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Jul 20, 2004 01:35 PM

Cedar Rapids, IA

  • t

DC Chowhound needs recommendations for Cedar Rapids for any type of cuisine..I have been to Zindrick's many years ago and loved it! Will go back, but would like other, newer recs!

Thanks in advance

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  1. Haven't been to Zindrick's, but I only visit CR annually. Bistro on First is best restaurant in town (IMO). It also has a jazz bar/lounge attached. Not too far away (in Mount Vernon) is a place called Lincoln Cafe. I haven't been yet, but it is supposed to be excellent. Biaggi's is pretty good for a chain (and has a wine cellar room for a group dinner, if you need one). Cafe de Klos is also an option for an upscale dinner. An acquintance used to always go to Vino's (for Italian) when he traveled to CR, but I haven't made it there yet. For lunch, I like the Tic-Toc, Al and Irene's BBQ (best local, but maybe not as good as you can get in other states) or The Flying Weinie (very casual). Enjoy your visit.

    Dave R

    6 Replies
    1. re: Dave R

      Not too far away (in Mount Vernon) is a place called Lincoln Cafe.

      this was going to be my suggestion as well. Mt Vernon is about a 20-25 minute drive away on Rt 30

      My simple pleasure that I miss from my IA days at Cornell College in Mt. Vernon are pork tenderloin sandwiches. Can't get them in the Chicago area. Simple, cheap and what a meal!

      1. re: Sweet Willie

        That is almost always what I get for lunch at the Tic-Toc. I can't think of any other places in CR that had great pork tenderloins (unless Johnny's on the Parkway is still open). Iowa City (home for my grad school years) had Airliner and Joe's Place for pretty good tenderloins. Probably good that they don't make them here in Texas, as I can't imagine the results from eating them frequently.

        Dave R

      2. re: Dave R

        I live in Iowa City, and have made the drive to the Lincoln Cafe in Mount Vernon many times. It is a tiny space and generally fills up by 6:30 every night (no reservations). There is a sports bar next door to have a drink while you wait, and the Lincoln Cafe folks will come get you when a table is ready.

        It's BYOB, and I have been charged no corkage, $5 total corkage, and $5/bottle corkage. I think it just depends on the waitress.

        The menu generally consists of one special appetizer, three - four main offerings, depending on what is in season and what the chef can get fresh that day. The last time I was there, he offered an Iowa elk steak that was a revelation! Tender, flavorful, just plain good. He also offers one - two desserts, again depending on what is fresh and available. It's a great time of the year to go, with all of the wonderful produce around.

        It's worth the 15 minute drive!

        1. re: iowagirl

          Thanks for filling in the details. I'm definitely planning on going the next time that I visit. How long are the waits typically at around 7:00 or 7:30? How much longer on the weekend vs weekdays?

          Dave R

          1. re: Dave R

            Saturdays are the worst - usually 1 to 1 1/2 hour wait. The last time I went was on a Thursday, and our party got there when they opened at 5:00 (not my favorite dinner time, but I can go with the flow). When we left at 7:15, every table was full, but they were telling people it would be at most 30 minutes ...

            Service is prompt, so tables turn at a decent rate - but they also don't rush you through your last glass of wine or coffee and dessert!

          2. re: iowagirl

            i agree with your observations of Mt. Vernon, but would add that the new wine bar, Devine, just up the street from the Lincoln cafe, is a nice spot, with wine flights in lieu of the premium kentucky whiskeys at chameleon's. Also, I'd call ahead to the Lincoln for a rundown of the nightly specials; often entrees can be over the top in their composition and price. sunday brunch is generally pretty good as well. --K.S.

        2. Hello,

          I grew up in Cedar Rapids, and whenever I go back, a visit to Leonardo's is a MUST. Leonardo's is a lounge. It's a bit smokey, but its a quiet place to go and chat. And, there's no place on earth decorated like it. The entire place is covered in red and black nawgahide. Expect to pay $6.00-$9.00 for a meal without drinks.

          They have the best bar-style pizza I've had anywhere. Make sure you get the thin crust. And on weekdays after 10:00 pm (I think), the medium pizzas are really cheap.

          They also make a pretty mean kiddie-cocktail (7-up and grenadine). I threw a few of those back in my day. During the daylight hours, it is a pretty good place to take the kids. They have a large menu, and it isn't smokey during the day.

          Leonardo's is on 16th Avenue on the SW side of town near Jefferson High School, if that helps.



          11 Replies
          1. re: Joel Brandt
            Kurt M. Friese

            There are far more good restaurants in Iowa City, 30 minutes south, than there are in Cedar Rapids, even though CR is much bigger.

            I must confess to a bit of a bias, because I own one of them, but besides my restarant there are also these gems:

            Pagliai's (pronouced "polly-eyes") makes fantastic american style pizza and is an Iowa City Institution 302 E Bloomington, 319.351.5073

            Baldy's Wraps offers a 10% discount for bald people and has a killer "jambalaya" wrap. Chips and a cookie are free. 18 S Clinton, 319.338.1010

            India Cafe offers a cheap but good lunch buffet - 227 E Washington, 319.354.2775

            Linn Street Cafe is an established New American cuisine, fine dining restaurant with a very large wine list (probably the biggest in town. 319.121 N. Linn St, 319.337.7885

            Atlas has the best patio and great mojitos at 127 Iowa Ave, 319.341.7700

            The Vietnamese BBQ Pork Sandwich at Mekong is a thing of beauty - 222 1st ave (Coralville) 319.337.9910

            The Red Avocado has great all-vegetarian, all-organic, and mostly locally-sourced food. Their very active in the community, too. 521 E Washington, 319.351.6088 (
            The Sanctuary has live jazz and an enormous beer list (something like 120 choices) 405 S. Gilbert, 319.351.5629

            Taste on Melrose offers solid new American cuisine right next to the football stadium. 1006 Melrose, 319.339.9938

            Thai Spice has the best Thai food I've ever had, though it can be a little pricey for me because I eat so much when I go there. 1210 S Gilbert,319.351.2581

            By the way, my place is Devotay - see the link below.

            Link: http://www,

            1. re: Kurt M. Friese
              Dave Feldman

              Kurt, the link to your restaurant doesn't seem to work.

              And is Pagliai's a chain? I went to college at Grinnell and there was a pizza place by that name there.

              1. re: Dave Feldman

                yeah it doesn't, but if you type in you'll get it

                1. re: Dave Feldman
                  Kurt M Friese

                  Pagliai's has 3 locations, each owned by a different member of the same family

                2. re: Kurt M. Friese

                  Kurt's restaraunt is quite good as is his list. Baldy's is a personal lunch favorite for me.

                  I would only add Takanami. To my mind they are doing the best cooking in Iowa City and the chef there used to cook at Bistro on First in CR. A great coup for Iowa City.

                  David, in Iowa City

                  1. re: David M

                    Hi David-

                    We would appreciate it if you would not use the Subject field to respond to a posting. Please keep your response in the Message field. When you change the subject it makes it difficult for Chowhounds who use Hotposts to follow the thread.

                    For example, when we just clicked on Hotposts, your posting, above, showed up, not as a response to an earlier posting, but as an original posting with "Indeed it is" as the Subject. Absent any other postings to the thread today, there was no way to know that the thread you are responding to is really about chow in Iowa City.


                  2. re: Kurt M. Friese

                    I came across this posting a couple months ago and was very annoyed by the remark about Pagliai's being pronounced "polly-eyes." Now that I'm looking at all kinds of things at chowhounds tonight, I feel compelled to correct this. I'm familiar with Italian pronunciation, and once mystified some girl who was talking about O.J. Simpson's infamous Bruno Magli shoes by telling her that the g was actually silent. The idea just would not compute and I think the notion made her brain melt.

                    But Pagliai's is not "polly-eyes" or anything along those lines. It is "pagly-eyes." I think pretty much everyone in Iowa City knows this, and that's how the name has always been pronounced here. If some family member now wants to pronounce the name more authentically, or if "polly-eyes" is the pronunciation among local food snobs, that's a new thing and I find it pretty bizarre.

                    Regarding follow-ups: No, it was not founded in Grinnell. I always thought the restaurant was founded in Iowa City, but I am surprised to see at that it was founded in Ames. I'll bet Iowa City is the oldest location, however.

           lists three locations, in Johnston, Des Moines, and Grinnell.

           lists a fourth location, in West Des Moines, apparently under other ownership.

                    And my phonebook shows that Iowa City's restaurant is now called A&A Pagliai's. They used to, however, have the same name and logo as used on the Web site, so I assume they separated from those folks at some point.

                    So apparently there are five locations under three corporate umbrellas.

                    1. re: afewraersdaf

                      afewraersdaf's post above is wrong. The "g" in Pagliai's is mostly silent for Americans. To make it a hard g there would have to be an "h" after it. So to prounce it "pagly-eyes" it would have to be spelled "Paghliai".
                      Ask at the restaurant or ask any member of the Pagliai family - the g is silent.

                    2. re: Kurt M. Friese

                      I read the last review and the one thing that caught my curiousity was the Vietnamese BBQ Pork sandwich. That type of thing is right up my alley. I am always up for trying different things. I am currently working in the Cedar Rapids area and whenever I travel I like to try the hidden low-key places. So even though the last post was quite old, I thought that I would check it out and see if they were still open and see whats up with this sandwich. It just so happened that I was in Coralville around lunchtime, and low and behold the Mekong Restaurant is still there. I got the Mekong Sandwich, even though there is plenty on the menu that looks great and I will go back to try their Pho. This sandwich is GOOD and different. But was pefect combination of things. The sandwich is shredded Vietnamese BBQ pork (more like chunks) served on french bread with cucumber, cilantro, sliced carrots, sauerkraut, and hot sauce! yum. sounds weird but was so good. And only $4. was a bargain. I wouldn't change a thing but next time I will ask maybe for extra hot sauce only because I like a big kick.
                      see the picture below

                      1. re: travelinsam

                        Yes, the Mekong Sandwich is my favorite. They use the word "sauerkraut" in the menu description, which is unfortunate because it's more of a coleslaw -- shredded cabbage in a dressing -- and much tastier than the word sauerkraut conveys.

                        The Tamarind soup is quite good as are the dumplings, but skip the spring rolls -- pretty tasteless.

                        1. re: puzzler

                          i agree. it was not as much sauerkraut and much less bitter. shredded cabbage in dressing is much better description. Either way, I love it and went the very next day and had the sandwich again. I will try your recomendation on the Tamarind soup and skip the spring rolls, but it will be very hard not to get the Mekong sandwich