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Mar 12, 2008 10:52 AM

Sheepshead Cafe Iowa City

I have just discovered because I did a web search for Sheepshead Cafe Chocolate Almond Cheesecake. I knew it was a long shot, but I just wanted to see what would come up.
It led me to and some messages from 2006 suggesting places to go in Iowa City, IA. There was a continuing discussion about Sheepshead Cafe and their cheesecake (I had an addiction for their tomato soup too!). So I've decided to start a new message about Sheepshead to see if anyone out there knows recipes or worked for them or knows ANYTHING! I know some of their products came from a bakery (Frenchbread bakery or something like that), don't know if the cheesecake was made by Sheepshead or a bakery. I've tried to make an chocolate almond cheesecake like the one at Sheepshead, but it doesn't turn out just right. It's that crust that's difficult, it's the kind that makes it's own crust I believe.
Ok, just throwing this out there!
Now in Minnesota!

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  1. Hi Jillfresh,

    I worked at the Sheep's Head from 1979 to 1981 and a half. I came away with the whole wheat bread recipe and the Mulligatawny soup recipe. As for the soup, you know it was flavored with Courvoisier...the secret ingredient, otherwise it was Campbell's!

    I used to sit on an upturned bucket and watch Jo, the dessert cook, do her thing, and chat with her till the wee hours. As I recall, she did use the Joy of Cheesecake book for some of her cheesecakes, if not all...? I esp. remember the Kilimanjaro cheesecake.

    I am trying to locate Diane Ochs, who was married to the owner for a time, and may have many of the recipes. You can reach me at We can chat some more!


    Sarah Cartwright

    1 Reply
    1. re: scartwri

      I just now saw this reply...June 2, 2011
      I had no idea Sheepshead made their own bread and cheesecakes. Funny, I thought they came from other bakeries, may be because the restaurant looked so small.
      I will email you too because I LOVE the whole wheat bread. I would like the recipe.

    2. I also worked at Sheepshead, a bit later than Sarah. I used to know the Chocolate Almond cheesecake recipe, but don't quite remember it. I do remember the tomato soup recipe because it was so easy, despite its popularity. You just take Cambell's tomato soup and add oregano and a shot of cognac to it. Then you pour it over colby cheese when you serve it. That was all there was to it!

      1 Reply
      1. re: mdonath

        Thanks for the information. I had heard that there was a "shot" (a splash may be?) of alcohol in the tomato soup. I will try that, thanks! If you ever remember the recipe for the cheesecake, let me know! Thanks,

      2. Wow... haven't thought of Sheepshead's in years. One of the guys who owned it gave me a real creepy vibe, but man that was some really tasty lentil soup they served there.

        1 Reply
        1. re: rozz01

          Who, Duane? He was harmless, I'm pretty sure. I sure do miss that place, even 30 years later. What was the co-owner's name? Diane, Diana, one or t'other. It was my second office, for a few years.

        2. I worked there 1981-1983. What a great place! All the cheesecake recipes came from "The Joy of CheeseCake". Joel was the cheesecake chef at the time. He taught me many of the recipes and I still use the same copy of 'joy' that I bought at the cafe 30 years ago today in my own restaurant. Kilimanjaro is by far the favorite of the upstate New York locals and wine trail tourists. I would love to have the dark bread recipe used in 'Natalies oh my gosh' cream cheese sandwich!

          10 Replies
          1. re: toddn

            Thanks for the info! What is the name of YOUR restaurant, Toddn? I'll have to look up the Kilimanjaro cheesecake. I was hooked on the Chocolate Almond.

            1. re: Jillfresh

              It's Kidders Landing. We are on Cayuga Lake outside of Ithaca New York.

              1. re: toddn

                Thanks for the book suggestion, got it on E Bay for under five dollars, can't wait to try it out !

            2. re: toddn

              I worked there in the 80's...and the recipe for the black bread was "lost" after it closed. That being said, however, I had the fortune to have an old label for the bread and "re created" it from the ingredient list while employed as a baker at New Pi. I'd assume you'd want to sell the product. I think we could work something out...the co-op sold the loves I made, so it's probably close to the original. My gmail is username vegineer. Feel free to email me.

              Oh, and the tomato soup was indeed cambell's, cognac, and colby cheese, but it was sprinkled with dry BASIL, not oregano.

              By the way, did anyone working there keep in touch with Christopher C?

              1. re: dwilliard

                I have a friend who did... Ill try to ask her if she still has contact info...

                1. re: dwilliard

                  I am so excited that this thread about Sheepshead is still drawing comments! Wondering if you could shed some light on the Chocolate Almond Cheesecake. I bought The Joy of Cheesecake, but I don't think the recipe for the Almond Cheesecake in the book is the same as the one sold at Sheep's Head. I wonder... if it really is the Barebottom Cheesecake with almond flavoring and a chocolate top? Sheepshead Cafe is mentioned in connection with the Barebottom Cheesecake recipe in the Joy of Cheesecake book. That recipe seems the closest fit to what I remember because I don't think the cheesecake had a crust. I still can't make it like I remember it in Iowa City. It had a "self" crust, almond flavoring and a "hard" chocolate top. Still trying to figure it out!!! I've got the soup down now, love it! I knew right away that it was basil and not oregano, and it is super easy to make. There is a post above from a girl who worked there and she has a recipe for the bread. I haven't tried making it yet.
                  Good luck all!

                  1. re: Jillfresh

                    I think the choc/almond had a short bread crust. (it was along time ago though!!)
                    I don't have the actual recipe but have made a version using the almond cheese cake recipe and uping the ccheese to 1.5 # and reducing the sour cream to 1 cup so it's a more solid, chilling then topping with a basic chocolate ganache (dark chocolate) and slivered almonds. The bare bottom is softer texture than the chocolate almond I remember because of the beaten egg whites.

                    1. re: toddn

                      It is a shortbread crust. Basically, that's just butter, flour, and sugar blended up and pressed into the springform pan. Any shortbread crust recipe will work such as I randomly found here: Bake the crust for a little bit and allow to cool. Don't overbake the crust, just bake it until it sets. As far as the cheesecake, I think if you use a regular vanilla cheesecake recipe, add almond extract instead of vanilla, you've got the almond version sold at the cafe. As far as the chocolate on top, simply melt semisweet chocolate chips with enough half and half (not much is needed) to make it smooth enough to pour. It should be on the slightly thick side (more like molasses than syrup). Chill the whole cake before and then after coating, and the chocolate will harden and stay firm. If the chocolate is too soft, you've added too much half and half so use less the second time.

                      1. re: dwilliard

                        awesome! I think we're getting closer to what I remember! I love shortbread, so it just stands to reason that the crust is short bread. I will try your suggestions! Many thanks!

                      2. re: toddn

                        Excellent! Then I won't waste my time making the barebottom version. I do remember it being a rather dense, solid texture. Not light and soft. Thank you so much!

                2. re: the dark bread with the cream sandwich... Every once in a while I crave that sandwich but can't quite remember the ingredients... cream cheese & olives & celery (?) .... nuts (?) Did it have any onion? That was a long time ago, ~1980.

                  Helen in Athens. GA

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: catkisses123

                    I think it had walnuts, olives, green onion, celery. Possibly a shot of tamari and garlic powder. If carrots then grated and not much of those.