Olive Tree

We stumbled into the Olive Tree by accident after skating practice. We even drove into the parking lot by accident. But hey, it was there, it was open, and we were hungry.

The Olive Tree is not in the best location. It’s difficult to see from the road, the signage doesn’t line up wit the building well. Even if you know it’s there it is easy to miss.

The inside is old and worn. The owner told me they’ve been in operation for decades but not always in the same location. I’m not sure how long they’ve been on 16th Ave. There were only a few people left in the restaurant. All of them seemed to be regulars and allĀ  of them were finished eating and just talking across tables to each other.

The menu is classic immigrant American diner. The Child went completely off script and ordered a Beef Patty with Gravy, Corn, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy. She really likes brown gravy. As in she will drink it straight if you aren’t looking. Surprisingly she ate half of about everything all the while raving to the server and the owner about how much she loved the food and the restaurant. I wonder if she was tired.

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The Wife, ever in search of good sawmill gravy, ordered the Country Fried Steak and Gravy with Eggs and Potatoes. It turned out to be more than she could eat. She rated the gravy as excellent. Another source for biscuits and gravy then, assuming the biscuits are good. Next time.

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Every one in Iowa has a breaded pork tenderloin. “Ours is the best.” Yes, everyone says that too. But I went with it any way. However, I added GRAVY! along with a side of crispy hash browns. I have never had such thinly grated hash browns before. They were fantastic. And the gravy smothered tenderloin was out of this world. I hurt when we left I was so full.

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Looking around the restaurant, the decor, the menu, the name Olive Tree, they had to be either Greek or Lebanese. Our server was shocked that I guessed Lebanese. I was right. She brought out the owner to introduce us. I told her Lebanese food is my favorite. Unfortunately they do not cook or serve any at her restaurant. But her nephew has a Lebanese restaurant in Hiawatha called Pita’s. She said we should check it out. We will. And we will be back to the Olive Tree.


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.

Jerseys Downtown

After a long Sunday driving around the area looking at houses we decided that none of us wanted to get back into the car to go out to dinner. And it was late. Jerseys was a one block walk from out hotel so we set out with that as our destination.

Another sports bar. I can’t say the place was warm and inviting. It felt like a dive without looking like a dive. It may have just been an aura from being mostly empty late on a Sunday night. It may have been family members with a negative attitude. I don’t know.

The menu was much more appealing than what I had been eating for the past eight years but at the same time nothing quite moved me. Again, probably just a vibe in the air.

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House made Mozzarella Sticks and Cheddar Balls

Being starved we ordered two appetizers, Cheddar Balls and Mozzarella Sticks. I guess we were feeling cheese deficient. The cheddar balls were fantastic. They tasted just like deep fried cheese curds and for all I know that’s exactly what Sysco sells them as. I think part of what made them so good yet different than a cheese curd was their generous size. Back home, we have one mediocre restaurant that sells the absolute best cheese sticks. They are tempura battered in-house and dusted with Parmesan cheese. The homemade cheese sticks at Jerseys were equally as good, breaded instead of battered. Nice big planks, soft stretchy cheese. I’d order them every time I eat here in the future.

I don’t remember what the rest of my family ordered. I ordered the pork tenderloin sandwich, AKA IBT. Being of strong Hoosier stock, I know the IBT as Indiana Breaded Tenderloin. Of course in Cedar Rapids, the “I” is for Iowa not Indiana. Same sandwich, I don’t know who has more authentic claim. My sandwich was a little thicker than I was used to, but the menu description said it would be so it didn’t come as a surprise. It was fried to a rich chestnut brown. I found it to be a little dry. I don’t know if I committed blasphemy or not, but I asked for some mayo and that made the sandwich go down much easier. It was served with a side of fresh cut fries. Ordinarily I don’t like fresh cut fries. I find then usually too bland, too floppy, too greasy, too undercooked. These were amazingly good. I hope they are just as good next time.

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Indiana Iowa Breaded Tenderloin sandwich with fresh cut fries