Fairfield, Iowa is an interesting place. The small town of 10,000 sits in the rural corner of South East Iowa, amongst lush, rolling green hills and corn fields for miles.
The interesting place part comes from a large population of the town being driven by the Transcendental Meditation movement. Our parents (let’s just call them hippies in the 70’s) moved from around the country and world, to bring and raise their families in a school that focused on meditation, yoga, and “consciousness-based education”. Yes, right smack in the middle of the country.
With both “townies” – those from here, true Iowans and “Ru’s” – short for Guru, Fairfield is a juxtaposition of cultures, ideologies, people, and businesses.
One of those businesses, are from four friends who had a vision to create a restaurant, bar, and cidery to share with everyone in Fairfield. To be inclusive, warm, and welcoming.
Enter: The Cider House.
One of my oldest, and best friends, Hopi is one of the four owners. She’s probably the hardest working person I know. The kind of girl who looks like a supermodel with her blonde mane in a beautiful blowout, but isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty, and will bust out a 100 hour work week easily with her extensive restaurant and bar experience. Really the kind of person you want in the trenches with you, period. Perhaps that’s why I’m so moved when I see her in her own restaurant, knowing her since we were in first grade, and growing up together, we’ve seen our share of heartache and struggle. It shows me that with enough gumption and teamwork, really anything is possible.
I’ve written about Clint’s apple orchard before on this blog, and after having a home cider operation the two couples; Ani and Cole and Clint and Hopi bought an old barber shop (Ron’s Barber Shop) right off the downtown square on 2nd street, to make their dream a reality. What followed were many months of demolition, re-building, painting, designing, and creating everything like the menu and interior aesthetics, from the ground up. The work these four put in (and are still putting in) pre and post, is outstanding and honestly makes me tired thinking about it. The blood, sweat, and tears that have gone into this place, is immense and shouldn’t be understated. Their drive for quality and success is seen in every little detail from the food, to the service, to the interior.
For things they couldn’t do themselves, the community really stepped up from the woodworking, to the metal work, to the landscaping, which was done by friends and local craftsmen.
Now that it’s open, I get to see it for the first time when I was home for the holidays. To watch close friends do everything from the ground up, and to see it to fruition is rewarding, even from afar.
The restaurant serves a simple, yet thoughtful menu of burgers, french fries, wings, and some classic sides like potato salad. The burgers are made with Jefferson County farm raised and farm finished beef. The cows never leave the county, and are of the highest quality and it shows. They have a house-made veggie burger, and their french fries are triple cooked Idaho russets that are crispy to perfection.
The No Beef Burger – handmade and part of countless hours of recipe testing – has a black bean base, with vegetables, roasted cashews, feta, chipotles, lettuce, swiss cheese, chipotle mayo, Boetje’s Dutch style mustard, house made pickles, on a sesame bun. Even with the focus on the local beef, the veggie burger is hardly a throwaway dish (so many restaurants do this), it’s probably one of the best and most inventive veggie burger I’ve had.
They have five types of beef burgers, featuring the likes of their simple Butter Burger which is the burger straight up just on toasted white bread, or the Das Kraut with sauerkraut topped with grilled pineapple, housepickled jalapeno, swiss cheese, Boetje’s Dutch style spicy mustard on a sesame bun.
I love the homage to local, and Iowa because of our deep agricultural roots and the ingredients are high quality. The menu is straightforward, and they focus on doing those things just well, made from scratch and in house.
As they’re working on building up their cider business, they’ll press and make their own cider in back of the restaurant and in addition to food, they have a full bar serving a lot of local Iowa beer and cider, plus some favorites on tap.
They’ve kept elements of Ron’s Barber Shop, as an homage. On one wall, there are framed book covers hanging, from the used books Ron used to sell. An aged American flag hangs on one of the walls, and vintage lights hang from the ceiling. The wood bar they got from the salvage yard.
Right now, the four of them are hustling and running everything day in and day out, with just a cook (as additional full-time help) aiding them in their efforts. They’ve truly created an inclusive bar and restaurant that is welcoming to everyone, in the melting pot of Fairfield. From the moment they opened, they’ve been packed. If you haven’t been, consider driving through Fairfield to enjoy their delicious food, or sit at the rustic wood bar and enjoy a local cider. I know you won’t be disappointed.
102 North 2nd Street Fairfield, IA