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Al’s Back!

The floods which devastated Iowa in 2008 wiped out many business around Cedar Rapids, but one in particular which has been missed was Zindrick’s. It was a fine dining restaurant specializing in Czech food and which made the most wonderful cherry strudel ever conceived by man. This past Tuesday Zindrick’s at long last re-opened (under the new name of Al’s Blue Toad). My wife and I decided to go over to it for dinner to show our support for Al’s big reopening.

Mind you, the name isn’t the only thing that’s changed. Before the bar was a minor feature of the restaurant, now the restaurant feels to be a minor feature of the bar.  Pre-flood the walls were adorned with prints of Alphonse Mucha‘s artwork and photos from the Czech Republic. Now the walls abound with flat screen TVs displaying various sports channels. The menu has also changed adding newer, cheaper options. And while some old favourites remain (Chicken Paprika, Czech Goulash, etc..), some things are quite noticeably missing.

The first thing that caught my eye as missing from the menu was the dessert section. Yes, that’s right while Al is back, the Blue Toad does not currently offer his famous strudel. When we noticed this glaring omission from the menu, my wife asked our waitress about it and was told that they don’t offer desserts.

We were crushed. After waiting over a year and a half for our next slice of Al’s strudel, to find out they weren’t offering it any more was heartbreaking. But refusing to give up on it entirely, we caught Al as he was walking past our table and asked him about it. Al reassured us that he plans to bring back the strudel; he just didn’t want to burden his cooks any more than he already had with it being opening night.

Quite a bit later1 after we’d ordered and received our food; we realized there were a couple more changes to the menu than we’d noticed. One was all the Czech dinner options now come with a cup of soup instead of apple sauce. The night we were there, the soup was chilli and a rather tasty chilli at that. The other change we’d not noticed was they apparently don’t do potato dumplings any more and only have bread dumplings.

But these aren’t tiny, dried up bread dumplings. These dumplings were moist and roughly the size of a hockey puck. And they tasted quite good dipped into my Czech Goulash, though they were much better with the brown gravy served over them on my wife’s plate of Chicken Paprika.

The portions that we received were smaller than I remember them being on prior visits, but on the positive side they were still filling and the cost was down considerably2. And that lower price point for the meal will help to draw me back to Al’s in the future, even though the enlarged bar means it won’t be our “special” place anymore.

1 As near as I could tell, all of the wait staff was new. Add in that this was opening night and things moved slowly & chaotically.
2 Prior dinners with two entrees, 2 iced teas and 2 desserts usually came around $35-40 range. This visit with two entrees, 2 iced teas & 1 craft-brew beer was only $26.

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