Category Archives: Features

Feature: Canteen Lunch in the Alley (Ottumwa, Iowa)

Canteen Lunch in the Alley (Ottumwa, Iowa)

Best. Hamburger. Ever.  I’ve had good hamburgers over the years, but nothing beats the delicious loose meat sandwiches they serve at Canteen Lunch in the Alley, located in downtown Ottumwa, Iowa.

Situated under a parking ramp, the one-room yellow brick building features about a dozen stools around the U-shaped counter.  Once seated, one of the ladies from behind the counter will bring a glass of water and take your order.  Regulars will reel off their order in a few seconds – a ‘cheese everything’ sandwich features cheese, ketcup, mustard, onion, and pickles.

If you’re going through (or traveling anywhere near) Ottumwa, the Canteen is a stop you won’t want to miss.  Make the most of your meal by ordering a milkshake and trying a slice of pie to top things off.

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Feature: Smokey Row (Pleasantville, Iowa)

Smokey Row (Pleasanville, Iowa)

Smokey Row has been a favorite of mine since we first discovered their original Pleasantville location several years ago.  I love the nostalgic atmosphere of the coffee house/soda fountain, which features wood floors, brick walls, and retro booths.

My wife and I originally made Smokey Row a destination for soda, as they were one of the only places in southeast Iowa to serve ice-cold glass bottle of Mountain Dew.  Unfortunately, the nearby bottling plant ceased operation of their returnable bottle line in 2005, so we had to look to other menu items for our more recent visits.

It turns out the desserts we’ve tried have been top-notch.  You can’t beat the ‘Green River’ from the soda fountain, and the food options make for a great, informal lunch.  If you aren’t planning a trip to Pleasantville soon, you can find Smokey Row locations in Pella and Oskaloosa, too.

Smokey Row Headquarters on Urbanspoon

Feature: Cordova Park Tower (Near Knoxville, Iowa)

Cordova Park Tower (Near Knoxville, Iowa)

A few years ago, Amanda and I ventured to the Cordova Park Observation Tower for the first time.  Located near Lake Red Rock in Iowa, it’s a fun summer destination.

The observation tower was first opened to the public in 1998, after the addition of 170 spiral steps and a viewing platform to an old water tower.  The climb is rewarding; at the top, you’ll enjoy a ridiculously good view of Lake Red Rock and the surrounding area on a clear day.

Finally, a fun piece of trivia.  According to the Red Rock Area website, the Cordova Park Observation Tower features the longest continuous fiberglass staircase in the world.

Feature: Ocheyedan Mound (Near Ocheyedan, Iowa)

Ocheyedan Mound (Near Ocheyedan, Iowa)

Ocheyedan Mound used to be known as the highest point in Iowa – that is, until a 1971 geodetic survey determined that distiction actually went to a farm north of Sibley, Iowa.

I had to check this mound out on my way to Minneapolis earlier this month. The parking lot was easy to access, but climbing the mound itself was made difficult due to a poorly-mowed path. Nonetheless, rising 170 feet above the surrounding plain, the mound offered an excellent view of the Iowa countryside and is worth checking out if you’re in northwest Iowa.

Feature: Lincoln Cafe (Mt. Vernon, Iowa)

Lincoln Cafe (Mt. Vernon, Iowa)

Located in Mount Vernon, Iowa, Lincoln Cafe tops my list of all-time favorite restaurants. During our days at Cornell College, Amanda and I ate there frequently, enjoying superb food for lunch and dinner.

Along with incredibly innovative specials and desserts that change on a weekly basis, Lincoln Cafe has a solid regular menu. The everyday options include a hamburger with blue cheese, a BLT with avocado mayonnaise, and a spicy grilled chicken sandwich. You get a welcomed dash of creativity along with a reasonable price tag.

It’s a popular destination, so be aware a wait may be in store for evening dining. Nonetheless, if you’re in the area, Lincoln Cafe is an essential stop.

Continue reading Feature: Lincoln Cafe (Mt. Vernon, Iowa)