Hotel Grinnell:  Former junior high school earns an A+

Hotel Grinnell: Former junior high school earns an A+

Once a junior high school, Hotel Grinnell is a chic and modern luxury hotel that has earned an A+ in our grade book. Located just an hour’s drive east of Des Moines, Iowa, Hotel Grinnell melds its literal old school history with innovative designs and amenities for today’s contemporary traveler.

Hotel Grinnell Iowa desk and blackboard

Each room comes with a desk, blackboard, and chalk. The hotel encourages guests to use them.

A visit to the principal’s office

We had the pleasure of being hosted for a complimentary night by Hotel Grinnell. We met owner/operator Angela Harrington in the lobby when we arrived for our tour and stay. The former principal’s office was our first stop. Having been a principal himself, Steve found this bright and cheerful room a far cry from the stressful space where he spent his days reviewing school budgets and disciplining ill-behaved middle schoolers.

Once the principal's office, this guest room is now chic and modern.

Once the principal’s office, this guest room is now a chic and modern retreat. We just loved the locker room bench at the end of the bed.

Featuring a king-sized bed with a modern steel frame the former principal’s office is now a luxurious place to relax and unwind. Harrington salvaged the maple floors throughout the hotel and, while refinished, they still show signs of students’ foot traffic and scratches from moving desks.

Hotel Grinnell Iowa hallway

Wide hallways that once held slamming locker doors and excited tweens are now calm, serene places to sit and relax.

Old school theme

We made our way down the long, wide hallways visiting several of the 45 guest rooms. Harrington shared the history of the building and her dream of making it a hotel. She moved to Grinnell in 2009 to lead the city’s Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center. When she arrived, she made her first objective to attract a hotel and event center to town. With this project, she made it happen, while preserving the history of this iconic building.

Hotel Grinnell Iowa bunk room

Each of the former locker rooms has been turned into a bunk room that sleeps 10. They are great for travel sports teams or a a fun retreat for birthday slumber parties and bachelorettes.

There are nods to the building’s school history throughout. Guests receive room keys in a “hall pass” sleeve and neck ties serve as do not disturb signals on the doors.

Hotel guests are given their room keys in a "hall pass" sleeve as a nod to the building's history as a school.

Hotel guests are given their room keys in a “hall pass” sleeve as a nod to the building’s history as a school.

The Periodic Table at Hotel Grinnell

A space appropriately named The Periodic Table serves as the hotel’s bar and small plates eatery.

Hotel Grinnell Iowa Periodic Table

The Periodic Table is a comfortable place to sit, relax, and unwind.

Hotel Grinnell Iowa breakfast area

The breakfast area of the Periodic Table in the Hotel Grinnell.

The on-site bar is a far cry from what once was the cafeteria. The Periodic Table now offers a full bar and unique, handcrafted cocktails like a “Kinetic Energy” and “Spontaneous Combustion.”

Hotel Grinnell Iowa games

A large Scrabble board is just one of the fun games available in the lounge area of The Periodic Table.

Indoor seating and lounge space abound. Guests and the public also have access to an outdoor patio space featuring a small stage for live music and fire pits.

History of Hotel Grinnell

Built in 1921, the building served as a public school until the 70s when it was closed and gifted to the City of Grinnell. For years, it housed city offices but much of the building was underutilized. In 2012, Harrington had the idea of purchasing the old school and turning it into a luxury hotel. It took her five years to secure funding and architectural plans but once she did, it took only 11 months to renovate.

Hotel Grinnell Iowa Penthouse Suite seating area

The seating area in the Penthouse Suite is sleek, modern, and comfortable.

Hotel Grinnell opened in September 2017 and has quickly become a popular destination hotel. It has also attracted dozens of brides, grooms, and wedding parties. Its sexy and sophisticated penthouse suite has a private dressing room and salon that is perfect for the big day.

Hotel Grinnell Iowa Penthouse Suite

Inside the sexy and sophisticated penthouse suite at Hotel Grinnell. The room features a canopy bed and an oversized bath with a heated soaking tub for two.

Gymnasium now a ball room

A step inside the former gymnasium that now serves as a ballroom brought back memories of junior high school for me. I could easily envision my classmates and me lifting parachute or gliding across the glossy wooden floor on scooters.

Hotel Grinnell Iowa ballroom

The hotel’s ballroom is in the former gym.

The old school’s auditorium got a facelift as well. It now sports new, black seating and a center aisle which make it a perfect place for a conference speaker, concert, or wedding.

Eco-friendly and lots of amenities

We should also note that Harrington thoughtfully designed guest rooms and public spaces to be comfortable and eco-friendly. Fresh air is piped into rooms continuously from the outdoors and beds are dressed with Egyptian Cotton luxury sheets from Parachute.

Our room at Hotel Grinnell used to be the junior high school library. We loved the huge window and comfortable bed.

Our room at Hotel Grinnell used to be part of the junior high school library. We loved the huge window and comfortable bed.

Hotel Grinnell has taken care of little details to make your stay special. They provide handy charging stations on each bedside table and counter-high desks that can be used for work or dinner. They also have bicycles available to tool around town.

The folks at Hotel Grinnell thought of everything when it comes to amenities and cleverly display them in a "primer" notebook.

The folks at Hotel Grinnell thought of everything when it comes to amenities and cleverly display them in a “primer” notebook.

The wide array of art that adorns the walls also impressed us. Harrington told us that there nearly 300 pieces of art displayed in the hotel and no two are the same.

Angela Harrington tells Steve about the unique art she selected for each room.

Angela Harrington tells Steve about the unique art she selected for each room.

As travel writers, we spend dozens of nights in hotel rooms each year and Hotel Grinnell has certainly been one of our favorites. In addition to the uniqueness of the building and luxurious guest rooms, the staff at Hotel Grinnell are at the top of their class. With hearts like teachers and friendly smiles, they take great care of their guests and are a big reason Hotel Grinnell earned an A+ in our grade book.


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Hotel Grinnell in Iowa


While our one-night stay at Hotel Grinnell was complimentary and we were compensated for this post, the opinions are our own. To book your stay at Hotel Grinnell, CLICK HERE or call 641.236.9250

We learned how to make risotto with The Chef & The Dish

We learned how to make risotto with The Chef & The Dish

We’ve always wanted to learn how to make risotto. So, when The Chef & The Dish reached out to us (read more about that HERE) and offered us a complimentary cooking class where we’d learn how to make risotto not just one, but two ways, the answer was a definite yes! We invited our friends and fellow foodies, Jeff and Ciana Cloud to join us. Not only do they enjoy cooking (and eating), but Jeff is also a professional photographer. He was gracious enough to document our culinary experience so I could focus on cooking. Many Jeff Cloud Photography photographs are featured in this post.

Both couples cooking with The Chef & The Dish

Left: Our friends Jeff and Ciana Cloud came to cook with us (right).

The Chef & The Dish cooking class

Our cooking class began with introductions. Coming to us from her small village near Milan, Italy, Chef Paola was eager to learn a little bit about us and asked about our favorite Italian dishes. She went on to give us little history of each dish we’d mentioned, and then began to tell us about training as a chef, the region in Italy from which she was teaching us, and the significance of the dishes we were about to make.

Chef Paola The Chef & The Dish

During our lesson, Chef Paola taught us a little bit about her hometown in Italy.

The five of us spent more than 20 minutes just talking and it was so helpful to get to know our teacher a bit and learn about her village, as well as the history of the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese we were about to use in all of our dishes.

Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese The Chef & The Dish

The star of the show, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Note the distinctive dots on the rind that show it is authentic. (Photo by Jeff Cloud)

Dessert first

Then, it was time to get cooking. We poured four glasses of Prosecco (our course) and got work. First, we tackled dessert – a poached pear filled with a lemon and ricotta filling, topped with honey, walnuts, thyme, and of course, finely grated Parmigiano- Reggiano cheese.

Pears for The Chef & The Dish

Clockwise: Bosc pears in the store, Steve zests a lemon under the watchful eye of chef Paola, spices for the poached pears,  cut and cored pears before poaching.

Chef Paola taught us how to properly peel and zest the lemon. She also gave us specific instructions on how to core the Bosc pears and open the tiny pods of cardamom seeds.

The Chef & The Dish poached pears

These are pears we made a few weeks later for a dinner party at our house. See, we learned!

Everything went into a pan and cooked for 15-20 minutes until the pears were cooked through and the liquid was syrupy (that’s a word, right?). Ciana mixed up the filling and put everything in the refrigerator. More on the dessert, later.

Fun with The Chef & the Dish

Chef Paola encouraged us to enjoy our time together and have fun. The experience was stress-free and everyone had a blast. (Photo by Jeff Cloud)

Tips for the best bruschetta

Next, while sipping Prosecco, we began assembling our Italian bruschetta. This is one of my favorite appetizers and something I’d made many times before. However, Chef Paola’s instructions were a bit different from what I’d normally done. Details she mentioned like toasting the bread until it was quite blackened, and not adding the olive oil until the very end, made all the difference.

The Chef and the Dish bruschetta

Ann, Ciana, and Steve work together to assemble the bruschetta. (Photo by Jeff Cloud)

Finished bruschetta with The Chef and the Dish

The finished bruschetta with the blackened toast and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese was the most authentic tasting we’ve had in the U.S. Yum! (Photo by Jeff Cloud)

How to make risotto

Then, it was on to the main dish – risotto. This is one of those dishes that I love ordering when we’re out for dinner at a fancy restaurant. It tastes so creamy and delicious and has always seemed way too complicated to cook at home. I was wrong. Check out this short video below of Chef Paola telling us how to make risotto.

Chef Paola included all of us in the cooking and walked us through making each dish one step at a time. She explained that we needed to treat the risotto like a baby. We were told to watch it constantly, don’t leave it alone, and give it water when it seems a bit dry. We followed all of her instructions, and even brought the pan closer to the computer camera once for Chef Paola to better see (without dumping it all over the keyboard).

Chef Paola olive oil

In addition to showing us how to make risotto, Chef Paola also gave us a lesson in the right way to taste olive oil. Much to Steve’s delight, it includes loud slurping. (Photo by Jeff Cloud)

Then, she invited one of us to try tossing the risotto in the pan to fluff it up. Steve volunteered (while I closed my eyes) and he did a great job tossing the creamy rice in the pan just like Chef Paola demonstrated from her home kitchen in Italy.

The Chef & The Dish Flipping risotto

Following Chef Paola’s instructions, Steve flips the risotto near the end of the cooking process. (Photos by Jeff Cloud)

Time to gather at the table

When the risotto was finished cooking, we each took a spoon and gave it a taste. It was amazing and none of us could believe we’d made it ourselves. Then, Chef Paola suggested giving our risotto a new twist. She had us put fresh strawberries in a blender and add the puree to the risotto.

We blended fresh strawberries just until they were all broken up and added them to the cheesy risotto.

We blended fresh strawberries just until they were all broken up and added them to the cheesy risotto. (Photo by Jeff Cloud)

We plated the risotto on one of our wedding china plates (we actually use them quite a bit) with a small depression in the center and patted the bottom just like a baby’s bottom to even it out on the plate. Next, we finished the dish with a few sprinkles of pureed strawberries and more finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Our finished strawberry risotto. (Photo by Jeff Cloud)

We all loved learning how to make risotto. (Photo by Jeff Cloud)

It was finally time to eat. We gathered around the table, gazing at the beautifully plated dishes and astonished that the four of us had made them. Of course we snapped a few photographs before we tasted our culinary masterpieces. They were all absolutely delicious.

Whole meal with The Chef & The Dish

The plated meal on the table included classic Italian bruschetta (on an olive board we bought in Italy this summer), strawberry risotto, and a poached pear dessert. All dishes featured Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. (Photo by Jeff Cloud)

Savoring every bite

We took our time savoring each bite of the meal and reminiscing about our cooking experience with The Chef & The Dish. All agreed that this video conference cooking class was one of the most unique and satisfying culinary experiences we’d ever had. While we are all confident we could recreate these dishes on our own (in fact, we did make the pears for a dinner party this week), the only thing better would be traveling to Italy and cooking it there. Someday.


While our culinary experience with The Chef & The Dish was complimentary, the opinions and newly gained cooking skills are our own. Thank you, Jeff Cloud, for the use of your fantastic photos! You can find Jeff on Facebook at Jeff Cloud Photography

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Learn how to make risotto and bruschetta with The Chef & The Dish

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The Chef & The Dish Skypes a chef right into your kitchen

The Chef & The Dish Skypes a chef right into your kitchen

The Chef & The Dish brings world-class chefs right into your kitchen and it couldn’t make me happier.

Lasting memories

I will never forget the taste of the beautifully presented, fruit covered waffle we had in Belgium or the spinach pie we learned how to make in Mykonos, Greece. If I think about it, I can almost taste the the paella Steve and I shared with our daughter, Meghan, on the square in Salamanca, Spain and the ricotta stuffed ravioli we prepared ourselves in Tuscany last summer.

A fruit covered waffle in Belgium, spinach pie in Greece, Paella in Spain, and ricotta stuffed ravioli in Tuscany.

A fruit covered waffle in Belgium, spinach pie in Greece, Paella in Spain, and ricotta stuffed ravioli in Tuscany.

Yes, I have a love affair with food. Trying new cuisine is one of my favorite things to do when we travel. And when we have the opportunity to learn how to prepare an authentic local dish, it becomes a fond and lasting memory of our time in that place.

We loved learning how to make pasta with Opera in the Kitchen while traveling through Tuscan in 2018.

We loved learning how to make pasta with Opera in the Kitchen while traveling through Tuscany in 2018.

So when we got an email from a company called The Chef & The Dish, I was instantly intrigued. The company was founded by Jenn Nicken, the former head of marketing for the entertainment division of Apple/iTunes in Canada who left to pursue her love of all things food and travel.


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Creating The Chef & The Dish

After traveling the world and tasting foods of each region, Jenn returned to Canada and put together the recipe for her own new business, The Chef & The Dish.

Jenn found her way into a chef's kitchen in Thailand and he taught her to make this colorful dish.

Jenn found her way into a chef’s kitchen in Thailand and he taught her to make this colorful dish. (Courtesy photo)

She created a company that brings world-class chefs into the home kitchens of people (like you and me) all over the world. Through the magic of the internet and video conferencing software called Skype, The Chef & The Dish connects its customers with a highly trained chef. She or he teaches you, step-by-step, how to create a specialty meal from her/his region.

The Chef & The Dish website

There are dozens of different cooking classes to choose from, including Hungarian goulash, traditional Spanish tapas, and okonomiyaki from Japan. The chefs may be home cooks, have Michelin stars or have been trained by their grandmothers. But they have all been selected for being great cooks as well as great teachers and effective communicators. And, they are fun!

We had the pleasure of taking a complimentary cooking class via Skype with Chef Paola Martinenghi who instructed us from her small village near Milan, Italy. We’ll write more on that, later.  For now, just know that she is FABULOUS!

Chef Paola Martinenghi was a phenomenal teacher, but she also made us laugh.

Chef Paola Martinenghi was a phenomenal teacher, and she also made us laugh.

How The Chef & The Dish works

First, let me tell you how this whole The Chef & The Dish thing works. The first step is to make sure you have a laptop or tablet (like an iPad or Samsung Galaxy). It needs sound, a built-in camera, and a high speed Internet connection. Second, you just visit The Chef & The Dish website a book a class online.

Booking a class with The Chef & The Dish is simple with easy to navigate online options.

Booking a class with The Chef & The Dish is simple with easy to navigate online options.

Cost of the classes begins at $299 for two people, which we found comparable to cooking classes we’ve taken abroad. Once they receive your booking, a kitchen assistant will contact you to set up a personal kitchen prep session. Our cooking assistant (Jenn herself) reviewed our shopping list with us, answered all our questions, and even helped us find the best camera angle for our online class.

We were fortunate that our kitchen assistant was none other then The Chef & The Dish Founder, Jenn Nicken.

We were fortunate that our kitchen assistant was none other then The Chef & The Dish Founder Jenn Nicken.

Preparing with a kitchen assistant

Before our video conference, Jenn emailed us a detailed grocery list and recommendations for kitchen supplies we’d need. She walked us through each list and even offered to call around to help us find specific ingredients for our recipes. Jenn also explained how our cooking class would work and what to expect from Paola. By the end of our video conference, we felt well-prepared for our culinary experience.

Steve selects a piece of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese at Whole Foods.

Steve selects a piece of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese at Whole Foods.

Several days before our class, we did all of our grocery shopping and were easily able to find everything we needed. Next, we prepped our kitchen with all of the necessary pans and mixing bowls. We also made sure we had a bottle of Prosecco chilling in the fridge because drinking wine while cooking just seemed to make it a little more Italian.

Some of the dry ingredients we purchased for our Italian cooking class.

Some of the dry ingredients we purchased for our Italian cooking class.

On the day of our cooking class, we gathered all of our supplies in the kitchen, and set up our computer. Then, at the appropriate time and from her kitchen in Italy, Chef Paola appeared on the screen of our laptop. We were ready to begin our culinary journey!

What’s next?

Coming soon – Part two of our series on The Chef  & Dish, including all the details about what we cooked (and lots of beautiful pics). We’ll show you how we prepared four dishes, all featuring Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese! Seriously, you’re gonna wish you could taste your computer/smartphone screen.


While our cooking class with The Chef & The Dish was provided complimentary, the opinions and excitement for cooking at home are our own.

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15 photo-worthy stops in Grinnell, Iowa

15 photo-worthy stops in Grinnell, Iowa

Grinnell, Iowa, is an active and artsy college town. It’s also one of the most picturesque places we discovered on our weeklong road trip through the Hawkeye state. Whether you’re returning for a class reunion, enjoying a weekend getaway, or simply passing through, be sure to bring your camera (or smart phone) and check out some of these photo-worthy stops we found on our hosted trip to Grinnell.

1. Hotel Grinnell

Hotel Grinnell takes old school to a whole new level — literally. Once a junior high school, Hotel Grinnell is now a chic and modern luxury hotel in the heart of downtown Grinnell, Iowa. One step into the former school building and you’ll want to take pictures to show your friends. The owners elegantly transformed classrooms into guest rooms and the tall windows provide an abundance of light for fantastic photographs. Book a night in the old principal’s office or explore the ballroom which was once a gym. We promise, these will be the best school pictures you’ve ever taken.

 

Grinnell Iowa Hotel Grinnell

2. Merchants’ National Bank

At the corner of 4th Avenue and Broad Street sits the historic Merchants National Bank. Named a National Historic Landmark by the US Department of the Interior, it is one of legendary architect Louis Sullivan’s  “Jewel Box” banks. This incredible, well-preserved building now houses the Grinnell Area Chamber of Commerce and Grinnell Visitor Center. Visitors are encouraged to step inside to look around and of course, take pictures of the colorful stained glass windows and intricate interior design.

Grinnell Iowa Louis Sullivan jewel box bank exterior

Grinnell Iowa Louis Sullivan jewel box bank window

3. Grinnell College Campus

Founded in 1846, this private liberal arts college has been an integral part of the Grinnell, Iowa, community for generations. With 1,600 students, the tradition-rich college is often ranked among the best undergraduate institutions in the nation. Old buildings, vast green spaces, and unique architecture make the entire campus picture worthy. Take a stroll across MacEachron (Mac) Field in the center of campus for a great shot of Rawson Hall featuring the distinctive central tower pictured below.

Grinnell Iowa Grinnell College

4. Central Park in Grinnell, Iowa

Covering nearly four acres in downtown Grinnell, Iowa, Central Park is a great place to relax and unwind making it a wonderful place to photograph kids and families. The covered stage hosts live music and special events. The the picnic shelter is a perfect spot for family gatherings and reunions. There’s also a water feature that can be activated between the hours of 11 a.m. and 10 p.m. during the warm weather months. It even lights up at night!

Grinnell Iowa Central Park bandstand

5. Drake Community Library

Friends of the Drake Community Library in Grinnell, Iowa, wanted to provide a photogenic destination sign that would also help visitors identify the library. Designed by local artist Ryan McGuire and manufactured by local signage company ASI Signage, the Friends of the Library installed this gigantic piece in front of the library at 930 Park Street. Definitely a picture-worthy stop, especially when there are blue skies.

Grinnell Iowa public library

6. Public murals

There are several large murals painted on buildings and walls throughout Grinnell, Iowa. We enjoyed finding this Dino mural behind a dentist’s office at 817 Commercial Street, as well as other murals around town. See how many you can find and photograph during your visit. The Grinnell Chamber of Commerce also offers a self-guided walking tour of community art HERE.

Grinnell Iowa dinosaur mural

Grinnell Iowa mural

7. The Periodic Table in Hotel Grinnell

The Periodic Table is Hotel Grinnell’s on-site bar and patio and we wanted to take pictures of everything in it! An oversized Scrabble board and a shuffleboard table sit in the lounge area, while the old junior high school scoreboard is lighted in the bar. Decorated with pictures of chemical elements, The Periodic Table is an ideal place to unwind with a beverage (with many more choices than white or chocolate milk) and share a small plate. The outdoor patio seating area is perfect for lounging around the fire or listening to live music with friends.

Grinnell Iowa Hotel Grinnell scrabble

Grinnell Iowa Hotel Grinnell Periodic Table


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8. Local architecture

Grinnell, Iowa, is well-known as a destination for fans of architecture. Art lovers and architectural historians alike come to see the town’s historic homes and unique buildings on the college campus. Folks also want to visit the entire downtown which is listed on the National Register of Historic places. The Chamber of Commerce even offers a self-guided Architectural Treasures Walking Tour that you can download HEREHave your camera ready to capture unique buildings like this one that once served as a dentist’s office. The chair was set in the turret with the windows around providing light for the doctor to work.

Grinnell Iowa dentist office window

9. Solera

Nestled in downtown Grinnell, Iowa, Solera is a wine and beer bar and a favorite of locals. Offering a wide variety of quality craft beers and wines, you’ll find it filled with friendly folks who check their worries at the door. When you go, be sure to bring your camera to capture some of the fun and eclectic decor. There’s even a Ruth Bader-Ginsburg bobblehead doll and this one-of-a-kind toilet paper holder. Peacetree Brewing Co. is another great place to stop for a local craft brew. 

Grinnell Iowa Solera bar toilet paper holder

10. Flowers in bloom

The streets of Grinnell, Iowa, are filled with plush gardens, planters, and baskets filled with colorful flowers. Take time to walk around and admire the different of varieties of flowers. You can even make use of that macro setting on your camera!

Grinnell Iowa Flowers

11. Food from Relish

When we visited Grinnell, we had the opportunity to sample dishes created by Chef Kamal of Relish restaurant. Using foods harvested by local farmers and producers, Chef Kamal created a five-course meal that rivaled anything we’ve had in the finest restaurants in the Midwest. Because he uses seasonal ingredients from local farmers like Olson Garden Market and Middle Way Farm, there’s always something new or experimental on the menu.

Grinnell Iowa harvest dinner

Grinnell Iowa Relish restaurant caprese at the Harvest Dinner

12. Grinnell’s Giving Gardens

Grinnell established Giving Gardens in 2013 through a community transformation grant as a way to give the community access to fresh foods. Anyone can harvest the produce from several gardens around town and there is no cost to participate in the program.

Grinnell Iowa farmers market

13. Los Girasoles Mexican Restaurant

Not only does Los Girasoles Mexican Restaurant have delicious food, the restaurant itself is picture worthy. The dining room is covered in hand-painted sunflowers. We couldn’t resist photographing the booths, tables, and chairs that all showcased the beautiful flowers. Take lots of pics and splurge on the queso — it’s worth every calorie.

Grinnell Iowa Girasoles restaurant

Grinnell Iowa Girasoles Restaurant

14. Faulconer Gallery

The Faulconer Gallery on the Grinnell College campus is a great place for any photographer to find inspiration. Open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday, the gallery is free and open to the public. With more than 6,000 objects in its permanent collection, the Faulconer Gallery presents exhibitions from local, regional, national, and international artists. In addition, temporary exhibitions change about every 12 weeks. The gallery also hosts many hands-on special events and offers yoga in the gallery twice a week. (We were able to visit while they were setting up a new exhibition – hence the ladder.)

Grinnell Iowa Grinnell College Faulconer Gallery

Grinnell Iowa Grinnell College rocks

15. Dari Barn

The Dari Barn is a longtime local favorite for fast food as well as delicious ice cream and frozen yogurt. We would have included a photo of the ice-cream we bought, but it looked so good we dug into it before we remembered to snap a picture! Soft serve chocolate and vanilla ice cream are always available. Local favorites include black raspberry yogurt, the cookie dough cyclone, and pulled-pork sandwiches. Be sure to get a photo of the adorable animal yard art outside the store!

grinnell dari barn


Have you been to Grinnell, Iowa? What are your favorite places to stop for a photo?  Disclosure: Our trip to Grinnell was sponsored by Hotel Grinnell, the Grinnell Chamber of Commerce, and Travel Iowa. All opinions are our own. Contact the Grinnell Area Chamber of Commerce for more information and to plan your visit and tell them you heard about it on Postcard Jar!

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An inside look at the world famous Buckin’ Flamingo

An inside look at the world famous Buckin’ Flamingo

With a name like the world famous Buckin’ Flamingo and a mooing yellow truck with Conestoga wagon cover pulling a saddled flamingo out front, there is only one way to satisfy your curiosity about this unique store. You simply must step inside.

Truck and flamingo trailer at the Buckin' Flamingo in Pawhuska, Oklahoma

Meghan and friends Kelsea and Kennedy stand with the well-known truck and trailer the Garnetts use to advertise their business.

Buckin' Flamingo Pawhuska Oklahoma metal art display

A large display of metal art and bird feeders fills the center of the Buckin’ Flamingo in Pawhuska.

Our first visit to the Buckin’ Flamingo

The first time we visited the Buckin’ Flamingo in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, shop owners Cody and Lauren Garnett greeted us with a warm welcome and invited us to take a look around. It took a minute to process the abundance of brightly colored metal yard art, but once we did, we knew we’d stumbled across someplace special. And quite unique.

Buckin' Flamingo owners Cody and Lauren and their daughters.

Buckin’ Flamingo owners Cody and Lauren and their daughters.

You see, the world famous Buckin’ Flamingo is one-of-a-kind, just like the couple who owns the place. He was a professional steer roper and she was a high school math teacher before the couple wed nine years ago and their entrepreneurial spirits took off.

Metal art at the Buckin' Flamingo in Pawhuska, Oklahoma

It couldn’t be called the Buckin’ Flamingo if there weren’t at least SOME flamingoes! (And a giant grizzly for good measure.)

Family business

Cody’s family had been in the horse trading business (among others). He knew lots about bartering when he opened his first business, Big County Pawn, in Pawhuska. Cody also knew a lot about marketing, having worked in the field for top brands like Carhart, Copenhagen, and Jack Daniels.

Orange Cadillac Big County Pawn Pawhuska, Oklahoma

This orange Cadillac, and everything on it, was pawned at the Garnett’s Big County Pawn shop. It is well-known around town.

It’s all in the marketing

So, he put all of that knowledge together and in no time he found himself driving around town promoting his pawn shop in a bright orange Cadillac (pawned). The car is accentuated with horns above the grill (also pawned) and shotguns on the hood (yes, you guessed it, pawned). A little out there, maybe, but it got people’s attention.

Metal art at the Buckin Flamingo in Pawhuska, Oklahoma

One of the many fun pieces of metal art available to spruce up any man cave.

Locals began frequenting his store, and Lauren set up a bail bonds business there, as well. Then, when The Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond announced plans for her Mercantile, the Garnetts knew they had a great business opportunity.

Metal art at the Buckin Flamingo in Pawhuska, Oklahoma

Pick up a metal sign to decorate your shop, man cave or whatever. Chances are your favorite brands are here!

They began tossing around ideas for retail businesses that would also attract visitors of The Merc and finally came up with one that stuck while vacationing in Mexico. “We found this place that built metal yard art and we brought a truck load of it back with us and put it in the pawn shop,” Cody said. “It became our main retail and was outperforming our guns and ammo.”

Metal art at the Buckin' Flamingo in Pawhuska, Oklahoma

Unique metal art for sale at the World Famous Buckin’ Flamingo

Today, their store on Main Street includes metal yard art, signs, bird feeders, and holiday decor. And much, much more. They also sell beautiful turquoise jewelry, zippered pouches and coin purses with funny sayings. You can even get a jar of spicy Hatch chili sauce there. Be careful, though, it’s addictive.

Buckin' Flamingo Pawhuska Oklahoma tourquoise jewelry

Turquoise jewelry at the Buckin’ Flamingo makes a perfect gift.

Buckin' Flamingo Pawhuska Oklahoma zippered bags

These fun zippered bags are perfect for make-up, charging cords, pencils, or anything else you want to keep safe.

So why Buckin’ Flamingo?

Cody said when the metal art store took off, they needed a name that would draw attention. They knew pink flamingos were popular but the Garnetts also wanted to draw on their rodeo/ranch/prairie lifestyle. Flamingo Prairie was too boring. Flamingo Ranch sounded naughty. And then they came up with Buckin’ Flamingo, and it stuck.

Metal art at the Buckin Flamingo in Pawhuska, Oklahoma

Pick up a metal sign to decorate your shop, man cave or whatever. Chances are your favorite brands are here!

Even more Pawhuska businesses

In addition to the Buckin’ Flamingo, pawn shop and bail bonds services, they own several other small businesses, as well. The Garnetts also have Osage County Auction Co., the Flamingo’s Nest short-term rental, and get this, a goat ropin’ business. Yes, Cody and crew will bring their homemade goat ropin’ arena right to your home for a fun-filled activity for your special event.

Goat Roping in Pawhuska, Oklahoma

Another business offered by the Garnetts is goat roping. A popular activity at the Cavalcade Rodeo, roping sessions last well into the night.

Flamingo's Nest, Pawhuska, Oklahoma

The Flamingo’s Nest, the B&B property owned by the Garnetts is great for large groups and even has a pool table.

Together, and with the help of their family, friends, and community, the Garnetts and their businesses are flourishing and we couldn’t be happier for them. If you’re in Pawhuska to visit The Pioneer Woman Mercantile, be sure to step around the corner and take a peek inside the world famous Buckin’ Flamingo. You never know what kind of cool stuff you’re going to find.


Have you visited the Buckin’ Flamingo? What did you think? 

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A look inside Cody and Lauren Garnett's world famous Buckin' Flamingo in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

A look inside Cody and Lauren Garnett’s world famous Buckin’ Flamingo in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.