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CEDAR RAPIDS — Sports bars are hardly new concepts, but one opened here about a month ago that has caught a lot of eyes.
Blue 42, at 629 Ellis Blvd. NW, is named for Jackie Robinson, the baseball legend who was the first African-American player in the major leagues.
A large mural of Robinson in the doorway has been a big hit with customers, according to Blue 42 owner Stewart Kee. Many a selfie has featured it.
“I’ve always been a huge baseball fan,” Kee said. “My grandpa would talk about Jackie, and it stuck with me, his relevance in the black history movement. I became obsessed with the guy, really. I’d watch any old videos and recordings with him.
“I always told myself if I opened a bar I’d call it ‘Blue 42,’ “Kee said. “Growing up, when we’d play football in the backyard the quarterback would yell ‘Blue 42!’ So it made sense on every level. It’s a name I think people like.”
The building had been the home of Johnny’s Parkway restaurant for decades. That closed in 1997. Mike Cornwell Sr., operated his Double Inn bar and grill there from 1998 through 2014. It was closed for six months because of the flood of 2008, but Cornwell and his son worked tirelessly to renovate and reopen it.
Johnny’s and the Double Inn were popular spots with good food. Kee is trying to continue that tradition with a menu he designed.
Almost all the menu items have names that clearly define what they are, but a few are whimsical. A sandwich called “Omaha” is a tribute to former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning often shouting “Omaha!” at the line of scrimmage.
And how you could have a Cobb salad in a sports bar without calling it the Ty Cobb salad?
Kee is from Texas, but has lived in Cedar Rapids since 1996. He had managed bars in Cedar Rapids for most of the last decade.
“This is the first one I’ve owned,” he said. “It’s humbling. I set out to create something, the whole time hoping the public would respond to it. The response has been overwhelming, to be honest with you.
“I think it’s the American Dream, right?