Best of 2018

We love to share our favorite places and food finds with other people!  Here are our favorites from 2018!

Best Bike Trail:  Along the Cedar River, whether you are on Ellis Road, going downtown, or on the southwest side of town

Cedar River 2
The Cedar River as seen from the southwest side bike trails

Best Park for hanging out:  Ellis Park.  You have the river, the pool, the basketball court, the playgrounds, the golf course, Shakespeare’s Garden, and all the little off-set areas to explore in as you drive around the park grounds.

Best Event or Fair:  We loved the Bohemian Betty Flea Market held in September.  It was a bit unusual and had really unique items.

Best Pizza:  Mellow Mushroom in Coralville (they have a great gluten/dairy/soy free selection!)

Best Burgers: The Map Room

Saigon
Saigon Burger from the Map Room

Best Non-Burger Sandwich:  Voodoo Chicken at Zepplin’s

Best Wings:  Quinton’s in Cedar Rapids

Best Mexican Restaurant:  El Paraiso  The staff is wonderful!  We have been coming here for so long they remember us not only in the restaurant, but also out in the community when we see them!

Best Chile Verde:  El Pariso  (It is spicy!)

Best Wine Bar:  Tie between Winestyles and Della Viti.  Della Viti is more trendy and you can have partial glasses of wine; Winestyles is more cozy.

Best Beer and Ciders:  Parlor City

Best Margaritas:  El Paraiso (we love this place!)

Best Martini:  White Star Ale House

Best Steakhouse:  Rube’s in Montour.  Worth.The.Drive.

Best Indoor Place for Kids to Play:  Skyzone

Best Outdoor Place for Kids to Play:  Cherry Hill and Ellis Parks and Pools

Best Free Activity for Kids:  Coder Dojo at the Geonetric Building

bigfoot
Bigfoot spotted along Ellis Road

What are your favorite places?  Tell me about them in the comments!

Spring Reads 2018

The Living Clearly Method by Hilaria Baldwin

I thoroughly enjoyed this book!  Hilaria tackles tough issues of active moms:  there just is not enough time in the day to do what we need to do!  Squeeze in some mini-yoga workouts when you can (she even does them while walking her kids…..with the stroller for balance!), make subtle changes to your diet, and make time for your family (she is married to super-busy actor Alec Baldwin, so their schedule is constantly changing).  Hilaria has great food tips in her book.  While she is vegan, and we are Paleo, I found I could easily adapt many of her recipes for our needs.  I have also noticed that since I started to pull out my yoga mat at home for a few stretches, or to listen to a few minutes of guided meditation, my kids are doing the same.  They pull out my yoga mat, and they listen to the apps on my phone, especially when they think I am not watching!

Little House Living:  The Make Your Own Guide to a Frugal, Simple, and Self-Sufficient Life by Merissa Alink

I first picked up this book because Merissa had some allergy-friendly recipes that we could use in our house.  I was pleasantly surprised to find some great recipes to make our own body butter and body scrubs, avoiding some of the harsh ingredients in commercial brands that irritate our skin.  While we won’t be as frugal and self-sufficient as Merissa, we will definitely use several of her suggestions in our own home.

Camino Island by John Grisham

A great beachy read as you get ready for summer!  A group of thieves pull off one of the greatest heists in history as they steal priceless F. Scott Fitzgerald manuscripts from Princeton University.  A former college professor turned author is presented with an opportunity to infiltrate a curious local bookstore scene on Camino Island in Florida, where her grandmother once lived.  Her adventures take us into an underground world of book trading, and smuggling of the manuscripts into Europe.  My favorite scene was the unveiling of how the manuscript got smuggled out of the country.  This is a suspenseful book, taking many twists and turns you don’t see coming.

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The Map Room

 

The Map RoomTaste the flavors of the world without even leaving Cedar Rapids.  How?  Simply by visiting The Map Room!  This new pub recently opened up downtown.    The atmosphere is warm and cozy inside, almost like stepping into your grandfather’s study.  Interesting maps of all kinds hang from the walls.  The beer and wine list is well-rounded and is not so long it makes it hard to choose what you would like.  Creative craft cocktails are also available.  The best-kept secret about this place is how good the burgers are.  Oh my goodness, they are awesome! 

 The Map Room uses locally sourced meat for their burgers.  Each one is named after a major city around the world.  My husband ordered a New Orleans burger made with mortadella, ham, salami, mozzarella, provolone, and a spicy olive relish.  I ordered a Saigon burger topped with ham, mortadella, cucumber, pickled carrots and radish, jalapeños, cilantro, and mayonnaise.  It has a bit of a kick to it!  One of the most popular burgers served here is the Memphis.  The Memphis is topped with American cheese, pulled pork, French-fried onions, pickles, and a house-made BBQ sauce.   Gluten-free buns are available.  The salads change daily, based on ingredients the chef has available.  Broccoli salad was the choice available for us.  Some days, a kimchi potato salad is available.  I can’t wait to come back and try it!

New Orleans
The New Orleans burger on a gluten-free bun.
Saigon
The Saigon burger on a gluten-free bun.

Not so adventurous when it comes to your food?  You also have the choice to build your own burger.  If you don’t feel like eating a full meal, you may choose from a variety of appetizers served over fries or crostini bread.

I definitely recommend this place for a unique experience.  Curiosity will draw you in, comfort will bring you back.  The Map Room is located at 416 3rd St SE in downtown Cedar Rapids (formerly known as Stella’s).