October 31, 2014
GRAPHIC COURTESY IC GOV
Iowa City restaurants strive to be more farmer friendly. By Elise Goodvin & Sofie Lie
When walking downtown, it’s hard not to consider the abundance of restaurants lining the streets. Local farm food is the new craze with local restaurants. More and more in the downtown Iowa city area are striving to acquire products from local farms and acknowledging the undeniable relevance of having local connections. Currently, many are using food from food distributors, unconcerned with where it is from, only considering the quality. They say “support your local restaurant” while not supporting their native Iowans. More than 90 percent of Iowa’s 55,875 square miles of land is used for agriculture. Three different local restaurant in downtown Iowa City use Iowa’s agriculture to their advantage. New downtown, the Iowa Chop House opened over the summer with the goal to use food from local Iowan farmers. “I think the people in Iowa are extremely proud of being from Iowa, and I think keeping things local in Iowa helps the revenue of all businesses and farmers and local people in the community, it keeps them in business,” manager Craig Vorba said. Vorba enjoys meeting all the people who come from all over to come and eat at the restaurant, because they have heard about how all the food is local. The Iowa Chop House wants their customers to know where their food is coming from, instead of just hoping it’s a healthy grass fed animal. They believe that fresh food is better tasting because it is grown closer to home. The restaurant focuses on the idea that because their costumers may know that the food they are eating was grown a town or two over that they feel better about it. A lot of their menu is made for things found here in Iowa. “All the meat that we use is from Iowa. With some of the different beef and pork products, animals might be slaughtered in neighboring states like Nebraska, but remain raised in Iowa. All of our produce is locally from Iowa, we use some different distributors [of fruits and vegetables] from the state of Iowa as well,” Vorba said. This gives them a stronger base from the items on their menu. Not only is the food at the Iowa Chop house local, but a lot of the decor is as well. The tables, the bar, a beer dispenser, and all the photos frames are made from a barn in Oxford, Iowa. The touches give the restaurant a more homely feel, with pictures of barns and fields and animals
hanging on all the walls, showing where the restaurant is based around and bringing us back to the Iowa roots. “The barn just became part of the restaurant. There is just a lot of history already inside the Chop House that came from our local farms.” El Banditos in downtown Iowa City serves local produce and meat from Decorah’s Grass run farms and Solon’s Pavelka Point. This restaurant is yet another that relies on local farms. “I think we have a pretty strong local, regular business base,” the manager of the Mexican restaraunt said. Although El Banditos aims to support local farms, winter time always seems to be an issue when it comes to fresh fruit and/or vegetables. “During the summer months it’s really good, because things are grown here, but during winter months, we obviously need to outsource to places that can grow the produce,” the manager said. With the Iowa climate making it hard or even impossible for farmers to grow, restaurants are forced to go out of state to warmer climate states. But for the rest of the year, El Banditos uses as much local produce as possible; about 80 percent of all their food, meat and produce alike, is locally grown. The restaurant uses food from owner David Perez’s own garden during the summer months. They also get their meat supplied from The Iowa Meat Processors Association, which is an organization comprised of beef, pork, wild game, and poultry processors and allied businesses throughout the state. Shopping with the IMPA helps a lot of cattle and other meat distributors get out their name and make a profit. “We’re very interested in local products and supporting them; we’re at the farmers market. It’s an ideal, if we could get local products all the time, that would be great,” the manager said. The Linn Street Cafe, which was established 25 years ago, focuses on buying from local food providers and keeping their food free of preservatives, to both benefit the local economy and to ensure the most flavorful food. “To me, it’s always just made perfect sense to [grow locally]. I’ve been doing it for so long I didn’t realize it was something you’re supposed to do,” chef and owner Frank Bowman said. Bowman understands the significance of using local food, and he incorporates this into his restaurant. He uses produce and meat from local farms in his cooking. “The biggest thing is the quality and the freshness. It makes sense and it’s logical,” Bowman said.
October 31st, 2014