Cross Roads Bistro

I was in the mood for something new for breakfast. I remembered there was a small place up on J St. It used to be Willy Woodburn’s Cafe which was a very popular diner/cafe as I understand it. I never made it there before the owners retired and sold the restaurant.

The new name is Cross Roads Bistro. The first thing I noticed when I pulled into the parking lot was a glowing neon beer sign in the window and an unlit neon sushi sign. I immediately had second thoughts. Maybe I was at the wrong place? But it was open. I decided to go for it anyway.

Upon entering the front door there was a placard welcoming me to Cross Roads, serving Chinese, Thai, Sushi, American, and Breakfast food. Well that explained the sushi sign. The decor is worn but classic American diner on the right side, sushi bar on the left. There was only one other customer. Staff was cleaning and suggested I sit on the left side of the restaurant rather than at a table on the right side. I didn’t want to sit at the bar with the manager so that meant wedging myself into a tiny two top booth.

The menu looked good. Nothing jumped out at me for breakfast. They have an interesting take on eggs Benedict serving on biscuit halves instead of English muffins. Sounded very Southern to me. The lunch and dinner portion of the menu really intrigued me especially the Thai sections. Looking at the all female staff I noticed none of them looked remotely Asian so I wonder if the have at least different kitchen staff in the evening.

I opted for the Western Shipwreck. As I think I have explained before, a shipwreck seems to be the Iowa equivalent of the breakfast skillet. This was steak, green peppers, onion, black olives, hash browns, jack cheese, guacamole, salsa, sour cream. I had them hold the green peppers and guacamole. It appeared that they probably fried the steak on the flat top, then added the eggs because the eggs appeared to have been fried in a meat fat. Had that brown coloring to them, Extra flavor but not a pleasing aesthetic. I could hear her working the spatulas in the kitchen like she was making a Philly cheese steak sandwich. I think she was working my shipwreck because the eggs had a minced quality to them. Everything tasted great but not my favorite texture for eggs. I did appreciate the black olives were still cold. The marble rye was good though I wished buttered more. Oh well, I didn’t ask for any extra butter.

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I will definitely return. I want to try more breakfast items, especially an omelet. And I’m very interested in trying some of the Thai offerings.

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MEAT!!!

I am an unabashed carnivore. I do eat vegetables, well a few.  I eat lots of fruit in season, but otherwise meat meat meat. When we lived in Georgia we used to visit Your Dekalb Farmers Market, aka Heaven On Earth, . This was always wonderful Daddy-Daughter bonding time. Our favorite sections were the fish and the meat departments. We used to load up on meat sticks, sausages from Patak Meats. The Child’s favorites were kabanos and landjaegers. Moving to Iowa, how were we going to replace these???

Perusing online, The Village Meat Market & Cafe looked like it might be the answer. Yesterday we didn’t go for the meat though, we went for dinner. We got there at 5:30pm and almost left because closing time was 6:00pm. I hate walking into a place at closing time. I’ve been on the grill when that party of four comes in at the last minute and wants an hour dinner. I hate it and don’t like doing it to others. But the guy working the kitchen said “No problem!”

There was so much to choose from on the menu. Even breakfast! As one would expect dining in the middle of Czech Village a good bit of the menu was Czech, but not everything. Immediately my eyes fell on the Goulash. I have not had goulash since a business trip to Germany at least ten years ago. I was excited to try a Czechoslovakian version. Plus a side of Cajun baked beans. The Wife went with The Butcher Loaf Sandwich, a Czech recipe meatloaf sandwich, with a side of potato salad.

Our food came out surprisingly quickly. I guess because we were the only ones eating. The meatloaf sandwich looked like a great cheeseburger to me. Humorously, in the description on the menu it stated, Nezapomen’te na kec’up (don’t forget the ketchup).” It came without ketchup! The Wife tends to be picky about potato salad and she said the potato salad was not extraordinary but good. She ate it all.

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This is an excellent example of why I dislike Yelp and Google+ type reviews. The goulash was very good, very well made. But I didn’t care for it. I’m glad I ordered it, but I wouldn’t order it again. The dumplings were good. I think the tomato sauce with wonderful chunks of meat would make a great spaghetti. It just wasn’t my thing. The beans were not good. Baked beans can be too thick and these were. Flavor was good but I couldn’t stand the texture. As my wife said, maybe they were good at lunch but not the end of the day when they’ve been forgotten about and completely cooked down. I will want to try them again. The thick cut piece of pumpernickel was awesome though. I didn’t even need my usual schmear of butter. See, just because I didn’t care for the food one time doesn’t mean a restaurant deserves a scathing review and one star. That has to happen at least three times in a row for me to be that critical. Or major ServSafe violations.

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After we paid we perused the meat counter. So much tasty goodness!!! The Child will definitely need to visit for the Bacon On a Stick. We were excited to see smoked pork chops. We used to eat them on a regular basis when we lived in South Georgia. Jones Country Meats had the best I’ve had. The pork chops at the Village Meat Market were huge! I can’t wait to try them. They had some type of meat stick for a dollar each. I bought five. They weren’t kabanos but I think they are going to be their replacement for us. The Child gave them a thumbs up and then asked for a second one. Win!

 

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.

The Breakfast House Cafe

We had been trying to go to The Breakfast House for several weekends but could never get in. It’s very small and on weekend mornings there was a 30-45 minute wait to get a table the times we had tried. There’s not even enough room inside to wait for a table. The Wife had a week day off from work and we were able to easily get a table Tuesday morning.

This restaurant is very old school to use a worn out phrase. I’m thinking like Mel’s Diner. The kitchen is in the dining area behind a half height wall. There’s only one guy slinging the spatula so don’t come here in a hurry but the wait for food to arrive was not long.

The Wife ordered the Country Fried Steak and Gravy. Being a Georgia Girl she did say the gravy was acceptable and she could order again. Whew! I’ve been worried about how to sate her biscuits and gravy needs.

I ordered the South of the Border Skillet. Next to omelettes, skillets are probably my next favorite breakfast item. I like big bold flovors. I used to do a lot of work in Texas. It was in Texas that I learned to like salsa and sour cream on my eggs. Before then I would have turned my nose up every time. I was thankful that this version of South of the Border skillet/omelette came with seasnoned beef. I’ve seen too many that were just suped up ham and cheese and even more that contained NO meat. WTF!

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Both of our breakfasts were excellent. Great place to eat on a weekday morning. A little harder on the weekend. Perhaps we should try getting there before 11am? LOL.

 

Riley’s 6th Street

We had eaten at Riley’s Downtown on our trip up to find a place to live. Now that we were settled it was time to try the Riley’s closer to our house.

MUCH different decor. This Riley’s is wide open, booths along the walls and tables in the center. More like a Denny’s or Perkins than the cramped space downtown. Old record albums border the walls and the restaurant has a nice bright feeling.

Service was dreadfully slow. It almost seemed as if servers waited on tables at random instead of assigned sections. I think best service would be had by sitting at the bar.

The Child went simple today and just ordered a Belgium waffle. It did come sprinkled with powdered sugar but for once she didn’t complain. She didn’t finish it but it must have been good. She ate a good half of it.

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The Wife went with an omelette. I don’t remember if she just went with a basic ham and cheese omelette or something more substantial like the Ultimate omelette. It was served with a good looking side of hash browns. I might have wanted them a little crispier if they were for me.

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Me? Oooooh. Look at this! Mardi Gras Eggs Benedict. Two English muffins, shrimp and sliced kielbasa, poached eggs. Covered in Hollandaise sauce with Cajun seasoning. It was fantastic. Only thing that could have made it better would have been andouille sausage instead of kielbasa. I also ordered a blueberry muffin for “dessert.” I had high hopes it would be like the dessert muffin I get at Perkins. It was close but without the sugar crust on top, it wasn’t quite as good.

 

We will definitely be returning for breakfast. Perhaps at the bar next time though.

Mikhael’s

BREAKFAST. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. I love BIG breakfasts too. The kind I can eat and not eat again until dinner. I don’t care if it’s American, English, Mexican, French, German or Korean as long as it’s BIG.

Sunday has been traditionally a family breakfast outing for us because we are not church goers. <gasp> So getting a table at 10:30-11am at one of the three choices of restaurants worked for us. I had a place in mind to hit up Sunday morning, and it was packed when we got there. At least a 30 minute wait. Mikhael’s was my fall back choice. Maybe it should have been my first choice.

Mikhael’s in tiny. But we were able to get a seat just inside by the register. This is a classic Greek family diner. I asked and everyone working that morning was related. The older ones with thick European accents. My kind of place!

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The Child ordered the kid’s pancakes with bacon. Given the damage she inflicted on her plate I’d say she enjoyed it, especially the bacon. The Wife ordered… I think it was called The Lumberjack? It came with ham, sausage, bacon, potatoes. She ordered the eggs scrambled. The highlight was three rounds of cinnamon French toast.

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I’m sick of biscuits and gravy. Just plain tired of it. I love omelettes and they have been scarce in my life the that last few years. I was so excited to see more than three choices in omelettes. I had a hard time deciding at Mikhael’s there so many good choices. I decided to go Greek and ordered the Greek Omelette, minus tomatoes. Gyro meat, feta cheese, onions. Wonderfulness. I think they call the fried potatoes  American potatoes. They were excellent. My highlight was the toast. I like rye toast. Mikhael’s rye wasn’t just rye toast it was pumpernickel rye! I also like it buttered for me. The kitchen always does a better job than I do, brushing it on when the toast is hot. Our server said she did an extra special job buttering my toast. I could feel the love.

This is going to be a regular breakfast stop that I won’t be tired of soon. And there’s lunch to explore too!

Shipwrecked at Riley’s

Our last day in Cedar Rapids before we move permanently. It was time to get something besides the hotel breakfast buffet (which was quite good by the way, but the same thing every day). I had scoped out two places nearby. After I failed to find the the first I headed toward Riley’s Cafe. I had passed this place numerous times while driving around the hospital. I thought it was a bar.

Parking was scarce on the street but they did have limited parking in the back. We snagged the last spot and entered through the back door. My kind of place! This is the stereotypical midwestern breakfast place. Reminded me of Dad’s in Three Rivers. Everyone here is local, everyone is a regular. Cheap decor, cheap food, big helpings. Love it. We have one similar place back home that I don’t like but that’s because of the seating.

And seating was almost a problem for us. The center of the restaurant has a near communal seating which I don’t like, not back in Georgia, not here. I guess I’m just not that friendly. But we found a booth in the corner window up front. Ordinarily I never sit at booths because I don’t fit. I hate booths and I hate that I can’t fit in one. I took a gamble on this one. It was tight but I managed.

I don’t know if there was more than one server working the whole front or not. As forgetful as she was, it too several requests for my wife’s coffee, I think she may have been covering alone. But she was friendly and helpful.

The Nine Year Old ordered chicken and waffles, no syrup, no gravy. It came as two chicken tenders on top of a Belgian waffle. Exactly what she had hoped for! She said the waffle was awesome. She didn’t finish the tenders but I thought hey were pretty good as far as chicken tenders go.

The wife got some kind of combo. Came with biscuits and gravy. This was a big test for Riley’s since she is a full blooded Georgia girl. And they failed. Miserably. She said the biscuit was OK, not made from scratch. She ate it with jelly. The gravy she deemed inedible. I have to agree it looked repulsive. Gloppy and glue like.

I ordered the Tex Mex Shipwreck. Shipwrecks seem to be a Cedar Rapids thing. I’ve noticed at least four other restaurants advertise a shipwreck for breakfast. Down south it would be called a skillet, except that it is served in a bowl rather than a cast iron or clay skillet. Mine had slices of rib eye steak, onion slices, sliced jalapeños, black olives, and tomatoes, and then it is topped with cheese sauce, black beans, salsa, sour cream, guacamole, green onions. Can you say awesome!!!! It would have been better with melted cheese rather than the Monterrey Jack cheese sauce that they use. I couldn’t finish it though it was so much food. I’ll be looking forward to more shipwrecks in my life.

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Tex Mex Shipwreck