Eating our Way to the Twin Cities

So RAGBRAI is over, but vacation continues. We actually did not set an alarm Sunday morning. When I woke up at 6:30, it felt luxurious. I had some blogging to catch up on, so we ate first breakfast in the room, in usual hotel/vanlife fashion–yogurt, fruit, tea, and angel food cake (OK, that last one is unusual, but Hy-Vee sells cute little angel food loaves for $1). I finished my RAGBRAI blogs and we packed up and walked a few blocks for second breakfast at Beignet, Done That in the Blackhawk Hotel. We had 12 mini beignets, a little quiche, and an Americano. Yum. Now we were ready to hit the road.

Driving across Iowa looks a lot like biking across Iowa. And being Sunday, there was traffic. We were hungry again by lunchtime, despite two rounds of breakfast. We decided to stop in Cedar Rapids at The Village Meat Market and Cafe. It doesn’t necessarily sound like a place for me, but there were some poultry options. The cafe is located in the Czech section of Cedar Rapids.

I went with the turkey, havarti, and apple sandwich with cole slaw and Maureen had the brisket sandwich and French fries. Everything was tasty with just the right amount of moisture and flavor. We acquired some smoked salmon on the way out–I think they make you pay your bill up front so you have to look at the tempting take-away options–I’ll report on that below.

While having second thoughts about our lunch choice, we discovered that there was a food hall in town, NewBo City Market. So we headed there after lunch and bought some pretzel rolls (for later) from Rustic Hearth Bakery. We then visited Nelson’s Ice Cream for $2.50 scoops on a sugar cone. I had butter brickle (good toffee) and Maureen had mint fudge patty. The cone wrapper said “joy,” which seems appropriate for ice cream.

Next, we made our way to our destination, Mason City. There’s a lot to say about architecture in Mason City, which will come your way in a separate blog. We had determined on the way in that the 1910 Grillé restaurant, at the Historic Park Inn where we were lodging, was not open on Sunday evenings (ruhetag strikes again). TripAdvisor and the Google helped us locate an alternative. Northwestern Steakhouse (I know, two meat-centric restaurants in one day, but remember it is Iowa) has been serving Greek-seasoned steaks since 1920. They don’t take reservations for groups smaller than 6, but you can call on the evening you want to dine and get a place on the list with an approximate time. We did this and only had to wait a few minutes in the lounge to get a table. I had roast chicken and Maureen had lamb chops. Both are marinated in Greek herbs. The spaghetti side dish comes with the same herbs, garlic, butter, and olive oil. Yummmm. The little steakhouse salads were perfect too–I got a Greek version with wonderful feta and lots of oregano. We were far too full for dessert, which may not even be an option there. Definitely worth the trip if you find yourself in the Mason City area.

We did get to eat at 1910 Grillé for breakfast Monday. The mushroom omelette was flavorful, the French toast (apparently made with some secret ingredients) was moist, the pancakes were delicious, and the coffee was tasty. We in fact made a trip to the location from which the coffee was obtained, Cabin Coffee, before starting our chores and driving for the day. Sadly, yes, any trip that extends beyond a week probably includes chores. On this Monday, we needed an oil change for the van and laundry for a week’s worth of biking and camping clothes. In between, we drove from Mason City to Minneapolis. We stopped at the Top of Iowa welcome center rest area (quite nice, BTW) near Silver Lake for lunch. We had smoked salmon–delicious and very subtly smoky, pretzel rolls, accoutrements, and various leftovers. It was great. So much better than the McDonald’s or Subway alternatives.

In Minneapolis Monday night, our goals were to eat good food and not use the van. Of the restaurants recommended to us, only 112 Eatery was within walking distance of our hotel. Happily, they had exceptional food. Sadly, their air-conditioning wasn’t working. We were seated upstairs at the bar, which was what we expected without a reservation. Our bartender/server was great. She made Maureen a bourbon and Campari cocktail with lemon-lime soda, as none of the cocktails on the specialty menu were quite appropriate for the heat. I had a Roselle Hibiscus Sour from Fair State Brewing Cooperative, which was very refreshing and had just the right degree of sour-ness. For dinner we had nectarine and arugula salad, duck pâté bánh mì, stuffed chicken wings, and cauliflower fritters. Everything was delicious. We were so full we barely touched the cauliflower. Don’t worry though, our friendly neighborhood Best Western has both refrigerators and microwaves, so we will still be enjoying it. The nearly one mile walk back to the hotel was a welcome reprieve from the heat in the bar.

More later on buildings and touring. Here is a creature encountered on our way to the restaurant:

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