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.

Pinter’s Gardens & Pumpkins near Decorah, Iowa

Pinter’s Gardens & Pumpkins near Decorah, Iowa

I remember as a kid the excitement I felt at the start of fall. I loved jumping in huge piles of freshly raked leaves and taking in every moment of outside play I could before the snow of winter blew in. Every year I hunted for the ideal pumpkin to carve. I liked one that was tall and skinny, like me. And, like every other kid in the neighborhood, I wanted to have the biggest pumpkin on the block. Our recent visit to Pinter’s Gardens & Pumpkins near Decorah, Iowa took me back to those days.

Barn at Pinter's Gardens and Pumpkins, Decorah, Iowa

A barn near the petting zoo at Pinter’s.

We had the chance to visit Pinter’s on a crisp, early fall morning. We pulled into the lot and parked next to a lone school bus. Climbing out of the car I inhaled deeply, savoring the fresh Iowa farm air while listening to the joyful sounds of children playing in the distance. The pumpkin patch is open to the public on weekends; we were there for a private tour on a weekday when it was only open by appointment. This meant, of course, that I’d have a chance to play like a kid without embarrassing myself around other adults.

Our tour of Pinter’s Gardens & Pumpkins

When we walked in the front door, owner Elisa Pinter greeted us and offered to take us on a tour of the grounds.

Cupcakes at Pinter's Gardens and Pumpkins, Decorah, Iowa

Owner Elisa Pinter holds a box of their delicious cupcakes. After trying one, we know why these famous cupcakes are a favorite among locals.

We quickly learned that this business is a labor of love for the Pinters and they have worked very hard to grow their dream into reality over the last seven years. Elisa led us outside to a large area filled with fun activities for the whole family while explaining a little more about the business.

The Pinters have a garden center that is open year-round, and the family has done landscaping in northeast Iowa since 1998. In addition, they have a bakery and candy shop that are open year round that offers freshly made treats like homemade fudge, pies, and flavored popcorn.

Fudge at Pinter's Gardens and Pumpkins, Decorah, Iowa

The fresh fudge at Pinter’s is worth a trip by itself.

Popcorn at Pinter's Gardens and Pumpkins, Decorah, Iowa

They pop and bag their own popcorn right on site! Flavors available include buttered, cheese, caramel, green apple, and kettle corn.

Elisa told us the bakery is best known for its cupcakes. One taste of these moist delights and we understood why Pinter’s cupcakes are famous all over the region. Ann loved the pumpkin cupcake, while I enjoyed the monster cookie cupcake. In all honesty, I wanted to eat about 10 of them.

Cupcakes at Pinter's Gardens and Pumpkins, Decorah, Iowa

An up-close look at some of the delicious cupcakes at Pinter’s. On the left are their famous pumpkin cupcakes, while on the right are monster cookie cupcakes. And yes, they taste even better than they look!

On weekends, Pinter’s Gardens & Pumpkins also offers fresh wood-fired pizzas so visitors can easily spend a whole day there and have something hearty along with the sweet treats.

Activities at Pinter’s Gardens & Pumpkins

Starting the last two weekends in September and running every weekend through October, Pinter’s opens their famous pumpkin patch. Whether it’s learning about where food comes from or improving motor skills by playing outside, education is at the heart of everything they do.

Education at Pinter's Gardens and Pumpkins, Decorah, Iowa

Pinter’s not only provides fun for the whole family, they also provide education about their farm and the products available on it.

The Pinters believe in the concept of agri-tainment. The idea is that children can learn about agriculture and the world by actually getting outside, playing, and getting a little messy. At Pinter’s, kids can sit down in a corn box and wiggle around in a huge pile of corn. From there, they can have duck races by pumping water and sending rubber ducks down a trough to the other end. Check out this short video me racing against myself. (I won!)

A number of activities also teach problem solving skills. Children can first try their luck at a tire maze where it’s easy to get un-lost before setting off into a much more complicated corn maze where whole families can try the adventure together.

Tire playground at Pinter's Gardens and Pumpkins, Decorah, Iowa

Steve climbs on top of the tires and declares himself king of the hill at Pinter’s.

Corn maze at Pinter's Gardens and Pumpkins, Decorah, Iowa

The corn maze at Pinter’s looks pretty complicated from here. We can only imagine what it would be like on the inside.

So many fun activities

Kids of all ages can throw passes and pitches in the ball zone, play in a giant sand box, walk through a fun house, or play glow-in-the-dark mini golf.

Mini golf at Pinter's Gardens and Pumpkins, Decorah, Iowa

New in 2018 is indoor, glow-in-the-dark mini golf. It’s a fun challenge, indeed!

In addition, Pinter’s offers a petting zoo with goats, chickens, ducks and turkeys. They also have tetherball, a pumpkin cannon (yes, you read that right), pumpkin bowling, bocce ball, as well as giant checkers and chess.

Chess at Pinter's Gardens and Pumpkins, Decorah, Iowa

A huge chess board is one of the many outdoor activities at Pinter’s.

We really enjoyed our time at Pinter’s Gardens & Pumpkins and can’t thank Elisa and her staff enough for their hospitality. Seeing the wide varieties of freshly picked pumpkins, hearing the laughter of children as they played, and smelling the freshly baked cupcakes as they came out of the oven took me back to a wonderful place in my childhood. It will take you there, too.


Thanks to Charlene Selbee for arranging this tour and to Pinter’s Pumpkins & Gardens for the delicious cupcakes. The opinions expressed are our own. 

A year after our first visit, we’re going home to Pawhuska, Oklahoma

A year after our first visit, we’re going home to Pawhuska, Oklahoma

Just more than a year after I quit my job as a middle school principal, we’ve made another big life choice. We bought a house in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. (No, we’re not having a mid-life crisis, thanks for asking.)

Regular readers of this blog know that we have absolutely fallen in love with Pawhuska (pop. 3,477 3,479) over the past year. In June of 2017, we made our first stop in Osage County. It was a quick visit to pay homage to The Pioneer Woman and her Mercantile on our way to Texas. We enjoyed a chicken fried steak dinner and wrote a few blog posts about our time in town, including this one that listed six reasons husbands should take their wives to the Merc.

We rolled into Pawhuska for the first time in June of 2017 for a quick visit to The Pioneer Woman Mercantile on our way to Texas.

A couple of months after writing that post, the Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce contacted us to see if we’d be willing to return as celebrity judges for the National Indian Taco Championships. We felt obliged to call and tell them that we really aren’t celebrities. They replied, “Well, you are to us! Everybody here loves your blog!” We then shared that we knew little about Indian tacos. They told us not to worry and that we should just be sure to pack stretchy pants and Tums.

How could we say no to that?

We loved learning about how authentic Indian tacos are made from our new friend, Margie Williams, of Pawhuska.

We rolled back into Pawhuska early in the first week of October. We wanted to spend a few days getting to know the town a little better before the Indian Taco Championships and like we did for our own hometown of Crete, we decided to write an article on 70+ things to do after you’ve eaten at the Merc

Powwow at the National Indian Taco Championships

We saw our first ever Powwow at the National Indian Taco Championships last fall and can’t wait to see it again this year!

We figured five days would give us all the time we needed in Pawhuska. We were so wrong.

You see, when you’re in this cowboy town that has just one flashing traffic light, you can’t just walk into a store or museum, take a quick photo and leave. Nope. The folks you’ll find there are just too friendly and welcoming for that. We learned quickly that people in Pawhuska were genuinely interested in getting to know us and many of our conversations pushed well through the noon hour or until after closing. Nobody seemed to care. Relationships mattered more than time. We loved that.

Handy's Martha and Margie, Pawhuska, Oklahoma

The day we met Martha and Margie at Handy’s in Pawhuska, they put their spoons down, forgot about their chili, and took time to tell us all about the history of this unique convenience store and the secret to the best fountain pop in Osage County.

It didn’t take long before we began to feel like locals. Though we had a hotel 25 miles away in Bartlesville,  townspeople insisted we should be staying in Pawhuska. By Friday, one had helped us find a room, and so we spent our first overnight inside the city limits. With no 30-minute drive to a hotel, we decided to go to the high school football game to cheer on the hometown Pawhuska Huskies. We met some nice folks as we sat down on the bleachers to watch the game and, as was normal for this town, we felt like old friends by the fourth quarter. It was homecoming that night. We couldn’t help but feel like we’d come home, too.

Homecoming in Pawhuska, Oklahoma

The Homecoming game had all the pageantry you’d expect in a small town.

By the time the National Indian Taco Championships were over that weekend, we didn’t want to leave and vowed that we’d be back soon. A couple of weeks later we took our moms to Pawhuska. We went back in December for the Holiday Parade of Lights. Starting in January, we found one reason after another to return to the Osage and learn more about its unique history and residents. With each visit, we grew to love the town and the people more and more. We started to feel like maybe we belonged, like maybe we had a bigger calling there. 

A view of Pawhuska at the Cavalcade street dance in 2018.

So, after a lot of consideration, investment planning, and prayer, we contacted a realtor, put the word out, and began looking for a house to buy. We had looked at about a dozen homes before getting a text from a friend a few weeks ago that pointed us to one that seemed just right. It was in a great location, in our price range, and newly remodeled. We knew it wouldn’t last long on the market. So, despite the fact that we’d just gotten home from a trip about an hour earlier and our suitcase was not even unpacked yet, we put our dirty clothes in the laundry, re-packed clean ones, got in the car and headed south. 

It is less than a six-hour drive from Crete, Nebraska, to Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

We spent time looking at the house and talking with the owners and everything about it just felt right. We made an offer that evening around their kitchen table, shook hands, and were under contract the next day. If all goes as planned, we’ll close on the three-bedroom, craftsman style bungalow Monday morning. We can’t wait to show it to y’all (I think we’re allowed to use that word now that we’re south of Kansas) and be a part of the Pawhuska community.

Pendleton Blanket, Clifton's Gift Shop, Pawhuska, Oklahoma

We were honored to be given this blanket by longtime Pawhuska residents and business owners Mr. and Mrs. Trumbly.

What, exactly does the future hold for us? We honestly aren’t sure. For now, we are planning to go back and forth between Oklahoma and Nebraska, splitting time between the Huskies and Huskers. We hope you’ll stop by for a visit if you’re in the area. We may even look into becoming Airbnb hosts, someday. We can write about travel from anywhere with internet service, so we’ll do just that as we create a new home while maintaining another one, at least for now. 

What we know for sure is that Pawhuska is a special place, and very soon we’ll be proud to call it home. 


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10 things we love about Kinkaider Brewing Company in Broken Bow, Nebraska

10 things we love about Kinkaider Brewing Company in Broken Bow, Nebraska

Central Nebraska’s Kinkaider Brewing Company is quickly becoming one of the most popular destination craft breweries in the Midwest. Located at the edge of the rolling Sandhills in Broken Bow, Nebraska, Kinkaider was founded by four small-town Nebraskans, three of whom we had a the pleasure of meeting recently.

We visited Kinkaider on an agribusiness progressive meal tour during the Plains Safaris Conference and quickly found there are lots of things to love about this brewery.

Here are just 10 of the things we love most.

1. The name

The name Kinkaider comes from a 1904 amendment to the Homestead Act. Moses Kinkaid was a member of the United States House of Representatives from Nebraska and sponsor of the Kincaid Act, which allowed homesteaders to claim up to 640 acres of government land in western Nebraska.

Kinkaider Brewing Company in Broken Bow, Nebraska, got its name from the Kinkaider Act of 1904. Kinkaiders were those who stood in line to claim government land in Nebraska.

Kinkaider Brewing Company in Broken Bow, Nebraska, got its name from the Kinkaider Act of 1904. Kinkaiders were those who stood in line to claim government land in Nebraska.

Homesteaders who gathered in Broken Bow to claim property in the 37 counties in the general area of the Nebraska Sandhills were called Kincaiders. We love that touch of local history.

2. The brewmaster

Former Thedford, Nebraska business owner Dan Hodges had just retired and purchased a new Harley Davidson motorcycle when local grocery store owner Cody Schmick approached him about a partnership to build a brewery.

“I knew Dan had been a part of a home brew club for years and made good beer,” Schmick said. “I wrote out this detailed business plan and shared it with Dan and asked him to think about (coming out of retirement) to become a brewmaster.”

Dan didn’t need time to think about it. He immediately said, “I’m in.”

Kinkaider Brewing company, Broken Bow, Nebraska

Bremaster Dan.

The original Kinkaider brewmaster is still crafting beers there and his wife, Alice, is also involved in the business. He is so passionate about his second career, he even had the company logo and the chemical composition of hops tattooed on his forearm.

3. The water

On our tour of the brewery, Cody reminded us that water is the main ingredient in beer.

Kinkaider Brewing company, Broken Bow, Nebraska

The Sandhills of Nebraska filter water naturally for the Ogallala Aquifer, the source of Kinkaider Brewing’s water.

Since the brewery sits right on the Ogallala aquifer, it made sense to drill a well and use this incredible water source that is naturally filtered by sand, silt, clay and gravel. You can taste the difference.

4. The beer

With rotating brews on 320 taps across Nebraska, Kinkaider beer is quickly becoming an area favorite and we know why.

Kegs of Kinkaider beer.

Kegs of Kinkaider beer.

Apparently, any man willing to tattoo hops on his arm knows how to make good beer. Dan the Wiser, as he is sometimes called, and the other brewers have created more than 40 flavorful beers. The most popular seller is the Devil’s Gap Jalapeño Ale about which celebrity chef Michael Symon said, “With a hamburger, this is about as perfect of a beer as I can think of,” and went on to say it is a “good after you’ve finished mowing your lawn beer.” Frame the Butcher IPA and the seasonal brews are also favorites.

5. The stories

Each of the beers has a name with a unique story behind it. Having come from the grocery business, Schmick said he knew that signage had to tell the story behind each name.

Kinkaider Brewing company taproom, Broken Bow, Nebraska

The taproom at Kinkaider shows recognizes their “Pioneer Club” who helped start the business along with the different types of beer they offer.

So far, all of the label designs have been created by Nebraska artists.

Devil's Gap from Kinkaider Brewing Co. in Broken Bow, Nebraska.

Devil’s Gap six-pack bottom from Kinkaider Brewing Co. in Broken Bow, Nebraska.

The stories behind the beers’ names are included on the bottom of the six-pack packaging. One of my favorites, Frame the Butcher IPA, was named after Solomon Butcher. Butcher failed as a farmer, salesman, teacher and postmaster before taking pictures of more than 1,000 sod houses across Nebraska. He is now known as the photographer of the plains and in Custer County, a framed Butcher is never more than a stone’s throw away.

6. The chef

Chef Robert Knobbe has only been on the job a few months, but his delectable small plates and entrees are already giving the Broken Bow location a boost.

Kinkaider Brewing company, Broken Bow, Nebraska

Bacon wrapped asparagus with a beer sample.

Schmick said finding the right chef in the middle of rural Nebraska was not easy. He had all but exhausted his online search for a new chef last fall when he got a message from Knobbe.

Kinkaider Brewing company, Broken Bow, Nebraska

Chef Robert Knobbe of Kinkaider Brewing made some amazing appetizers for us to enjoy.

Schmick said he invited Knobbe to Broken Bow for an in-person interview and they talked for three hours at their first meeting. Knobbe was hired on the spot.

A West Point, Nebraska, native and self-taught chef, Knobbe learned to cook in kitchens in Nebraska and South Dakota and said he ordered cooking text books online to learn his trade. His hard work has paid off, as his food is some of the best we’ve tasted anywhere in Nebraska.

7. The food

Each of the four beers we tasted on our tour was well paired with small plates, created by Chef Robert. Champion, a crisp summer beer, was well paired with Chef Robert’s colossal shrimp and jalapeno mango chutney with puréed beet.  It was incredible. As was the bacon wrapped asparagus and blue cheese appetizer, and the coffee crusted sirloin tips.

Kinkaider Brewing company, Broken Bow, Nebraska

A sample of Kinkaider beer sits among plates of the delicious duck breast appetizer we enjoyed during our tasting.

And the roasted duck with a citrus sauce and arugula – just divine.

 8. The location

Just on the outskirts of town, the brewery is situated at the edge of the Nebraska Sandhills near Broken Bow (pop. 3,500).  It is several hours away from the hustle and bustle of the state’s major cities to the east. And we like that.

The view of the rolling hills from inside the brewery is just amazing.

The view of the rolling hills from inside the brewery is just amazing.

9. The facility

Before it was a brewery, the main building was a garage. With  the help of locals who pitched in financially to fund the startup, it is now a well-renovated establishment that is as inviting to local farmers and ranchers as it is to bikers and travelers just passing through.

Kinkaider Brewing company, Broken Bow, Nebraska

Kegs wait to be cleaned and filled at Kinkaider Brewing.

There are outdoor spaces to eat and drink or listen to one of the live bands the brewery hosts during warm months. Even during the cold Nebraska winters, the rolling hills provide an incredible backdrop for unwinding and making memories with old and new friends.

10. The people

Kinkaider Brewing, Broken Bow, Nebraska

Three of the four owners of Kinkaider: Cody Schmick, Dan Hodges, and Barry Fox. (Not pictured: Nate Bell)

We met three of the four owners the day we were there (the exception being Nate Bell). And while there are lots of things to love about Kinkaider Brewing Co., what we enjoyed most were the people. Barry Fox’s desire to build a destination brewery. Cody Schmick’s passion for growing a small-town business in his home state. And Dan Hodges’ pride in his craft. We loved the entrepreneurial spirits of four Nebraska boys who had a vision of a place where they could work hard, serve others, make and share  good no, great beer.

As proud Nebraskans ourselves, we’ll always drink to that.


Kinkaider Brewing Co. also has a tap room in Grand Island, Nebraska, and will open one in the Haymarket in Lincoln soon. Have you tried Kinkaider beer? Let us know your favorite – we’d love to hear from you.

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This Clear Lake, Iowa deli ranks #1 despite only being open 17 1/2 (ish) hours a week

This Clear Lake, Iowa deli ranks #1 despite only being open 17 1/2 (ish) hours a week

Trip Advisor’s #1-ranked restaurant in Clear Lake, Iowa, is only open 17 and a half(ish) hours a week.  Might not seem like the best business model, but the sisters who own and manage Starboard Market have made it work quite well in this quaint Midwest town – for 19 years and counting.

That’s right, since 1999, this unique deli has used fresh ingredients, creamy homemade salads, and the smell of freshly baked cakes and cookies to lure locals and tourists through the door.

The cheery staff and memorable flavors have kept them coming back for more.

Starboard Market in Clear Lake, Iowa

Steve and Ann pause for a pic with Jen of Starboard Market.

We stopped in Clear Lake on a recent trip home from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Our friend and fellow blogger, Sara Broers from Travel With Sara, encouraged us to stop, texting to alert us of the short hours and promising it would be worth taking the exit off Interstate 35.

And it was.

Starboard Market in Clear Lake, Iowa

Starboard Market is a quaint little restaurant popular with locals and tourists, alike.

We arrived just before the lunch rush and had the pleasure of meeting owners Jennifer Coffman and Katie Poole along with their small staff. Having had a late breakfast, we opted to get boxed lunches for the road.

Starboard Market in Clear Lake, Iowa

The menu board at Starboard Market.

A huge chalk board menu displayed 20 signature sandwiches and sensing we were having issues with indecisiveness, an employee named Maddy told us numbers three and six were the most popular.

Named after one of the sisters, who was affectionately called “Dude” for years, The Dude (#3) is a turkey breast sandwich with pepperjack cheese, bacon, lettuce, red onion, and Hidden Valley Ranch dressing on a Kaiser roll.

Starboard Market in Clear Lake, Iowa

The box lunch is a great way to enjoy fresh food to go.

Steve ordered the #6 Barrelback which was baked ham, turkey breast, cheddar, swiss, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and Thousand Island dressing on marble bread. I chose the #11 Regatta which is smoked turkey breast (and lots of it), Havarti cheese, Caribbean mango chutney, alfalfa sprouts and lettuce on a toasted multi-grain bread. It was delicious.

The lunch boxes are served with any of the meatless salads, chips, a dill pickle spear and a homemade cookie. We chose the potato salad and a cornbread salad, both from Jen’s mom’s recipe collection and perfected by Katie.

Starboard Market in Clear Lake, Iowa

Some of the delicious salads available at Starboard Market.

With lots of choices, it was also difficult to decide on a cookie for dessert. We decided to split the snickerdoodle and peanut butter chocolate chip cookies.

Starboard Market in Clear Lake, Iowa

Amazing sweet treats at Starboard Market.

A couple hours later, we stopped at one of Iowa’s stellar rest areas (seriously, they are clean, bright, modern and have Wi-Fi) for a picnic lunch. We had a lot of food, so we held off on the cookies, knowing they’d be a welcome treat a few more hours down the road.

Iowa rest area

We stopped at this wonderfully clean rest area in Iowa.

Starboard Market also features incredible scratch made cakes and bars, including a variety of cheesecakes, a tempting six-layer Chocolate Amazon Cake, Cannoli Cake and Hummingbird Cake.

Starboard Market in Clear Lake, Iowa

This six-layer Chocolate Amazon cake looks amazing.

Oh, they also offered a beautifully made Bundt cake called Ruby’s Fresh Apple Cake. It is named after Jen and Katie’s grandmother, Ruby, and the boiled coconut topping with cracked walnuts helped make this cake a favorite of the ladies’ grandfather.

Starboard Market in Clear Lake, Iowa

We didn’t try the cake, but the peanut butter chocolate chip cookies were as good as they look!

The cake, and so many other things, are all wonderful tributes to Jen and Katie’s parents who, with their daughters, started this store. Sue and Roger Poole had been living and working in Des Moines and had initially dreamed of opening a family deli in Northern Michigan where the wooden boats that Roger enjoyed restoring were plentiful.

Starboard Market in Clear Lake, Iowa

A park overlooking Clear Lake is about a block from Starboard Market making it a great place to enjoy your box lunch.

However, while traveling home after visiting an antique show, the couple decided to get off the Interstate at Clear Lake for a meal. They saw the waterfront, liked the small town atmosphere, and drove by a charming little house that was for sale by owner.

About eight minutes later, they’d purchased a home in this Northern Iowa town. Several years later, the family opened Starboard Market and hit the ground running.

Starboard Market in Clear Lake, Iowa

Sisters Katie and Jen own and run Starboard Market.

Jen’s mom and dad came to Clear Lake to help. Roger, who was almost ready to retire from Union Pacific, suddenly went from UP Railroad executive to head dishwasher, and a successful family business was born.

Starboard Market is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 (ish) a.m. to 2:30 (ish) p.m. By 10 minutes ’til noon, you’ll see a line forming at the counter and the staff hurriedly making sandwiches and pouring soups, served on sea foam Fiestaware with real forks and spoons. Don’t let the short hours fool you, though. The staff works full-time preparing all the salads and desserts from scratch as well as catering local events.

Starboard Market in Clear Lake, Iowa

Inside Starboard Market

Jen says one of the keys to the success of Starboard Market is consistency. They have a small staff (5 or 6 during the busy season) and little turnover. The soups, salads, and sandwiches don’t change much, in part because the same people make them most days.

After finishing our boxed lunch (and trying the cookies later that afternoon) we wouldn’t change a thing. If Jen, Katie and team keep this up, we expect their #1 Trip Advisor ranking will also remain consistent.


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Starboard Market in downtown Clear Lake, Iowa

Starboard Market in downtown Clear Lake, Iowa