“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.
Wielding a wooden spoon, copper kettle, and century-old recipes, The Chocolate Haus handcrafts an array of tasty goodies from natural, preservative-free ingredients. Visitors gaze through a wide glass partition as the chocolaterie’s signature fudge, in flavors such as old-fashioned chocolate, rocky road, or vanilla pecan, is mixed from scratch. Patrons can lend these three together in a custom box ($23) or explore other realms of temptation with a half-pound of ganache-filled cappuccino truffles ($12) or chocolate-coated s’mores ($21). The shop's well-known walking sticks, featuring a pretzel rolled in caramel, coated in pecans, and dipped in milk chocolate, call to adventure-seeking taste buds ($21). For dentists who practice what they preach, The Chocolate Haus boasts a hefty collection of sugar-free treats, ranging from almond butter crunch ($11) to milk chocolate-, pecan-, and caramel-filled turtles ($11).
From behind a frozen granite slab, the staff of Cold Stone Creamery uses twin spatulas to blend custom servings of ice cream and creative mix-ins to fit customers’ exact specifications. Founded by Donald and Susan Sutherland in 1988, Cold Stone began under the hot Arizona sun, eventually spreading its frosty fingers to encompass more than 1,400 locations worldwide. Despite the size of the company, each location’s staff keeps up the handcrafted quality, making ice cream onsite every day and using those signature spatulas to create delicious pointillist art against the freezer wall.
Yotopia’s self-serve machines swirl out a rotating lineup of probiotic-packed treats, which are available in gluten-free, dairy-free, and sugar-free options and await customizable spoonfuls of candy and fruit toppings. Patrons can dispense silky ribbons of red velvet or chocolate yogurt from an arsenal of silver apparatuses.