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A Taste of the Sea in...Iowa?

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After having nibbled up our shrimp and scallop skewers, the complimentary starter, I cracked into the exoskeleton of my king crab legs and dug out the soft, white meat. Oh the tender, delicate, buttery flavor of crustaceans!

But wait, where am I? Oh right, Decorah, Iowa.

What used to be called Dayton House Norwegian Cafe is now referred to as Dayton House of Seafood and More. The former name can be attributed to the fact that the cafe neighbored Decorah's Norwegian-American museum, Vesterheim.

Lunch and brunch menus still offer Scandinavian favorites like smørbrød (open-faced sandwiches), varme polser (sausage wrapped in potato crepe), sandbakkels (butter cookies) and lingonberries. But what's new are dinner items like ciopinno (Italian fish stew), flaming mussels, wasabi crusted fish of the day, and those giant crab legs I mentioned. This Dayton House also serves such items as lamb chops, beef tenders, moo-shoo pork, stuffed capon and vegetarian curried samosa stew.

The cafe's ambiance is intimate; its 12 (or so) wooden tables fill the small space, dressed in white table cloths. The light is warm and the street-front windows feel welcoming. However, the decor is definitely kitschy, bordering on overdone. Starfish and nautical rope adorn cerulean blue walls. I mean, let's not try to kid ourselves.

The food, on the other hand, was scrumptious. Our starter was served with a tomato salsa that had some kick. The grilled vegetable side salad (greens, beets, balsamic and sharp cheddar) was flavorful and hearty. The grilled lamb chop with rosemary jus was moist and meaty. And my crab legs were perfectly, delightfully, delicious.

Though in a time of high gas prices and prophets of "eat local," I still find seafood restaurant in Iowa curious. But to each her own. And whether crab legs or capons, the Dayton House serves a tasty plate of food.

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  1. Thanks,

    We will be visiting Decorah next week and finding seafood that isn't fried is a little tough in those parts.

    1. I think that ciopinno is not Italian - it comes from the North Beach section of San Francisco.