Grandpa John's Cafe
Back in the fall, Don and I spent some time wandering around the small town of Nauvoo.
The town once had a longer name, Quashquema. But the Mormons bought the riverside town in 1839 and changed the name. Don and I decided we needed a little food to sit and absorb this history. We spotted Grandpa John's and gave it a try.
How could we resist a cafe that seemed to merge with an old movie theatre? And the name Grandpa John's was pretty homey.
Plus, the red letters on the marquee invited a little chuckle. NOW SHOWING LORD OF THE ONION RINGS! My kind of corny, food humor.
Hopping with Locals
At noon the place was busy with local diners, moving along the buffet line. There were a few large community tables, one of which was filled with a family of 10.
I guessed that was a Mormon family and I began to wonder how many of the 1,000+ residents are Mormon. I did see some Coke being served, so maybe not all!
Don and I could have boldly joined others at a large table, but how could we resist the cute wooden booths.
I'm guessing these might be original from when the cafe opened in 1918 as Kraus Cafe and Confectionary.
I went for the buffet, which gave an option of All You Can Eat, or One Main Course & 2 Sides. Since my clothes always get tight on a road trip, I went for the lesser.
I kind of enjoyed my meatloaf with corn casserole, salad and potato bread! Don's tuna salad was pretty decent as well. Why didn't we go all out and have...
...Ice Cream or Beer?
We should have ordered ice cream or beer, in honor of John A. Kraus, the original owner. He came to Nauvoo as a business man in 1912, making cigars. He ended up making ice cream, using cream from local cows and ice from the Mississippi River.
After opening the cafe, he got a liquor and beer license and brought in some billiard tables. The movie theatre (behind the left side of the cafe) didn't go in until 1950.
In 1987 the cafe changed its name to Grandpa John's Cafe, after the original owner.
It wasn't clear to me if family still owns this little restaurant, but I did hear a grandpa story from a woman who worked at the cafe.
She told me that when she was a little girl, her grandpa took her to the cafe and they sat on the stools so she could have ice cream.
She laughed to let me know her grandpa didn't have ice cream. He had a little beer instead. She said the movie theatre still opens for special shows at Christmas and Halloween.
What a fun step back in time.
A Return Visit
Sometimes you have a dream-like memory of a place and you're not even sure if you just imagined it.
An Old Photo
But I knew from this 20-year old photo, that I really did once visit Diamond Mineral Springs. My kids don't remember. And my dear mom is gone, now. But Mom was the one who was giddy about the place and took the kids and me on a Sunday adventure to eat at the old place with the wood porch and screened doors.
Fall of 2014
So when Don and I were traveling along the Mississippi River last fall, I hoped we might be able to find it. We did and they still served family style meals on Sundays! The porch and doors looked just like I remembered!
Past the Pies
We arrived right after they opened their doors, to assure getting a table. We walked past quite the pie display on the way to our seat!
The window tables looked inviting, since the windows were actually open and letting in a fresh fall breeze, but we couldn't resist a booth!
Thanks for Not Changing!
I just wanted to go up and hug someone for not replacing these old wooden booths. Owners over the years may have been tempted, but someone was good enough to just leave history alone! Look carefully and you'll see a hook on the wall trim, to hold the table up for floor cleaning! The table was so narrow, the plate setting had to be staggered. And just look at the rounded, pew-like benches... and coat racks!
Empty For a Moment
The peaceful dining room began to fill up with after church crowds fairly quickly. Don and I studied the chalkboard above our booth, but ended up asking our young server for suggestions.
Our server suggested his favorite, the walleye. Don went for that and I got the traditional fried chicken. That already is a ridiculous amount of food, since it wasn't even noon!
First came the pickled beets and coleslaw. Then my 4 pieces of chicken and Don's 4 fillets of fish served on slices of white bread! There were green beans with onion and pork and mashed potatoes (with lumps that I like) and white gravy.
There were massive biscuits served with apple butter, which had teeny slivers of apple peel! We stuffed ourselves while the warm breezes and diners began to fill the room.
A Little For the Road
We had no room for any of the amazing pies. And we would have needed a bigger carry out container had we been able to take ALL the food we weren't able to finish. But we were on a road trip and we figured we could at least take a couple biscuits with us. And when we ate those biscuits later, I grinned and said, "I'm so glad that place was just how I remembered it!" Don smiled and said, "I wish we had taken some of that apple butter with us!"
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.