Dan Kaercher finds a great place along the Missouri river to dine on everything from country fried steak to lamb wellington to pork osso bucco. It's Bev's on the River in Sioux City.
Hosted by Dan Kaercher, Iowa's Simple Pleasures features Iowa travel destinations, restaurants, events, parks, recreation and more. Produced by Iowa Public Television, the series highlights fun things for Iowans to do, see and taste, right here at home. Below are excerpts from Dan's journal of his travels in the state.
Our day begins near our previous stop in Akron with breakfast at Akron Jo's. What is it about Iowa breakfast places like this? I observe several tables of farmers in overalls and seed-corn caps, solving the world's problems over coffee and gooey cinnamon rolls. I wonder what they think of the strangers in town (that would be us)? Before we can get acquainted, it's time to head south to Sioux City to begin setting up for our next Simple Pleasures video shoot. On the highway, we nose between the Big Sioux River on one side and the northernmost remnants of Iowa’s Loess Hills on the other. It’s a short but pretty drive.
We're a bit early so, what the heck, we grab another bite downtown, this time at a local legend: Milwaukee Weiner House No. 1. My chili dog (actually, I had two) reminds me of the slightly cinnamony chili they famously serve over spaghetti in Cincinnati, Ohio. It makes sense when the owners introduce themselves and tell me about, among other things, their Greek heritage. Cincinnati’s chili parlor owners are descended from Greeks as well. I’m told the Weiner House is just one of several long-standing and much-loved eateries in town; I make a mental note to return and sample the others.
Time to get back to work ... and more eating! Bev's is located right on the Missouri River, almost in the shadow of the arching bridge that connects Sioux City and South Sioux City, Nebraska. Not far away is the fascinating Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center that I’ve visited before. A busy marina with a riverside bar called Jolly Rogers, and a Hilton Garden Inn flank either side of the restaurant. It's quite a complex, and one that gives me a fresh image of the impressively revitalized Sioux City waterfront.
As I check out the bike trail between Bev's and the riverbank, I'm told that the Missouri is one of America’s fastest-flowing major rivers. It's apparent when you really study the current rushing past. Still, the river is popular with recreational boaters as well as grain barges. Some folks have even boated from as far as St. Louis and the Omaha area, mooring their craft at the marina before enjoying an evening at Bev's.
It's clear one of the co-owners, Larry Miller (who owns the business with his wife and a brother), is proud-as-can-be of his restaurant and the adjoining hotel, both of which are just a couple years old. Larry had a long career in the restaurant business, among other enterprises, and he tells me that his mother, Bev Miller, was known by many in Sioux City as a waitress years ago. Hence, the restaurant’s name Photos of Larry’s mother and father grace the fireplace just inside the main entry.
All the food photography and sampling we’re doing remind me of my 2005 Taste of the Midwest tour, when I was still editor-in-chief of Midwest Living magazine. I put on 10 ½ pounds in 40-odd days on the road! Oh well, I’ll eat anything for a good cause, like this show. And it won’t take much convincing to bring me back here for the dishes I sample, compliments of talented, Sioux City native chef Rick Beaulieu. Rick studied under Emeril Lagasse in New Orleans. Among the dishes I sampled were pork osso bucco, smoked chicken pizza, chicken potpie, and a fish creation, capped off with a bread pudding drizzled with a creamy bourbon sauce. Rick characterizes the cuisine here as casual American and to me it is all as satisfying as comfort food ... yet very creatively prepared and artfully presented. I’m certainly not alone here: The place seats 200, with adjoining banquet facilities for up to 400.
We wrap up our evening on the outside terrace by the river, treated to a live performance by a Sioux City singer and musician Mike Langley who says he's returned here after years spent in Europe. It’s more evidence of the surprising talent awaiting in this Missouri River metropolis. Whether it’s food or music, or both, Sioux City leaves me very impressed.
Off to the south side of town, where I rest my contented head not far from the obelisk-shaped Sergeant Floyd monument, recalling this area’s ties to the Lewis and Clark Expedition that passed through here more than 200 years ago. What changes two centuries have brought!