We were on our way to hear 19 – yes 19 – Democrats vying to be the presidential nominee in Iowa’s first-in-the-nation presidential contest. We were braced to be hungry — the Democratic party event in Cedar Rapids promised to be long, with little to no food. So what better time to visit the new cleverly-named Caucus Bistro in the small town of Ladora, Iowa — about midway between our house in Des Moines and the hotel ballroom in Cedar Rapids where Democrats including Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand (see photo op below), Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, Amy Klohbuchar and “Mayor Pete” (so-named because I can’t remember how to spell his last name, although I think I now know how to pronounce it).
Located along two-lane Highway 6, the Caucus Bistro is inside a restored almost 100-year-old “jewel box-style” bank — a once-elegant, still-faded sandstone-colored brick building with two huge Doric columns. Inside, the imposing building turned out to be as cool as its caucus-themed decor. The main restaurant is one small square with a very high ceiling and architectural reliefs of columns and a band of zigzag adornment (the kind with the occasional swastika, pre-Hitler’s appropriation) and portentous sayings in adorned letters crawling across the tops of each wall that presumably made you comfortable stashing your hard-earned money in such an institution. (“Wealth is the Achievement of Thrift” “Frugality is the Parent of Fortune” and so forth…) Sadly the bank didn’t last long. Opened in 1920, it closed 11 years later and fell into disrepair.
We sat in the bar area — behind the still-remaining wood booths for the tellers, complete with little brass hooks beside each that the enthusiastic owner told us were used by tellers to hang their visors. (question: why did bank tellers wear visors?) The place is decorated with great old photos from caucuses past – George H.W. Bush running with a girls cross country team in Des Moines; then -presidential candidate Bill Clinton sitting on a hay bale with then-Iowa senator Tom Harkin, etc.
We enjoyed our two flatbreads — the Lame Duck and the Challenger – both made on thin naan, brushed with oil or butter and flecked with this-n’-that and served on a slate board. The “Inaugural balls” — 3 balls of cookie dough, topped with syrup and accompanied by a few square pretzel bits – were way too sweet.
But the place is well worth a visit!