“I really enjoy the people and their warmth,” Gary Scott told a reporter for the North Liberty Leader. “They are so friendly here.” Scott was speaking about the locals in Ely, where his eponymous restaurant--Scott’s Sandwich Cafe--just moved. From this new location, Scott and his staff continue to combine fresh ingredients atop grilled ciabatta, marble rye, and wheat-berry bread, but now hand their creations to neighbors instead of mall-goers. Their mouthwatering sandwiches create a lunchtime rush as workers unplug computer cords from their foreheads and head to the intimate café for medleys of roasted pork, smoked ham, and honey mustard or grilled chicken and bleu cheese. Also popular are Scott’s new twists on old favorites, such as a grilled PB&J or a classic Reuben enlivened with turkey. In addition to sandwiches, the café dishes up quesadillas and salads, and its ice cream and smoothies keep customers cool on summer days filled with walking over coals.
It's not easy to find blue marlin, bright-red ahi tuna, and Japanese yellowtail in North Liberty, Iowa. But that doesn't stop the chefs at Kyodai Japanese Grill, who fly in fresh fish from Hawaii every week to star in their creative sushi rolls. The chefs work at an open sushi bar, where they prepare their rolls in front of a captive audience. That said, they often find themselves competing for attention with their counterparts who dice, flip, and cook shrimp and steak over at the hibachi grills.
The Depot Express delights hungering tongue buds with a smorgasbord of specialty pies, as well as a slew of toppings for persnickety pizza patrons to create their own. The menu boasts belly-please combinations, such as the omelette breakfast pizza, adorned with egg, green pepper, onion, mushroom, canadian bacon, and the lactic duo of cheddar and mozzarella cheeses (12" for $12.99), and the supreme pizza, blanketed with beef, sausage, pepperoni, onion, mushroom, black olive, and green pepper (14" for $14.99). The barbecue-sauce-slathered cowboy ranch variety loads on the meat ($16" for $16.99), while the taco pie dons a disguise of refried beans, ground beef, and piñata-shaped tortilla chips to hide from pizza-centric crime syndicates (12" for $12.99). Dough-based artists can create a meal masterpiece with traditional toppers, as well as more exotic trappings, such as fajita chicken, pickles, and sauerkraut ($10.99+). Individual pizza slices are perfect for light snacking before deep-space diving expeditions ($1.98).
Motley Cow creates hearty comestibles crafted with ingredients sourced as close to Johnson County as possible, a practice which allows the chefs confidence in the quality and lower carbon footprint of their ingredients. Despite being in a larger space, Motley Cow's décor replicates the intimacy and character of its original location with warm red lamps, quirky used objects or materials from the surrounding area, and a parade of singing giraffes outside the grounds every half-hour. Motley Cow's menu delights patrons with a roster of dishes that changes with regard to the seasons and availability. Whet your appetite on house-marinated olives ($2.50/$4.50) or a cup of white bean and bacon soup ($3.50/$7). Locality becomes particularly succulent in the world of entrees: dine on a roasted ruby trout next to grilled spinach and a barley salad with yam, parsley, and pistachios ($19), or a grilled pork chop escorted by seared polenta, queso fresco, and roasted tomatillo salsa ($18). Desserts include a spiced apple biscuit with walnuts, poached cherries, and cream ($6) and a spicy cardamom funnel cake ($7.50).
When looking for a quiet spot, customers turn to The High Ground Cafe. Whether seated on the patio or in the airy cafe, they can set up shop with their computer, a cup of fair trade Kickapoo Coffee Roaster brew, and a light snack. The menu includes plenty of tasty offerings, such as the flavorful turkey mango sandwich or a cup of Italian wedding soup.