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.


PIN FOR LATER

Starboard Market in downtown Clear Lake, Iowa

Starboard Market in downtown Clear Lake, Iowa

A postcard from Husker fans

A postcard from Husker fans

We have had the privilege of having season tickets to Nebraska Cornhusker football games for the past five years. Every fall, we look forward to returning to Memorial Stadium, going through Gate 20, walking up and up and up to section 108, and squeezing ourselves in the 17-inch spaces known as row 1, seats 7 and 8.  We love having season tickets and cheering on our beloved Huskers each year. We’ve also grown to enjoy the other season ticket holders around us, some more than others. There’s the bearded man who sits down the row and can always be counted on for leading a GOOOOOOOOO — BIIIIIIIIIIIIIG — REEEEEEED chant, and there was the woman who for several years yelled, “Give it to Imani,” “first down,” and “run like a laser!”

But some of the people we’ve enjoyed most are Mark and Kathy, who drive 180 miles (each way) from Le Mars, Iowa for home games. They sit in the row behind us, just a few seats over. They arrive early like us. They yell when the defense is on the field and we can always count on them for a high five when the Huskers score. We like visiting with them before games, hearing their takes on the play calling and turning to Kathy for explanations of questionable penalties since she usually is listening to the radio broadcast through headphones.

We’ve enjoyed meeting their exchange students and hearing about what’s going on in Le Mars. We even stopped in Le Mars last summer on our way to Minnesota to see the Blue Bunny Ice Cream Parlor (definitely worth the stop).

 

The Blue Bunny Ice Cream Parlor in Le Mars, Iowa, is a great place to visit. The two-story building includes an old fashioned ice cream parlor, gift shop, a museum, and of course, lots of great Blue Bunny ice cream.

The Blue Bunny Ice Cream Parlor in Le Mars, Iowa, is a great place to visit. The two-story building includes an old fashioned ice cream parlor, gift shop, a museum, and of course, lots of great Blue Bunny ice cream.

So many choices of fantastic Blue Bunny ice cream. Two of our favorites are Mocha Me Hoppy and Bunny Tracks.

So many choices of fantastic Blue Bunny ice cream. Two of our favorites are Mocha Me Hoppy and Bunny Tracks.

We haven’t seen Mark and Kathy for more than a month now, but we knew they’d be gone. They told us when we played Illinois, Oct. 1, that they would not be in their seats for the next home game because they were going to be in Rome, Italy. We were excited for them to have the opportunity to travel abroad and reminded them to send us a postcard. We’re so glad they did!

Vatican postcard

Vatican postcard

 

They sent us a postcard from Vatican City in the heart of Rome, a place where we traveled in the summer os 2015. You can read more about that HERE.

It is always great to hear from people when they travel, and we’re hoping Mark and Kathy are back in their seats tonight as Nebraska takes on Minnesota. We have a lot of catching up to do.

[well]When you’re traveling next, be sure to send us a postcard at Postcard Jar, P.O. Box 334, Crete, NE 68333. We’d love to hear from you![/well]

Ray’s Shabby Cottage Furniture

Ray’s Shabby Cottage Furniture

About this time each year, we make the hour and 45-minute drive from our home in Southeast Nebraska to Steve’s hometown of Shenandoah, Iowa, to have our taxes done. We typically meet with our CPA in the morning and then check out downtown Shen, stopping for a vanilla Coke at Jay Drug Company or peeking in at Joyce Ellen’s on the corner to see what’s new in home decor.

 

 

This year, we noticed a store we’d not visited before and walked into Ray’s Shabby Cottage Furniture. The sign on the door said antiques, retro, weird stuff and cool junk — and that’s exactly what it was.

 

 

We were pleasantly surprised at the plethora of refurbished furniture, antique mirrors and clocks, and really cool lighting fixtures made from unique odds and ends and glowing with light from Edison bulbs.

 

 

We loved the unique pieces that this small-town store has to offer, including lighted marquee signs, metal letters, and lots of old fans that were either painted or modified into lamps. The staff was especially friendly and pointed out some really unique pieces and told us a little bit about the different types of furniture and everything the store has to offer. She said they had been in Shenandoah about two years.

Be sure to check out Ray’s Facebook page for up-to-date information and photos of current inventory.  We just love exploring small shops like Ray’s Shabby Cottage Furniture in small towns across the Midwest. This one is a real gem and the perfect place for those looking for unique furniture finds or eclectic lighting.

[well]Ray’s Shabby Cottage Furniture is located at 510 W. Sheridan Ave. in Shenandoah, Iowa, and is open Tuesday-Friday 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturdays 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.[/well]

 

 

Postmark: Cedar Rapids, IA

Postmark: Cedar Rapids, IA

This summer, we received a beautiful postcard from the Amana Colonies near Cedar Rapids, IA. The postcard was sent by a friend of ours, Jen Van Winkle and one of her friends, June Biggs. Jen and I have been friends for more than a decade. We met when I was working in the cable industry and Jen, a middle school language arts teacher in Lincoln, Neb., was awarded my company’s National Teacher Award. I had the privilege of taking Jen and some of her colleagues to the awards ceremony in Washington D.C. We sat next to each other on the plane, struck up a conversation, talked the entire flight, and have been friends ever since.

Like us, Jen loves to travel and has taken lots of opportunities to see the world and she continually inspires her students to want to do the same.

This summer, Jen and June decided to take a relaxing road trip before the start of their school year. They drove from their homes in eastern Nebraska across the state of Iowa to the Amana Colonies. The Colonies have been a treasure on the Iowa prairie for more than 150 years. Located just minutes from I-80, the seven villages of the Amana Colonies offer visitors the opportunity to step back from today’s busy pace, to relish in the comfort of locally crafted foods, furniture, art and more. The Colonies offer a unique history and culture found nowhere else in the world.

amana2

While Jen and June had a great stay at Rose’s Place Bed and Breakfast and enjoyed strolling through the Colonies in the warmth of summer, there are also lots of events in the winter months, as well. Next week on Jan. 23, the Colonies will host Winterfest in the Amanas. Winterfest is a celebration of the experience of winter in the Amana Colonies. You’ll find a wide variety of activities including a 5K run/Walk, Outdoor games, Open Fire Chili, a Wine Walk featuring samples of locally made wine and beer, and a dance to name just a few.

Sounds like a great place to celebrate winter in the Midwest — just dress warmly! Thanks again, Jen and June for sending us postcard from the Amana Colonies and for all you’re doing to educate tomorrow’s leaders (and travelers).

[well]When you’re traveling next, be sure to send us a postcard at Postcard Jar, P.O. Box 334, Crete, NE 68333. We’d love to hear from you![/well]

 

Postcard from Kalona, Iowa

Postcard from Kalona, Iowa

A good friend of mine from high school lives in Iowa now and recently sent us a postcard from Kalona,  just an hour south of where she and her family live. They’ve lived there for years but had never been to nearby Kalona which was settled as an Amish community in the 1840s.

Kalona is now home to a burgeoning craft, antiques and local products industry. The town is home to a variety of locally owned shops and restaurants and centers around the historic old town business section. There is a quilt and textile museum there, a historical village, and plenty of places to eat and shop.

Rebecca said they especially enjoyed the bakery (where you can get Old Fashioned Amish County Egg Noodles) and the scenic drive.

When you’re traveling next, be sure to send us a postcard at Postcard Jar, P.O. Box 334, Crete, NE 68333. We’d love to hear from you!