Posts Tagged ‘cafe’

Belle Plaine's Lincoln Cafe to reopen

July 13, 2010

Van & Bev Becker send word from Iowa that the Lincoln Cafe in Belle Plaine is set to reopen in September. The Cedar Rapids Gazette reported today that Gzim “Jimmy” Limani, owner of the likewise famous King’s Tower Café (also along the Lincoln Highway in nearby Tama) is working to rehab the shuttered cafe. When it opens in September, Limani promises home-style cooking every day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

“My customers from Belle Plaine told me I should buy it, so I did,” Limani, who’s originally from Albania, said. “It’s a historical building and the people in town are really excited about it. They have been very supportive.”

The previous owner of the Lincoln Café, Curtis Bailey, of Marengo, was murdered in his home last summer and the café closed….

Limani, his son Arijan, 14, and another worker have almost gutted the inside of the building…. “The place is old and needs cleaning and we’ve ripped it down to the bones, to the bricks. It’s down to the bricks in the kitchen….”

Limani said almost everything like the floors, ceiling and lights will be replaced or repaired and there will be new tables and booths. The outside of the café will also get updated with the help of KB Construction in Belle Plaine.

“I want to keep the original sign and it will stay the Lincoln Café,” Limani said smiling. “I don’t want to change that.”

Iowa's Lincoln Cafes go opposite ways

May 6, 2010

Two stories tell two different tales of Lincoln Cafes located along the Lincoln Highway in Iowa.

The Cedar Rapids Gazette reports that “Matt Steigerwald, owner and chef of the Lincoln Cafe in Mount Vernon, has retained his title as the Midwest region’s ‘Prince of Porc’ after winning the Cochon 555 competition for the second straight year…. Cochon means ‘pig’ in French. The competition features five chefs, five pigs and five winemakers in 10 cities. The chefs are challenged to use a whole pig to create a series of dishes.”

As the murder trial continues for the owner of the Lincoln Cafe in Belle Plaine, Iowa, LHA director Van Becker reports that the well known restaurant still sits idle and nothing inside has been touched for months.

Updates and news from the Lincoln Highway

July 31, 2009

ia_linccafe0020• Update to recent murder of Lincoln Cafe owner: No word on the cafe itself in Belle Plaine, Iowa, but bond was set at $500,000 each for three people accused, and at a preliminary hearing yesterday, arraignment was set for August 13 in Iowa County District Court. According to the Cedar Rapids Gazette, “Marengo Police Chief Galen Moser has refused to release how Bailey died and the weapon used to kill him. Police did, however, release autopsy results last week that confirmed Bailey’s death was a homicide.” According to MPC Newspapers, “Bailey and Frei purchased Bailey’s Lincoln Café in Belle Plaine in 2006. The business has not kept regular hours the last year or so, with customers often finding notes on the door indicating the café was closed due to emergency or medical reasons. News of the killing has left the café’s customers reeling.”

• On Wednesday, September 2 at 1:30 p.m, Jan Shupert-Arick, past president of the Lincoln Highway Association and past national director of the Indiana LHA, will talk about the famous road at the Center for History in South Bend, Indiana. She is author of the recently-published book, The Lincoln Highway Across Indiana, and also guest curator for the Center for History’s exhibit, Appeal to Patriots: The Lincoln Highway. A tour of the exhibit is part of the program. Admission is $3 and reservations are required by August 31. For information, call (574) 235-9664 or visit

Sebak LH road curve• Sue Barr writes that “My colleague Dr David Heathcote and I are academics  in London and teach at the Architectural Association School of Architecture and Middlesex University. We are working on a book on the world history of motorways and will come to the U.S. in September to look at the Lincoln Highway.”Photo by Rick Sebak

Lincoln Cafe chef wins pig cooking competition

April 27, 2009

Sunday’s Cedar Rapids Gazette ran a story about the Lincoln Cafe, along the Lincoln Highway in Mount Vernon, Iowa. Owner and chef Matt Steigerwald won the Cochon 555 competition held in Des Moines on April 19. Below is the story and a photo of the place by PBS producer Rick Sebak.


Cochon is French for pig, so 5 competing chefs prepared a Heritage Pig for judging and public tasting. Steigerwald was the only chef not from Des Moines. The chefs prepared the pigs in their own restaurants and transported them to the competition—for Steigerwald, a 2-hour drive. Some of the items Steigerwald made were pozole (a Mexican soup made with pork and hominy), a pork belly confit, biscuits made with lard, head cheese and Carolina pork barbecue.

Steigerwald took home a bottle of Templeton Rye and a trophy that declared him the “Prince of Porc.” The competition is traveling nationally and will be in Chicago next on May 24. For more information go to

Famed Lincoln Highway cafe to reopen in Iowa

December 1, 2008

The popular Niland’s Cafe in Colo, Iowa, will reopen December 5 and operate three days a week through the winter.

Niland's from station

The Nevada Journal revealed the joint plan between the city of Colo, which owns the historic Reed-Niland property, and the Colo Development Group, which manages the property for the city:

Ben Weir, president of the development group, said Missy Bitters, of Colo, will be overseeing the day-to-day operation of the restaurant…. Previously, the city and development group have leased the restaurant to those who have operated it…. Weir said the development group won’t heavily advertise the opening at first, because “we want to allow Missy to get in and get organized … and get her feet wet.”

Bitters said hours of operation will be 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays. She said one of the things the restaurant will bring back from the past is the loose meat sandwiches that historic owner John Niland made popular for the restaurant.

Niland's, Scott at counter

Above is Colo city clerk Scott Berka at the Niland’s Cafe counter.

Lincoln Highway cafe temporarily closed

November 10, 2008

Colo sign 2Scott Berka alerts us that the woman who was running Niland’s Cafe in Colo, Iowa, had some medical issues and closed the cafe after Labor Day. The Colo Development Group is hiring a manager to operate it, hoping to reopen shortly after Thanksgiving. Winter days will be Friday, Sat., Sunday, then likely back to daily except Monday come Spring. The motel is still for rent at $49.99 per night.

Until the acafe reopens, those interested in renting a room should call the Colo Development Group office at (641) 377-2278. Once the cafe is open again, the number to call will revert to the cafe: (641) 377-3663.

Niland's outside new

Classic cafe being razed in Grand Island, Nebr.

February 19, 2008

The Grand Island Independent reports that the Nebraska city is widening it’s main street – aka Lincoln Highway/US 30 – and in the process demolishing a vintage cafe. The Conoco motel and cafe at 2109 W. Second Street trace their roots to about 1940 when the tile-roofed Conoco Service Station opened. The cafe had a Polynesian redo in the 1960s but only the motel will survive (featuring a swimming pool and cable) as will a new convenience store. The cafe is seen in the upper right photo of the postcard below, which on back is titled, “Conoco Motel, Cafe & Service Station.”


According to the news report:

A total of 18,400 vehicles travel daily on Second Street between Broadwell and Greenwich Street. To better accommodate that volume, the state will install a fifth lane a turning lane from Grant Street to Greenwich….

The right-of-way needed for the fifth lane simply brought the roadway too close to the Conoco Cafe, which the state acquired more than a year ago through condemnation. The last restaurant to operate there, Pam’s Cafe, closed Jan. 31, 2007, and relocated to South Locust Street.

Last week, an environmental firm removed asbestos from the cafe. This week, a construction company is starting demolition. Road work will commence March 17 and wrap up in October, then next Spring, sidewalks, lighting, and landscaping will be completed.

Postcard 3: Woods Motel & Cafe, Evanston, Wyo

January 6, 2008

This 1940s postcard advertised Wood’s Motel & Cafe – “ultra modern and steam heat” – on US 30 South in East Evanston, Wyoming. Has any part survived to visit during the 2008 LHA conference this June?

WY_Woods Motel & Cafe, Evanston

Iowa Lincoln Hwy Radio Tour Missed the Route!

December 8, 2007

IA_Youngville Stn
Above: Youngville Station, a beautiful restoration effort on the Lincoln Highway west of Cedar Rapids. When it’s open, visitors will find great pie and a historical display. The photos here show places NOT in the radio tour. Photo courtesy of G. Januska.

Gianofer Fields of Chicago Public Radio has completed her Lincoln Highway tour, but after 5 entries (plus a launch segment), she stopped along the Lincoln only 1 of those 6 days. As she admitted on the third day, ” I’m starting to rethink my whole Lincoln Highway plan. Maybe I should forget my linear route and think of the highway as a springboard.” Here are her topics:

Launch: Burlington’s Crookedest Street

1: Eldon’s American Gothic house

2: Missouri Valley’s Welcome Center and Museum of Religious Arts

3: Elkhorn’s Danish Windmill

4: Amana Colonies

5: Le Claire’s Buffalo Bill Museum

All very interesting, but only #2 is along the Lincoln Highway. What did she miss?


Trying to think of a list as quickly as possible, I came up with:

• Smith Brothers General Store in Clinton
• Cedar Rapids Museum of Art and Grant Wood Studio
• Youngville Station (top photo)
• Lincoln Cafe and Preston’s station in Belle Plaine
• King Tower Cafe (above) and LH bridge in Tama
• Shady Oaks Tree House east of Marshalltown
• Niland’s Cafe in Colo
• Three concrete bridges on the old road near Grand Junction
• Lincoln statue and carillon tower in Jefferson
• Moss markers with Lincoln busts north of Scranton (below)
• Spanish-deco Park Motel in Dennison
• Woodbine’s brick streets and Brick Street Station
• Loess Hills winding road across from Omaha


There’s lots more, from great old signs and garages to wonderful people in the diners and coffee shops along the way. What is your favorite?

New operator for Niland’s Café in Colo, IA

October 24, 2007

Niland’s Café, closed this summer, has reopened. The Nevada [IA] Journal reports that Sandy Wilfong has agreed to manage the property for the Colo Development Group. The food service veteran also owns Sandy’s Café in Des Moines. “‘It’s always been a dream of mine to have this style of restaurant,’ Wilfong said. ‘I signed a three-year lease, but I plan on staying here a long time.’”

Niland’s outside new

Colo city clerk Scott Berka tells me the cafe had to close from April through July while they looked for a new operator: “Cory and Tammy Strait were our original lessee’s for the cafe (they opened in December 2003). They had a three-year lease. In summer 2006 Tammy had some serious health problems and when the lease was up Cory decided to take a job that required less hours and provided benefits. We certainly appreciate the work they put forth in getting the cafe up and running.”

The one-stop, with adjacent gas station and motel, opened about 1920 at the corner of Lincoln Highway and US 65, the old Jefferson Highway. Historical displays line the walls, and a 1939 Cadillac bursts from a corner of the dining room. The car-themed menu has entrees like the Route 30 Pileup, a roast beef dinner, and fried bologna. Fridays feature all-you-can-eat fish with salad bar, fries, and cole slaw; Sundays are all-you-can-eat fried chicken.

Niland’s from station

The town and café hosted one of my most fun book signings ever in 2005, when hundreds of locals turned out, most of whom had helped restore the café and gas station, loaned artifacts and photos, or donated to the effort.

Here, Dan Halferty and Brad Snodgrass help me at the table, with Scott Berka in yellow directing the line.

Niland’s Booksigning
Here’s Scott at the counter:
Niland’s, Scott at counter
And Scott sent this picture of me signing a book for descendant John Niland with Jim Hartwig next in line.
Scott’s pic-John Niland
Stop in, even if just for a piece of pie and a big slice of fun. Cafe hours:
Tue–Thur: 6:30 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Fri–Sat: 6:30 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Sun: 7:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Closed Mondays.