St. Louis to Dubuque: Cheesy Poofs and Frozen Fud’s

The drive from St. Louis (well, Kimswick, if you opt to start out super fat and uncomfortable) is just as you’d expect; flat, green, fairly boring; canvassed by Missouran crops which eventually fade into fields of corn.

Our drive was filled only with the sounds of talk radio as the four of us struggled to not die of the meat sweats, each with our individual and silent pleas to our bodies; please, quickly process the effects of the Blue Owl Café; please, replace the painful feeling of indulgence with a tinge of hunger.

About four hours in, we were ready, peeling off into East Peoria, IL, in search of the Silver Bullet, where a yelp search told us we could find a beer.

The Silver Bullet was just about what one would expect of an off-freeway town in the Midwest, generic facade, located in a strip mall, high traffic carpeted, beer sign bedazzled.


Per usual, we were greeted by what seemed to be a lively conversation amongst patrons dropping into dead silence, accompanied by an unabashed physical assessment of the four of us, followed by slow head rolls toward the TV and more awkward silence.

Admittedly, that tinge of hunger never did quite arrive, but that didn’t stop us from ordering tenderloin sliders


and mushrooms


both of which were as lackluster, dry, and shitty as expected. Let’s just say if you are on the road between St. Louis and Dubuque, there is no need to stop in Peoria for a visit to the Silver Bullet.

Eventually, we came to Eldridge, where we made another stop at Al and Gerry’s tap, a bar full of mulleted, hoodie wearing grandma’s, drinking and playing cards to give their hands something to do as they talked shit about the townspeople.


Once again, a thick blanket of silence descended, as each salty old lady conspicuously took in the likes of us; eventually returning to their game of Pepper, waiting patiently for us to leave so they could discuss and digest our presence in their town.

The bartenders were friendly as can be, serving up shots in the now familiar but nontheless perplexing specimen cup format. Extra waste, less dishes, I guess.


the snack options were of the bagged chip variety. We opted for cheesy poofs and for the second time that day I was in a culinary state of ecstasy as I was introduced to my very first but most certainly not my last, Kettle Kurl., the poofiest, cheesiest, champion of cheesy, poofy, snacks.


Once we reached Dubuque, we made a series of bad choices. Our hotel, a Best Western or Embassy Suites or something along those lines, was located on Dodge st, a soulless, wide, heavily trafficked, motel lined, main road. The Giants were mid-game, so we dropped in to Champps Americana, the depressing sports/hotel bar next door to see them through


Where we chewed on a cruddy plate of wings and drank extra large pints of cruddy American beer


Bonus for this place, it was lousy with TV’s, and the bartender was great; minus for this place, it could have been in any hotel in any city in the country.

At the games end, we caught a cab (there are like two cabs in Dubuque, beware) to the Copper Kettle for dinner, which a) had a TV so we could have just gone there direct, and b) had just closed. The CK was charming as all get out, and by all accounts, arguably the best restaurant in Dubuque. Regret began to set in, fingers were pointed, and blame assigned as we began to turn on one another in frustration.

Disscourged, and in the middle of a residential neighborhood with no access to another cab, we walked. Dubuque is a really, really, REALLY sweet and charming town. I couldn’t tell you the style in which the homes are built except to say that they conjured thoughts of the 1950’s American dream, wood, multistoried affairs with large lawns and American flags, one after another, after another, along wide, tree lined streets.

Eventually, we located a gas station, called a cab, and were taken back to the Champps Americana (sigh), where the previously mentioned great bartender advised on late night eats. The Dog House Lounge, he said, was a late night industry spot. Another cab ride later (and a torture session at the hands of a bad joke telling, magic trick loving cab driver) and we were entering the DHL, a real deal Midwestern dive bar, complete with wood paneling and cracked pleather bar stools, pool tables, cluttered walls, and plenty of neon.


Of course, no entry into a Midwest bar by an outsider comes without a stink eyeing, and this place was no exception. Yes, that happeneded in every. single. bar. on. this. trip. We came to accept, and in some ways delight in it, fairly quickly.

The Dog House’s bar is outfitted with both a grill and a sweet little broiler (adorable, seriously) from which they crank out burgers and other previously frozen treats. Our order yielded a basket of frozen Costco taco’s, with their grossly delicious mix of crispiness, chewiness, and grease, accompanied by yet another specimen cup, this one filled with jarred salsa.


And this burger, which had an interesting taste…like fish sauce. Turns out that’s what rotten meat smells/tastes like.


This would be Jake’s finest “I just bit into a rotten burger” face.


We would try again in the morning.

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