Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bonaparte Retreat in Bonaparte

Bonaparte is a small town in Southeast Iowa, and is part of the Historic Villages of Van Buren County. Van Buren County places limits on things like commercial signage, and the villages are maintained by residents to reflect the areas heritage from a time when the Des Moines River was busy with commerce, and mill towns dotted the landscape. The building that now houses this restaurant was once a grist mill powered by the river, making flour for larger markets. The town was known as Meek's Mill before being incorporated as Bonaparte.The Bonaparte Retreat has been featured in Midwest Living and The Iowan magazines.

Location: 731 1st St. in Bonaparte (population 458), Van Buren County, in Southeastern Iowa.

Directions: Bonaparte is best reached by taking Highway 2 across Southern Iowa. County Road W40 takes you 2 miles north into town. You can also take the scenic route by driving County Road J40 from Keosauqua. Its only two and a half hours drive from Des Moines.

The Tenderloin: This one had a shape like an oven mitt when I unwrapped it. Your get decent thickness in the cut of pork, but the meat only slightly extends beyond the bun. Softness is above average, and the meat comes apart easily. Breading adds some crunch, but not much in the way of seasoning. Served with your choice of fixings on a sesame seed bun. Overall 7.0 out of ten.

Price:$4.25 a la carte, a good value.
Also on the menu: the lunch menu is small but it has some fried vegetable appetizers along with the usual salads and sandwiches. The Dinner menu has steaks and seafood, and homemade pies for dessert.

Service: Its table service, and takes a while for food to be prepared. Watching a lady use the giant antique cash register is a plus.
Ambiance: The building oozes with atmosphere in its natural lighting and antique furnishings. There is a great view of the river, but tables near the windows fill up fast.

Final Thoughts: The setting in a historic building in the best kept historical towns in Iowa with the high ceiling of the mill, and relics of its prior incarnation, is great. Although on my next visit I will probably be to try some of the other cuts of meat on the dinner menu. I still maintain the best tenderloin I have found in Van Buren County is at Misty's Malt Shop just up the road in Keosauqua. This was a good value in a nice small town.

Bonaparte Retreat Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Roadhouse Bar & Grill in Fort Dodge

I was surprised when a website told me a new restaurant in Fort Dodge had put a super-jumbo tenderloin on the menu. It claimed to serve a full pound size tenderloin. This had previously been a size only offered at the St. Olaf Tap in Northeast Iowa. The local paper tells me that the owner of this place promotes Country music concerts, and an outdoors multimedia project including a television show, radio, and magazine. The Roadhouse Bar & Grill offers more opportunity for tie-in events.

Location: the address is listed at 217 S 25th St, inside the Crossroads Mall in Fort Dodge.

Directions: This place has two entrances at the northeast corner of the Mall, you get there by taking the Business Route of Highway 20 which is 5th Ave South in Fort Dodge.

Online at:

The Tenderloin: Listen on the menu as The Big Country 1 lb. Tenderloin (Huge - Bring a friend!). First things first, this thing is big. It may not have been a full sixteen ounces before breading and frying, but it felt huge and was filling. A big problem with giant tenderloins is getting the huge cuts of pork to stay consistently tender and moist after cooking. The giant cut of meat just gets too tough, dry and chewy. The breading added more than enough crunch, but most of the flavor came from the red onions underneath the bun. Some more seasonings could raise the score, but it also needs to be more tender. Overall 6.5 out of ten.

Price: $8.99 with a side of fries. Sometimes it will be on special for a dollar less with a soft drink.

Service: Its table service at the booth seats, or you can sit at the bar.

Ambiance: This location used to be a Cactus Bob's Tex-Mex restaurant, so there is wood paneling with signs. The new ownership has put up pictures of country music acts.

Also on the menu: There are burgers, the nachos look special, and the "self proclaimed best wings in the Midwest"

The naked grilled Garlic Parmesan Wings:

The lightly seasoned fries with rosemary side:
Final Thoughts: I hope this place sticks around because the wings were good. You can check out a YouTube video from a wing eating contest captured by the local paper. On my next trip through Fort Dodge, I will try to make it to the often recommended Community Tap & Pizza and try their tenderloin.