I’m not very familiar with the Czech Village area of Cedar Rapids, but one day I was there and so hungry that I knew I wouldn’t make it back to Iowa City before my stomach started eating itself. So I hopped onto my phone and searched for breakfast options nearby. Strangely, a meat market was one of the options. The Village Meat Market Café had a handful of stars next to it, so my husband and I decided to give it a shot.
I walked in the door and began to salivate as I tried not to fall into the abyss of reading every interesting meat description in the glass case or on the chalkboard above. A friendly server saw us and got us seated at a table near the window (I think she was a one-person show that morning — butcher, server and chef). Her confident and casual demeanor helped make for a very comfortable experience. She didn’t stand on ceremony but treated us like family.
The food on the decently priced menu might seem basic on paper, but it was nothing less than a party for my taste buds. The breakfast portion of their menu only had five items on it. My husband got the Cowboy Quiche; I got the Tomato Basil Wrap. I’m a big sharer at restaurants (whether my husband likes it or not) and really liked his quiche — simple but tasty. The wrap was good as well. Most impressive, however, was the butcher loaf, an ingredient in both dishes.
Butcher loaf (I learned from our server) is a special type of Czech meatloaf — but let me tell you there is no meatloaf I’ve ever tasted that compares to what I tasted at the Village Meat Market Café. The flavor is almost bacon-y, but not as heavy, and the texture is tender and consistent throughout. I had to force myself to slow down so I didn’t just inhale (it was a bitter battle, my friends).
We stayed another 20 minutes after paying as I asked about the items in the meat case. I walked away with more butcher loaf and some smoked sausage and liverwurst (a food item I’d chalked up to urban legend). The sausages were tasty and the liverwurst was incredibly rich — not for the faint of heart. I fried up slices of the butcher loaf the next morning and grieved the dwindling supply after each bite. It’s the type of new food high that is forever chased but almost impossible to duplicate.
If you find yourself wandering Czech Village, pop into the Village Meat Market Café for some simple and delicious fare. But don’t leave without taking some butcher loaf home. Yeah, you could always go back and get it another time, but what if the zombie apocalypse happens, or the world explodes, or your teeth fall out? Best not take that chance.
This article was originally published in Little Village issue 235.