By Angela Holmes
CEDAR RAPIDS—For new restaurant owner Brittany Hannah, Cedar Rapids Restaurant Week is a prime opportunity to introduce her menu and renovated space to new customers.
Ms. Hannah, owner and executive chef of Bistro on the River, opened the bakery, café and wine bar on Aug. 1 in the former Hach Brothers building at 411 First St. SE.
She joins 17 other restaurant owners participating in Cedar Rapids Restaurant Week through Sept. 27, when the establishments will offer fixed price lunch and/or dinner menus.
Ms. Hannah has been a part of Restaurant Week in other cities, including New York, and is familiar with its benefits.
“One of the best parts is that people have a reason to come in,” she said of the promotion.
Everything on Bistro’s menu is made from scratch, right down to the salad dressing. Restaurant Week specials include seared Norwegian salmon salad for lunch and a pork chop with apple slaw and mashed rosemary garlic Yukon potatoes for dinner.
“I want to show the versatility of what we can do,” said Ms. Hannah who graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in New York and recently earned a master’s in business administration from the University of Iowa. “We are taking everyday items and elevating them a bit.”
As well as the menu, Ms. Hannah wants to show off the renovated building, which formerly housed the Fieldhouse and River City Pub.
Renovations began in June, shortly after Ms. Hannah first came upon the building and realized it was the perfect place for her concept.
“It had the bones of what we needed, but it needed some love,” she said.
The former sports bar has been transformed into an inviting space with refinished tabletops and hardwood floors. The 20-plus televisions have been replaced with string lights and classic décor.
“It really didn’t fit what my dream was,” Ms. Hannah said of the bar atmosphere. “I wanted to create a place where my friends and I would want to hang out. While it has an energy to it, it is not loud energy.”
She describes the atmosphere as “nice, but not pretentious.” Patrons can feel equally comfortable in business attire or jeans, she said.
She realizes the risks of running a business facing the Cedar River, but it is worth it.
“You have to have some type of risk to open a restaurant, or any business,” she said. “If you don’t take risks, you’re not really living.”
Restaurant Week also features longstanding restaurants like the Lighthouse Inn Supper Club at 6905 Mount Vernon Road SE.
Stephen McAtee, Lighthouse Inn general manager, said the restaurant signed on again this year after experiencing an “excellent response” during last year’s inaugural Restaurant Week.
The 102-year-old Lighthouse Inn has seen a number of repeat customers who were introduced to the supper club during last year’s Restaurant Week. A customer from Illinois even makes it back about once a month, Mr. McAtee noted.
Produced by the Cedar Rapids Area Convention & Visitor Bureau, Cedar Rapids Restaurant Week is presented by the Iowa Beef Industry Council and US Foods.
After a successful first year in 2013, Restaurant Week was continued this year, said Jennifer Pickar, Cedar Rapids Area Convention & Visitor Bureau director of communication and marketing.
“We went into the first year to test the waters,” she said. “We felt like it was a great success. It introduces people to restaurants they haven’t been to before or not on top of mind.”
A complete list of participating restaurants and menus is available at www.CedarRapidsRestaurantWeek.com.