Big Grove Iowa City

For all of yall that aren't in the Iowa City area - let me fill ya in....downtown IC is constantly growing. Every time I find myself heading that way, there is something being constructed. Usually I'm only semi-curious, however when I heard Big Grove was opening up a location in Iowa City, I was more than just curious - I was pumped. Time had gone by and in all honesty, I forgot it was happening until the day had come that it was open.

Let me start off by telling you this place is beautiful & huge. Formally a warehouse, space is not a problem, plus there are pingpong tables to pass the time as well as a killer stage for live bands. I mean can we talk about that wood wall & graphic - LOVE IT! 

I went for the PRALINES & RICHARD (10.5% abv - oops) and it was perfection. It's described as: Richard the Whale with roasted pecans and almonds combine with the vanilla from the barrel. That's how you get our play on a famous ice cream flavor. 

The food set up is a little different based off of international street food. You also go up to order & pay for food and then receive a buzzer to know when your food is ready. I can imagine there will be some haters about this - but I am a major fan. 

We wanted to try a bit of everything so we went for - chips & guac, pollo chipotle & pork belly tacos, & the pastrami sandwich (House made pastrami, swiss cheese, sauerkraut, thousand island, rye bread)

The tacos - top: pollo chipotle tacos (Roasted chicken thigh, chipotle sauce, pepitas, cojita cheese, white onion, cilantro wrapped in a housemade corn tortilla) & bottom: pork belly tacos (crispy Pork belly, adobo, slow simmered salsa verde, grilled pineapple, white onion, & cilantro wrapped in a housemade corn tortilla)

Holy Hell - these were good. The pollo chipotle was just a tad spicy for Ethan & I since we have very baby spice levels. The pork belly was unreal though - so flavorful. Also, I love the corn tortillas, they were thin but held everything together and obviously home made. 

The guac & pastrami sandwich :  (House made pastrami, swiss cheese, sauerkraut, thousand island, rye bread)

Guacamole is self explanatory - but it was damn good. The pastrami (which we were interested in because the house made pastrami at Big Grove Solon is AMAZING) was so good. I usually stay away from things with swiss and sauerkraut but this gooey mess was worth every single bite. 

I can't wait for the summer where beers & outdoors are what fill my day to day. this will definitely be a new hot spot for me, as well as many people in iowa city. 

Tacopocalypse

You can't quite call it a hole in the wall, but it's also not the biggest showstopper...but their food is. 

I was off to Des Moines to work the Iowa State Fair - now most people would be eager to get to the fair and have a fried frenzy of the day, however that is not what I was looking to do. I am fortunate enough to have a good work friend (James)that seems to love food almost as much as I do and we both decided, if we are going to DSM we are going to get some damn good food. 

Walking into Tacopocalypse, its nothing special - some cool art on the walls, walk up to order, serve yourself drink station, and you have to go through the kitchen to get to the bathroom. Of course I had looked at the menu before and planned on getting the taco bowl - a little boring, but I had a full day ahead. Thank goodness for my foodie co-worker, as we sat down he told me he ordered the ginger beef burrito & the Korean pork masa fries to share. Not quite sure what to expect, I was excited. 

First dropped off was my Korean chicken taco boat with a fried egg on top....

It was not only beautiful but delicious. I may be a little biased because I would probably eat anything with a fried egg on top, but the flavor of the chicken really came out to play too. 

Next was James' Ginger Beef Burrito...

They definitely use some magic when it comes to their presentation. It may have been a little daunting in size, but James powered through. Don't worry, he let me sneak in a bite or two. Being a ginger lover (the root, not the hair), I was pleasantly surprised that the ginger flavor was the lasting flavor after these bites. 

Last, but most definitely NOT least were the the Korean Pork Masa Fries...

Holy hell...I still think this may be one of the best things I have ever tasted in my life. The fattiness from the pork, the spicy from the asian dressing, the cool from the slaw, the creamy from the cheese sauce, and the texture from the masa fries. HOME. RUN. I just can't. 

All in all, I am obsessed. So if anybody needs a ride to Des Moines, I'm your girl. You can pay me in Tacopocalypse. 

BLUES & BBQ

Living in the Iowa City area means there is almost always something going on. If there isn't a Hawkeye event, you can bet that there is something else you can find to do. That being said, living here for almost 6 years (with a 9 month absence) it was time for me to pay my dues and actually start participating in the great things this community has to offer. This leads us to North Liberty's Blues & BBQ Festival

From the beginning, I was surprised by the size of this event, I was expecting our typical Iowa City ped mall festivals - I was wrong. You are instantly greeted with endless blow up slides & obstacle courses and a petting zoo. I apologize for the lack of atmosphere pictures, I was there for one reason and I wasn't about to waste my time on a cute goat...I wanted the BBQ.  

I made the suggestion that we take a lap before deciding on where we were going to get our grub. It was great to see the IC local, Mosley's , with a smoker that would put many to shame...I knew my dad was jealous. Although I knew I could get some great meat from their tent, I couldn't allow myself to do that when it's down the street from me. 

Luckily, I had Ethan with me so we could get a few things and sample throughout the day. 

Round one: Waffle Bowl from Honeybadger BBQ and brisket sandwich from Cynful Smokers .

The waffle bowl was unique with a fried waffle bowl, baked beans, pulled pork & topped with slaw. The brisket sandwich is pretty self explanatory. I would say the winner was the brisket sandwich. The waffle bowl had great flavor, but was attractive more for its uniqueness rather than its great smoked bbq flavor. The brisket sandwich was killer - great thick cuts of brisket and the soft bun was a great combo. 

Festival lemonade is always a winner, especially when its 80 & sunny with zero breeze. We got refills anddd our dosage of sugar for the week. 

Round two: pulled pork nachos from Honeybadger BBQ (again) and ribs & beans from Smoke-N-Grill on Wheels. 

The nachos served stadium style, topped with the same pulled pork as the waffle bowl & sauce. The ribs & beans were easy but solid. Once again, the meat was the winner. The ribs were fall off the bone good & a good bbq bean combo always makes me go weak in the knees. 

Don't worry, we didn't forget about the beer. I was so enamored by the beer options & tent in general. I'm a beer snob so no Bud or Miller in site was great for me. I'm not gonna lie, I wanted the most bang for my buck so I went with the 7.0% Reunion Brewery IPA & E went for the Firetrucker Brigade Ale. Both were great, I could have sat and sampled all the beers from the tent all day...they didn't let you do that, I'm just saying that I could.  

Our efforts were strong but the BBQ and beers got the best of us and we tapped out & surrendered  to our beds with Netflix instead of Blues. 

Overall, it was n awesome time. The atmosphere was great, the food options were endless, the beer selection was on point, and the music was perfection. We were treated to some great covers from this guy who could jam on his guitar, rock a harmonica, and had a killer voice under the beer tent. we missed on the blues later, but going off of all the snap stories the greatness of music carried on seamlessly throughout the night. The only thing that would have made this day better was if my parents were there. Dave would have been in pure heaven with the beers & bbq and Cindi would have been dancing the night away to the blues. 

Let's just say Blues & BBQ will be on my calendar next year.