The problem with using Casey’s General Store as a landmark is that every small town in Iowa has one. So when I was told I needed to turn right, down one of the many straight side roads running between corn and soy fields, when Casey’s was on my left, I wasn’t sure if this one or another.
I probably shouldn’t have been driving. It was dark and I was distracted by the sparse lights from the fields and houses. And the half bottle of wine I’d had with dinner. And the belly full of food.
Oh, yes, the food. Lincoln Cafe‘s food. Lincoln Cafe, a Mount Vernon spot offering a few locally focused dishes every evening, doesn’t count as a hidden gem anymore. At night, when the kitchen rolls out the small menu of features — usually three plus an appetizer — that extends the menu past burgers and fries, it’s still hard to decide what to eat.
Matt Steigerwald, the cafe’s chef and proprietor, is adamant about the local focus of his menu, preferring to pay a premium for locally produced ingredients. He’s part of the foundation Iowa needs to cultivate if we’re to move towards becoming a destination for foodies. (Matt graciously gave me a plate of house-cured meats, including a smoked duck breast, prosciutto and a particularly delicious coppa.)
As more locally focused restaurants and producers and markets pop up around Iowa, we’ll see fewer Casey’s and more unique spots worth traveling for.
I suspect Matt would love the competition.