Eating Iowa: Paul’s Tavern, Fried Perch and the Parkade

It was morning in Dubuque, and I sat, bleary eyed and full of rotten burger, in the absurd atrium of whatever motel we slept in


Sipping on this



Downtown, we were treated to our first daytime view of the city, heavy with brick and greenery, perched along the banks of the lovely Missisip.


A little bit of research revealed that any true lover of dive bars would be remiss to leave Dubuque without a visit to Paul’s Tavern, located just off the main square by the Town Clock (erected, 1873; moved to current location 1971).


Paul’s more than delivered, providing an atmospheric punch loaded with taxidermied animal heads in odd, pastel neon lit, glass cases


vintage clocks and hanging light fixtures, booths and bar


Much like the Dogpound Lounge of the previous night, Paul’s back bar is equipped with an adorable grill and broiler


where their famed cheeseburger is cooked up, at 3.15 per.


no joke, Paul’s burgers are killer. Simple, and killer, smash patty style, one slice of American cheese, warmed, not melted, a sweet, room temperature, bun, sliced onion placed UNDER the patty, bathing in meat juices.


Oh, did I mention the gruff bartender that served it to us? atmospheric spice, him.

The burger was so delicious, in fact, that we could not leave Paul’s without also sampling the ham sandwich


Some nicely browned pieces of ham steak, lightly griddled onions, the same sweet bun, the same slightly warmed American cheese. I would have set up a cot and spent the night eating sandwiches and burgers in Paul’s, could I have, and no return trip to my husband’s home town of Waterloo will come without repeat visits.

An hour or so later, we made our arrival in the small town of Evansdale Iowa, fried fish sandwich mecca and home of my in-laws. They know that we can only stand about a half hour of waiting before a trip to the Cedar Valley Fish Market must be made


for a hearty dose of their fabulous fried perch sandwich. Other options, do, of course, exist:


On this day, with all four members of our eating crew present, we went big, with an order of six fish sando’s and four sides


Fried perch on a sweet role with a critically hearty dose of mayo, up close and personal


With it, more mayonnaise; in fact, all things mayonnaise, from pickled peas, to potato salad, to coleslaw, and then, a bowl of meaty baked beans, for moderations sake.


Afterwards, a digestion trip to the bar next door, Babe’s, with its slightly terrifying in an “American History X” kind of way, facade


The old Midwestern stink eye, in progress:


The topic du jour at Babe’s was the best age at which to start drawing social security, the amount each patron was drawing per month, and, once our hometown was revealed, what a perplexing place Chinatown is, with what must be rotten duck hanging in the windows.

That night, a visit to the Parkade, otherwise known as Cedar Fall’s happening downtown, a five block long strip of bars, shops and restaurants. First up, the Pump Haus,, a place that offers every variety of sweet vodka drink imaginable, but has not one bartender or server who has heard of vodka up, which led to Randi and I being served room temperature vodka in martini glasses. 😦 Moving on.

Whiskey Road is a newish installment


a large sports bar/brewery type place ( I would guess they bill themselves as a gastro pub) where some of the tables are outfitted with beer taps (no idea how that all works).

For the first time in days, vegetables were an option; turns out the kale salad phenomenon has finally made its way all the way to small town Iowa


Randi and I ordered the BLT salad with the best of intentions, but in the end, it just meant that we ate a bowl of candied bacon and fried chick peas, dressed in ranch


With a side of sugar crusted bread


and steamed asparagus, which tasted like manna from heaven


Post dinner, a visit to the Landmark,, which offered a respectably tasty selection of craft beer


The Parkade has all of the hallmarks of a small town trying to be a big town, predictable menus and sweet cocktails among them, but at least they are trying, and, thumbs up to veggies and craft beer.

Late night, across town, this:


One Comment

  1. rhodisf

    Next time a must stop is Mulgrew’s Tavern. A total dive bar attached to a liquor store on the East side of the mighty Mississippi. Here you will find a fabulous American favorite: the Foot Long Chili Dog. You order it right from the bar and eat it with your choice of libation. I have been going there since the 80’s. It’s in East Dubuque, so as you are leaving Galena, headed towards the Mississippi, you find it at: 244 Sinsinawa Ave, East Dubuque, IL 61025. It is well worth the stop. Check them out on Facebook:
    and/or Yelp:

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