pictures and a nice report.  All the food looks really good, especially the Swedish pancakes and the BPT.
    Double Cheeseburger
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    Re:Milwaukee to Des Moines and Back: Part One (Days 1 and 2) 2009/05/14 13:52:00 (permalink)
    Very nice report.  Great food pics.
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