Time Capsule Dale: Craving Roxie’s scalloped potatoes and ham

Jordan Sellergren/Little Village

Meet LV’s newest columnist — a Gen X townie who goes to bed in the ’90s and wakes up in modern day IC/CR.

It had everything a southeast side Iowa City resident would ever need: happy hour specials and the best damn scalloped potatoes and ham in Johnson County. I’m talking about Roxie’s on the corner of Muscatine and 1st Avenue. If I’d known I was going to hurtle nearly 30 years into the future after a random Cup Night at The Q, I wouldn’t have taken Roxie’s for granted. Or the 50 cent refills on Cup Night.

Hungry for some comfort food, I wander from my apartment past a stream of automobiles, not a single one a growling ’70s Chevelles or orange Ford Escort. There are “Help Wanted” signs on every window I pass, including the shiny Kum & Go that used to be the Gasby’s where I’d buy chew and 24-packs of Rolling Rock on paydays.

I peer across the street to where my beloved Roxie’s should be and see a quadrant of businesses. I pass on the pizza place that tells me I have to bake it at home, and I can’t afford a cellular phone (who am I, Zack Morris on Saved by the Bell?). An establishment called Mesa 503 looks promising, though.

Inside, a Salvadoran family cooks up pupusas. I order with little idea what I’m buying, but when the pupusas come out, they’re something to behold — like if a quesadilla and a pita had a baby! Hot, fluffy and cheesy. I nod to the family in the kitchen and salute them with my last bite, which I chew with some red cabbage slaw and rich salsa. Thirsty. I could use a marg. Maybe Senor Pablo’s has stood the test of time?

I walk out, and fall on my knees like Charlton Heston at the end of Planet of the Apes. 830 1st Avenue is sprawling concrete, the textbook definition of “pave paradise and put up a parking lot.” A giant Hy-Vee sits where the trailer park was.

Where were the Paulsons? Was little darling Corey all grow’ed up? Was the knight’s armor melted down to make ammunition during some war I missed — Y2K, maybe?

A young man wearing a red Hy-Vee shirt (something familiar, at least) helps calm me down, assuring me there are still plenty of soft-shell tacos and margaritas to be found in Iowa City.

“At least we still have La Casa and Gringos,” I manage to utter.

He lets out a chuckle, then goes back to collecting carts.

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 317.