I have heard about The General Store Pub in Stone City for years. The live music. The motorcycles. The unique setting among the hillside that if you blink, you might miss it. But I’ve never heard anyone say “You have to try the food at The General Store”. My interest was peaked.
We decided to head to The General Store on a Friday night, with a toddler in tow. I usually reserve Friday Night Date Night for toddler-free activities but from all I’d heard, it seemed as if he would be welcome and enjoy such a setting. As we maneuvered the winding roads to Anamosa, I was sad that it was too dark to see the beautiful scenery that engulfed The General Store. We pulled in the packed parking lot, and I started to fall in love. The restaurant recently refinished with large stones, heavy wooden doors and beautiful wooden floors was packed to the brim with families sharing dinner, woman after woman drinking (what I came to later find out was) a Wapsirita, and rugged, hard working men bellied up to the bar for a cold beer to close the day. We put our name in for a table, and quickly moved to the downstairs bar to nestled into a corner table where we decided to stay for the next few hours.
We were greeted by a waitress so welcoming and accommodating that I thought for a moment she was an aunt, or relative who was opening her home to us. We all ordered beers- an oatmeal stout- and start to peruse the menu. I didn’t have to look far into the appetizers to see that the Sweet Potato Fries were accompanied by a cup of marshmallow fluff, and ordered those immediately.
We also put in an order for your commonplace stand-by, chips and salsa. As our food was delivered, I noticed the room was now full of people, taking up every bar stool and seat available. The sweet potato fries were thick- cut and lightly salted. I loved the idea of the marshmallow fluff but desperately wanted it to be stirred, or fluffed, or warmed enough that I could get a fry into it without losing half of my finger in it as well for digging leverage. But you have to appreciate a place that just gives you pieces of foiled paper to use as dinnerware for your appetizers.
We placed our dinner orders, and deciding that I needed to try a recommended dish since it was my first visit, I went with the Tadburger: A Half pound burger, grilled and topped with a fried egg, bacon strips, American cheese and served on a toasted bun. I’ve never been sure where this burger originated but the trend of topping patties with a fried egg ran rampant in Chicago a few years ago. Kuma’s Burger, Hot Chocolate, etc. all hosted amazing burgers topped with eggs and bacon. Both men at our table were delighted by the promise of Prime Rib paired with several side dishes. My mom ordered Fish & Chips, and for Liam, we skipped the kids meal and decided he could enjoy a smorgasbord of our entrees.
Our food was delivered by our (distant aunt) waitress, and a delicious meal began. My burger was delivered as promised, topped with two slices of bacon and a fried egg. In past experiences, you cut through the yolk and it soaks your burger to compliment the cheesey and greasy goodness. Although not asked about my preference for yolk preparedness, it came “over hard”, and whether that is “right” or “wrong” for how this burger is supposed to be served, I’m not sure I cared too much. I’m not sure it was good enough to be a recommended dish here, but it wasn’t bad either. The fish & chips had a great batter that didn’t make you want to cut your fingers off in the morning from too much sodium intake. And the two prime ribs were polished off by the men, with no questions asked. I could barely get my fork in to the garlic mashed potatoes without them disappearing as well.
The food was good, nothing too delicious to distract me from enjoying the scenery. I looked up from one bite of my burger to see two gentlemen helping themselves to stoking the fire, and I thought to myself “I can see why people come here.” It was a place to easily settle into, just like home in both fare and atmosphere.
Our meal ended with a little surprise. Our waitress delivered a tabletop fire and a s’mores kit for Liam. And while it was just marshmallows, sticks, and fire- you can’t go wrong with a simple, nice gesture.
As we left our table, wading through the sea of people hoping to get a seat, I realized why people don’t mention the food when they talk about visiting Stone City General Store. And to be fair, I should be critiquing food. But there are some places that you visit, that the aroma, atmosphere, guests and experience are such a feast for the senses, that you don’t mind if the fluff isn’t very well, fluffy.