An Iowa Thursday...and other days

2012/05/10 11:07:39
2 weeks ago (to the day, in fact) I was on my way to Des Moines for a long weekend with college friends.  I had hoped to visit and post about a number of places, but unfortunately the weather and other circumstances limited me to a couple of stops on Thursday.  However, since something's better than nothing...
My first stop was the Andrew Cafe in Andrew, Iowa.  It's run by Mr. and Mrs. Eldon Hoerschelman, with him being in the front of the house and her in the kitchen (at least while I was there).

I arrived just as a previous customer was leaving...on his John Deere lawn tractor.  Yep, I'm in Iowa.
The walls are decorated with all kinds of historical photos and articles about Andrew and the surrounding area, and while the cafe isn't a big place it has a spacious feel.

No trip to Iowa is complete without at least one BPT so that was my first choice.  It was fairly thin but moist without being greasy, with a mildly seasoned, somewhat coarse, not-too-salty breading, and I ate half of it plain and half with mustard.

Eldon had told me that they buy whole chickens and cut them up themselves, so if the BPT was my appetizer then a couple of pieces of fried chicken were going to be my main course.  While I liked the breading on the BPT I thought it really worked well on the crispy chicken, which was juicy and flavorful.  Unfortunately I forgot to ask about the frying method, but however they do it they do it well.

The cafe has been in business for almost 8 years but the last couple of years have been a little tough, so I hope things turn around for them.  While I was there a couple of locals came in for lunch but it would've been nice to see a few more people.
Did you know that Andrew is the final resting place of Ansel Briggs, the first governor of Iowa?  Of course you didn't.  In fact, you didn't even know Andrew existed prior to reading this thread.

After lunch it was back to the rural highways and byways, at least until the need for speed drew me to I-80.  As I was headed south through the small town of Olin I passed Ol' Town Eats, which was going to be nothing more than a trip footnote until I spotted the smokers on the side of the building, which caused me to circle the block and park.

The sign said "Open" so I went inside.  The owner was doing prep work in the kitchen, the waitress was redoing the message board, and the dining room was dark so I wasn't sure if I could get anything (which wouldn't have been a total loss as I was still quite full from lunch not too long ago), but they were more than happy to set me up with a pulled pork sandwich.

Oh, happy day!  The smoked pork actually had some decent smoke flavor, unlike some of the other barbecue I've had recently, and the tomato-based sauce wasn't overly sweet.  I guess those smokers aren't just for show!  The sandwich also includes a slice of smoked provolone cheese, and while not traditional it's still a nice touch. 
Because the dining room was dark I got my sandwich to go and set out to find a place to eat.  Just a little farther down the street I stopped at a Casey's General Store (an Iowa-based convenience store chain) for a couple of bottles of water and then went to the park across the street to sit at a picnic table.
This isn't the official Olin town park and from what I could tell it appears to be more of a "memory park", where stones and benches can be purchased and placed as remembrances.

There's a small fountain.

And an Armed Services memorial.

All in all it was a very nice place to relax, eat my barbecue, and generally shake off the road for a bit in the afternoon sunshine.
Unfortunately this is where things end.  The weather would be decidedly worse the next day so I cancelled my plans for Des Moines...but hey, there's always next year and I can leave you with one more typically Midwestern image:

The tractor graveyard on IA-64, just on the western edge of Miles.
post edited by ScreamingChicken - 2012/05/31 11:34:43
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:An Iowa Thursday 2012/05/10 11:18:15
Great post. Sometimes I forget that there's a whole midsection to this country that is still rooted in the past and where the pace is much the same as it has been for years. I remember some of these sights driving I 80 from New London to San Diego a long time ago.
Michael Hoffman
Double-chop Porterhouse
Re:An Iowa Thursday 2012/05/10 11:24:34
Neat report. Thanks. One of these days I'm going to give in and try one of those breaded pork things.
Re:An Iowa Thursday 2012/05/10 12:03:20
Great report Brad,
However it disturbs me that there are so many restaurants in Iowa that do not have the Iowa chop on the menu but will offer  the forgettable loosemeats/tavern/maidrite sandwich. I'm somewhat surprised because the prewebsite Sterns books included many restaurants that featured Iowa chops. 
Fire Safety Admin
Re:An Iowa Thursday 2012/05/10 13:01:19
I love seeing reports from Iowa!  And Eldon Hoerschelman is a great Iowa name.  Considering the size of that BPT, if that was your appetizer, then congratulations on your appetite, my friend!  Any pie at these places?
Re:An Iowa Thursday 2012/05/10 14:28:58
I don't know about Ol' Town Eats but the Andrew Cafe definitely has homemade pie.  A couple of months before my trip I emailed Eldon for some info and he specifically mentioned it, but since it's not something I eat (desserts in general, really) I didn't pursue it.  The only time pie shows up in one of my posts is when it's ordered by somebody else.
My friend in Des Moines turns 50 next January so 2013 might be a 2-Iowa year!
Re:An Iowa Thursday 2012/05/10 15:00:01
Hey,greatfood from a great area. Thanks. Enjoyed it a lot.
ann peeples
Re:An Iowa Thursday 2012/05/10 15:42:47
Oh, my friend-awesome report!
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:An Iowa Thursday 2012/05/10 21:08:05
I went to college in Iowa, and don't get back as much as I'd like to by a longshot. Well, I did attend the Jefferson County fair last summer where I had a corn dog (a great one) and a BPT. But in any case, spending a few minutes there again, albeit vicariously, is always a nostalgic pleasure. Thanks.
The Bear
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Re:An Iowa Thursday 2012/05/11 18:47:51
Looking at that BPT upside down, It looks like a map of the United States!!! You should have saved it and put it on EBay!!!
Filet Mignon
Re:An Iowa Thursday 2012/05/11 22:08:52
Great start to your report.  It makes me want to move back to the Midwest.
Re:An Iowa Thursday 2012/05/31 11:33:55
Uh-oh...I think I might have to retitle this thread.
I was in Iowa again over Memorial Day weekend and an unexpected detour led me near Tiffin, the home of Jon's Ice Cream Store & Restaurant.  Jon's is a seasonal operation that opens in May and since my regular Iowa trip is always in April I've never had the chance to stop, so I decided to take advantage of the situation.

In order to show the entire menu board I had to stand so far back that it's difficult to read, but this gives a good idea of the multitude of items.  "Something for everyone" truly applies here.

The Beef-Rite is Jon's version of the well-known Iowa loose-meat sandwich.  It had an extremely mild flavor and I'm glad I ordered it with mustard; some cheese (IIRC it might be called the Cheese-Rite) would've been even better.

There are 2 pork tenderloin sandwiches on the menu: hand-breaded and grilled.  I opted for the BPT version and was surprised by the triangular shape, so I wonder if the tenderloins show up already processed and then Jon's breads or grills them to order.  Regardless, it was pretty good with a crisp, slightly salty, not-greasy breading and like the Beef-Rite was served on a very fresh bun.

Ice cream?  C' know I don't do the sweet stuff.  Although to be perfectly honest I was feeling quite full from the sandwiches and soda and had absolutely no interest in anything else, which I would regret that later as I couldn't really enjoy anything served at the party I attended.
Jon's is a favorite of a friend of mine in Iowa City and I suspect it's popular with the local Little Leaguers, teenagers, young parents, and old folks as well.
Re:An Iowa Thursday 2012/05/31 11:54:27
With that menu there had BETTER be an Iowa Chop available
Filet Mignon
Re:An Iowa Thursday 2012/05/31 11:58:46
Oh my, does that Beef Rite look dry! Odd tenderloin too, he must buy them frozen but heck, if it tasted OK, well, I guess it's OK.  Looks like a nice place though!
Re:An Iowa Thursday 2012/05/31 12:24:52

With that menu there had BETTER be an Iowa Chop available

I'd be willing to bet that folks in Tiffin might have to drive into Iowa City for an Iowa Chop.
However, I might be going back around July 4 and if so I'm hoping to figure a way to stop at the Rainbow Supper Club...which does have one on the menu!
Re:An Iowa Thursday 2012/05/31 12:45:46
Now that's what I'm talking about! 
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:An Iowa Thursday 2012/05/31 18:28:33
Having eaten one, I have a better name for a loose-meat sandwich.  A Crumbleburger.