As a fun slideshow demonstrates, The Little Chocolatier’s staff hand makes an array of treats that fall into four categories: candy, chocolates, nuts, and popcorn. Their handmade chocolates pack white boxes with slabs of english toffee, nut clusters, and mint fluffs spread across trays of assorted chocolates. The team also fills bags with fresh-popped popcorn covered in caramel and cheddar.
Sometimes the most satisfying meals are the simplest. Leaf Kitchen's cubano sandwich, for example, a semi-regular special with braised pork and melted swiss, was so good that it inspired Little Village's Scott Samuelson to declare, "a part of me [wanted] to check into some private room to be alone with my sandwich and its sauces." And this isn't the only dish that the restaurant's chefs effortlessly elevate. Their rustic cooking spans breakfast and lunch, ranging from sweet and savory crepes to grilled chicken-club sandwiches, focusing on sustainability as well as simplicity. Meals make use of locally sourced produce and meats, and even the coffee is an exclusive blend crafted by a certified organic, fair-trade roaster.
While the cuisine at Leaf Kitchen is minimalistic in design, the dining space is anything but. Midwest Living praised it by remarking that the "eclectic more-is-more interior offers so much to take in that you may not know where to look first." Servers flit among wood and formica tables set with mismatched dinnerware and clustered with turquoise stools and canary-yellow chairs. These vibrant touches find their complement in a retro-inspired soundtrack of jazz, soul, and world music, which gets knees bouncing without the spring-loaded floorboards used by other restaurants.
The cooks at Quinton's Bar & Deli know the ingredients that make a good Reuben?corned beef, sauerkraut, melted Swiss, and housemade dressing. But they also know the Reuben's extended family, which is why their menu has a section entirely devoted to the sandwich. The Rachel exchanges corned beef for turkey, whereas the Patsy switches in grilled navel pastrami. They can even combine two or three of the meats to create a Combo Reuben with twice the cheese.
Sandwiches in general happen to be the deli's bread and butter. Their most popular is the TAC, which stands for turkey, avocado, and cream cheese. Other options include the beef and brie, whose house-seasoned roast beef is covered with imported cheese, and the Aloha chicken, stacked with grilled pineapple and served in the pocket of a Hawaiian shirt. Burgers make an appearance as well, featuring hand-shaped patties from Bud's Meat in Riverside, Iowa.
And if you'd like some soup with your sandwich, Quinton's serves up the combo with a twist, ladling the soup inside bread bowls. A sizable selection of beers, wines, and spirits?including cocktails with homemade ginger beer?wash down bites.
Sparti's Gyros certainly celebrates its namesake. But like a Greek myth where Zeus is replaced by Mike Ditka, the menu brings together Mediterranean and Midwest culture, listing Maxwell Street Polishes and Chicago-style hot dogs alongside plates of spanikopita and saganaki. Guests can also garnish their meals with creamy homemade tzaziki sauce, and cap off Greek-American feasts with sweet, flaky baklava.
The quaint lavender home in rural Shueyville is hard to miss. When Lauren Cannon bought the place in 2004, her friends encouraged her to open a hardware or grocery store, but, according to Examiner.com, her passion for wine flowered into The Secret Cellar instead. The Cellar—a homespun boutique specializing in high-end wines—extends its stock of craft libations to handpicked beers, liquors, and artisanal cheeses.
As patrons peruse, fragrant tendrils of smoke ascend from Iowa–made soy candles, undulating across the store's stained-glass sign and idyllic outdoor wine garden. Lauren leans on her olfactory expertise to lend helpful recommendations and, as an instructor during classes, pair sips of classic varietals with activities such as dancing, painting, and reverse-engineering wine into grapes.
Over a career that spans more than 20 years, owner and photographer Michael Ask has captured key moments in clients’ lives with striking, professional portraits of families, couples, children, and high-school seniors. Michael’s experience gives him the confidence to offer a “no nonsense” 100% guarantee—if customers do not like their finished portraits, Heartscape Studio will refund their money—and pay them an additional $20 for their trouble. He creates what he calls a "journey" for his clients by beginning every portrait session with a complimentary ideas consultation to review the client's hope for the shoot. Michael also advises clients on the most effective clothes and locations for their photo sessions, considering factors such as lighting, color, and whether portraits will be displayed after Labor Day. He is able to place his subjects at ease during the actual shoot, and he carefully retouches images to make his clients look their absolute best.