Broken Spoke – A Different Kind of Biker Bar

Today we were headed to a painting project at a paint your own pottery place and needed to eat lunch first. Rather than try all the places on Collins Rd and hope for the best on Labor Day, I decided to just go across the street. My goal was The Broken Spoke but Riley’s was there next door as a back up just in case no one was interested in Spoke. Incidentally, Broken Spoke is opened by the same people that own Riley’s.

There is no doubt that Broken Spoke is a bar. A bicycle themed bar. Biking is popular on this side of town. There were a couple tables occupied by groups of riders. The left side of the restaurant is almost exclusively high tops. We found a lone low top on the right side of the restaurant, next to the pool table.

I was happy to see that the menu is not remotely like Riley’s. There were lots of intriguing items. We went with an order of pretzel sticks for an appetizer. I also wanted to order the jalapeno poppers. I love poppers. My all time favorite ones are red jalapenos with cream cheese served with pepper jelly. An ultra rare find. The menu described these poppers as being filled with red chili cream cheese. Oooooh! Something different!

The pretzel sticks were exactly the same as the ones served at Max & Erma’s in Ohio but served with a really good Monterrey Jack cheese sauce. The poppers were indeed different. Red peppers. Yay! There were pepper flakes in the crust. I found the chili cream cheese to be slightly sweet. The poppers had a good after heat but were not super hot like one might have expected. The side of ranch dressing added nothing.

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Lots of interesting things on the menu. My heart was drawn to the Chicago hot dog. God I love Chicago hot dogs. I miss my Gold Coast Dogs. And Broken Spoke’s was a foot long! Instead I went with the Speedway, a burger topped with a hot dog, sauerkraut, brown beer mustard and a cheese plank. I had them hold the sauerkraut. And of course my side was crinkle cut fries.

The basket looked really good. The fries were the less common skinny crinkle cuts. The burger was a good burger. It wasn’t great burger, it wasn’t memorable, I won’t be craving one, but it was good. Unfortunately the hot dog and cheese plank get lost. I couldn’t taste individual flavors. All together just made for a big bite. I’m glad I tried it but I will get something else next time. And there will be a next time. I really liked this place.

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Cedar River Landing

I’ve driven past Cedar River Landing several times and had been eager to try it. We went on a Monday evening. The place wasn’t too busy. A large group playing darts and several small trios around the bar. The place was open and the music was loud. We found a low four top off to the side and waited.

Eventually the waitress came over and took our drink orders and scurried off. As we waited we checked out the various TV screens and watched the people playing darts. By the time she came back we were ready with our order but she scurried off again.

So we waited some more and had fun catching up with each other. Finally our waitress came back and we placed our order. I was excited to order the Gator Fries and The Wife ordered the Breaded Mushrooms. For our entrees, The Child surprised me and ordered the Two Piece Dark Broasted Chicken Dinner instead of chicken tenders and fries, The Wife opted for breakfast and ordered a Bacon Egg and Cheese Sandwich with a side of fries. I think the only thing special about the sandwich was it is made with TWO eggs instead of one. For myself, I knew from the moment I opened the menu what I wanted. Jambalaya. And with our order in we waited.

And waited. Our drinks ran out and we called her over for refills. And we waited. And our drinks ran dry again and still we waited. Finally after what seemed and eternity our food arrived. I realize that people go to bars to hang out. So it makes sense for food not to come out at fast food speeds. But speed of service needs to be reasonable also. Over an hour for our food to arrive is excessive, especially when we were the only ones eating!

All of our food came out at once, appetizers with entrees. The mushrooms were good, as they seem to be everywhere we go. I loved the alligator tail. It was great as is and didn’t need their Cajun sauce that it comes with. The Child found the Broasted chicken to be acceptable but passed on the fries because they were seasoned. I heard no complaints on the BEC sandwich.

My Jambalaya looked different than any I have had before. But I was open minded. It was amazingly good. I get irritated with shrimp served with tails on but at least they were on top and easy to pick. The only complaint would be the slivered onions were stringy. I could only eat half of the plate and looked forward to leftovers.

There were a couple of things on the menu I’d like to try. And it looked like a great bar to just hang out.They had a live stage and so maybe some good acts come their way. But the service has to get better, A LOT better. I’m hoping it was just an off night and our next time will be great.

Newbo Alehouse

A Sunday night after gymnastics practice I made an attempt to get something quick to eat. I headed the wrong way or made a wrong turn or something but ended up in Czech Village. Not wanting to drive all over town we stopped here.

Neat place. Big open dining area and bar. Obviously this was a former bank because there were three giant vaults on the back wall. This place was practically dead. I don’t know if that was because it was Sunday night or the flurries quickly covering the streets.. But they were open and not closing any time soon.

We got a table right by the bar and the vaults which was great for The Child to check out while we waited for food. We ordered the pork strips and fried mushrooms as an appetizer. I don’t know why but every place in Cedar Rapids we have ordered fried mushrooms they have been great, better than any place in Georgia. The pork strips turned out to be just a pork tenderloin sans bread cut into strips. That doesn’t meant they weren’t very good. They were!

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The Child ordered Mac n’ Cheese. It looked amazing and she ate over half of it which meant that the cheesiness factor was good. I had a bite and concurred. I especially liked the shaved cheese on top.

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The Wife ordered the Broasted Chicken. It looked on par with what I had had at Jerseys Pub and Grub. She said it was excellent. Best she has had since we left south Georgia.

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I ordered the Pork Trio Po’Boy. Wow! Pulled pork, bacon and sliced andouille sausage smothered in barbecue sauce. It was amazing. I could only eat half. I took the other half home and it was still amazing the next day. For my side I ordered the Cheesy Potatoes which I had hoped would be like the hash brown casserole at Cracker Barrel. It was not. Just shredded potatoes in cheese sauce but sill very very good.

Our waitress was super friendly. She explained to us that the sushi bar next door is shared space. And if you eat at the sushi bar you can order off of the Newbo Alehouse menu. This is great if you are dining with friends who aren’t crazy about sushi but you are. Newbo Alehose also serves breakfast. I was shocked to see that they serve it every day! Not just on the weekends. There is a large very nice back patio that looks like a great place to enjoy cold drinks in the warmer months and maybe they have live music too. We will have to see.

Daisy’s Garage

I discovered Daisy’s first on the internet by searching for all you can eat crab legs. I didn’t find AYCE crab legs but I did find a restaurant that served crab legs. And they have mudbugs!

Parking. Is a bitch. Let’s just say it is tight and limited behind the restaurant. I didn’t feel like parking on the street. We had to circle around a few times before a spot opened up. When we got inside it was a 30 minute wait.

The ambiance is perfect. Old garage decor of course. Staff uniform seems to be jeans and a flannel shirt. Tattoos and piercings are the norm here. The place is loud and full of energy. Every table seemed to be having a great time.

We wanted to order the corn bread loaf as an appetizer but it was sold out. I’m fortunate, or unfortunate if you consider the expense, that my kid loves crab legs. She can eat a pound or two by herself. I was tempted to get the steam pot and let her have the crab legs and I eat the rest. But she wanted her own with a side of mac and cheese. The Wife ordered the Fish and Chips. We both love fried fish fillets but they need to be cod or preferably haddock. She said they were delicious.

I was here for the crawfish though. God I love crawfish. I just said give me two pounds! Truthfully I can eat four. I used to when we’d go down to Tallahassee for dinner. And under eight bucks was a steal. They could have used a little more zing but they were still good. I’ll be coming back again and again for these.

We had a GREAT experience. and will definitely be coming back.

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Los Compadres

We haven’t had good Mexican food since we left Michigan. You would think that in Georgia with a high Mexican population you’d be able to find good Mexican food every where. You’d be wrong. Sure, around the Atlanta area there is great Mexican food but not so in North Georgia. Strangely, all of the Mexican restaurants in the area had nearly the same menu.If you ordered by number you could use the same number everywhere you go. Our daughter HATED getting Mexican. She kicks, screams and pouts if we pull into a Mexican restaurant. And even I reached the point where I no longer wanted to eat it. So we were excited about the seemingly uncountable options for Mexican dining in Cedar Rapids.

I told The Child it was time, time to try a new Mexican restaurant. Odds were good we would find something in Cedar Rapids she would like. But we had to start with a first attempt for that to happen.  We went to Los Compadres because it was close by and we had driven by it so many times we knew where it was.

There was a line!!! A half hour wait. Sure it was Friday night but never before, at least not since I lived in Chicago, have I had to wait to be seated at a Mexican restaurant. And the wait wasn’t because this place was a rinky dink little restaurant.

Salsa and chips were quickly delivered. I deemed it good. I prefer chips that have a little salt crust on them. Freshly made even better. These were neither but still good. I liked the salsa. I’ve been tired of eating salsa that didn’t have any more personality than ketchup. And I do mean “eat.” I don’t dip, I scoop. I don’t have to have a chunky salsa but it has to have more body than… again ketchup. This salsa had personality. I like a good amount of heat. This salsa wasn’t hot. I wouldn’t even call it medium, but there was something there. As for the most controversial ingredient, cilantro, this salsa used it well. Though I could have used a little more.

My wife loves guacamole, especially fresh made-at-the-table guacamole. And this place does it! We always had to go to On the Border in Kennesaw to get such a thing. So of course we ordered it. It was quite good. It probably could have used a little more jalapeno. Maybe a little more lime. But it was my wife’s treat not mine. Technically, you’re supposed to eat guacamole fresh at fresh made room temperature. I cut against the grain and prefer my guacamole out of the refrigerator and ice cold.

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Other than a margarita, I don’t remember what The Wife ordered. The Kid Unit ordered… you guessed it chicken tenders and fries. But she LIKED it! That’s a first at a Mexican restaurant. I ordered the El Molcajetaso and my head exploded when it arrived. I have never sen anything like it!  The description was “chunks of pork, steak, chicken, chorizo and nopales, with our special salsa and fresh Mexican cheese. Served with rice and beans.” What came out was not at all what I expected.

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El Molcajetaso

Just look at that awesomeness!!! My favorite part was the grilled green onions. They were amazing. I would have liked a little sour cream to go with my rolled tortillas. Next time. I ended up taking half home. My wife and I each got two meals out of this dinner. Another first for us for Mexican dining.

Back to the margarita. I don’t drink them. My wife is a connoisseur. At Los Compadres, servers carry a chilled bottle of white tequila around and top off drinks. Free. And they pour shots. Just tilt your head back and open your mouth. They’ll fill it up. FREE! No wonder this place was so popular and there appeared to be many regulars. Well and the food was outstanding. The service was top notch too. Our waitress, Jennifer, was in tune with Rose so that was a plus. We hit a home run on this outing. Even The Child said she’d go back.

Jerseys Pub and Grub

Since we arrived in Cedar Rapids The Child had been bugging me every day to go back to Jerseys. She wants the fried cheese balls. A look at Google Maps surprised me by showing a Jerseys by our house! She had to wait a few days but I finally took her one night.

I really liked this place. Again, classic sports bar with all of the TVs. That seems to be our mainstay for eating out. Perhaps we are still rebelling from moving to a dry county in the Appalachian mountains years ago.

I actually ordered a beer. I rarely do if we are eating out as a family. And just one. It’s too easy for me to get carried away especially since I am a guzzler. If I remember correctly I  ordered a pilsner from Millstream Brewery, a local Iowa brewery. Very easy drinking. I was smart to have ordered the pint and not the 22oz. But Thursdays are 22 ounce $4 craft brews!!! I could have had six more ounces for the same price. Oh well. There will always be a next time now that we moved to Cedar Rapids!

We of course got the cheese balls. See my previous writing on Jerseys Downtown for my discussion of them. This time she ordered the chicken tenders for dinner, of course.

The Wife ordered the Breakfast Burger and homemade chips on the side. A colleague’s husband raved about it so now it was The Wife’s turn to be bold and adventurous. Remember what I said about adding an egg? She got the double which seemed to be the perfect size. She was nervous about the warm maple syrup on the side but became a convert after the first dip. The Wife not only raved about the Breakfast Burger but also the chips. Now I’m not foolish enough to believe that every restaurant serving “home made chips” is mandolining potatoes in the back. I know they are a food service product. But Jersey’s is doing something different with theirs, maybe brining? These chips had the perfect level of saltiness.

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I was tempted to get the Breakfast Burger myself, because? Fried egg! But instead went with the broasted chicken. When we lived in South Georgia we had plenty of choices for fantastic fried chicken. When we moved to North Georgia we had zero places to choose from for fried chicken. Ugh! I haven’t had any good fried chicken in almost 10 years! Iowa is the number one producer of eggs in the US. I suppose with that many chickens laying eggs in Iowa a fair number end up as fryers and that is why I see broasted chicken on so many menus around town.

By the way, broasted isn’t the same as deep frying. Broasting is also known as pressure frying. It’s kind of a combination of pressure cooking and deep frying. You need special equipment to safely cook with because the hot frying oil is under pressure. Broasting claims cooks faster and seals in the juices and flavor of whatever you are cooking.

The broasted chicken was wonderful. Best chicken I’ve had since Bainbridge. I had talked the waitress into getting me two thighs. I only like and only eat thighs. It didn’t have the cayenne kick like down south but the skin was wonderfully seasoned. The meat was juicy and flavorful the way dark meat should be. But the skin is my favorite part. I peel it off right away to let the meat cool down and set the skin to the side. When I’ve finished picking the thigh bones clean I roll the skin up and eat it in one or two bites. Jerseys didn’t disappoint.

The chicken was the highlight but I should discuss my sides. The broasted chicken comes with broasted potato wedges, a roll plus one side. I ordered the mac ‘n cheese. And thanks to the couple next to us I was inspired to add a side of onion rings after seeing their order come out. The onion rings were fantastic. They say beer battered on the menu but these were a dry crunchy coating, just like I like. There were more than The Wife and I could finish.

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I ordered the Mac ‘n Cheese for The Child thinking she would eat it with her chicken tenders. As usual I was wrong to guess what she might eat. I was impressed with the Mac ‘n Cheese. I don’t eat macaroni and cheese. I’m not originally from the South where it is considered a staple and counts as a vegetable. Jerseys macaroni and cheese is baked in individual ramekins. I think The Child was turned off by the bread crumbs on top. I enjoyed it but there may have been some nostalgia at play. Add tuna and peas and it would have been my mother’s tuna casserole we ate weekly growing up.

As for the obligatory sides, the roll was meh. Just your plain old white roll from the grocery. I love broasted potato wedges which are like the potato wedges you get as a side from KFC. Jerseys’ were bigger and better. Four quarter wedges from a baked potato, seasoned and broasted. Be careful, they stay hot for a long time.

Our server Megan was fantastic. She was extremely friendly and talkative with us. We will definitely be back and with the close proximity to our house may even become regulars.

 

Fieldhouse 1st Avenue

We went here because I had business next door at Scottrade. The restaurant was there, I knew it was there because we just had dinner at Osaka. And we needed to eat FAST because The Child was hangry!!!!

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I thought The Fieldhouse was the same as Louie’s Scoreboard. They have very similar menus. But I was wrong. Not the same, might not even be related. The Fieldhouse is a classic local sports themed bar and grill. In this case the theme is Iowa Hawkeyes sports. Plenty of TVs to watch the games on. We were lucky enough to watch a replay of Kentucky vs. Missouri women’s gymnastics.

We started with a round of Cheddar Nuggets, thinking they were the same as the white cheddar curds at Louie’s Scoreboard. They were not but they were good. And added bonus, they came with a side of crinkle cut fries! I love love LOVE crinkle cut fries. I don’t know why I find them better than all other forms of fries. Perhaps it is the increased surface area that holds more salt, seasoning, and/or ketchup. We were tempted to get the Cheesy Bacon Fries because The Child was excited they were made with waffle fries. But alas, all waffle fry servings at The Fieldhouse have been converted to crinkle cut fries. I for one am not complaining,.

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She said it was fantastic.

I ordered the Breakfast Burger. How do you make a bacon cheeseburger better? Put a fried egg on top!!!! It was divine! The yolk was under cooked but not terribly runny, just enough to blend with the melted cheese and make a near sauce. And it came with crinkle cut fries! Was I in heaven? No, Iowa.

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