Iowa offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs made his mark on Mount Vernon. Many in town made their mark on him, too. Wirfs and his mother, Sarah, took The Gazette on a tour of his hometown, revisiting scenes around what essentially is the one square mile where he grew up. This story is a little about what can hold you back. This is mostly about what moves you forward.

Grandfather inspires owner of The Local Craft Ale House

 

CEDAR RAPIDS — When Jason Wilkerson decided to open his new restaurant and bar, The Local Craft Ale House, he was inspired by his late grandfather, Dave Wilkerson.

His grandfather, who died a year ago, lived in Coralville and over the years served as a firefighter, police officer and was active in the American Legion. Jason said he wanted to emulate his spirit.

“He knew everybody, and everybody knew him, and I admired that he left a legacy there. I’d like to start my own legacy, based on his guidance,” he said.

Jason previously worked in the grocery business, most recently traveling as a corporate trainer for restaurants. He wanted to spend less time on the road away from his wife, Laura Wilkerson, and their four children. He also wanted to pass the values his grandfather demonstrated down to his kids.

“I want to spend my career life doing something meaningful,” he said.

With the restaurant, which opened April 1, he said, he gets to build relationships with customers and suppliers alike.

“There’s a different feeling when you come into a place you’ve built for people to gather,” he said. “It changes what work is.”

He named it Local Craft because his goal is to have as many local producers on the menu as possible, from Iowa City-based Oasis hummus to Milton Creamery cheese curds to Sausage Foundry meat to the beer selection. The 16 beers on tap are all from a rotating selection of Iowa breweries.

“I wanted to be more part of the locally owned and operated scene. That’s my biggest passion,” Wilkerson said.

The space was previously the Prime Time bar. When he heard Prime Time’s owner was ready to retire, Wilkerson approached him about taking over the Center Point Road location.

 

He painted the bright yellow walls a dark gray, but overall the space retains it’s pub ambience, with tall tables around the large central bar and a sizable outdoor patio.

The menu is also pub food, with burgers and tenderloins, wings and nachos. But Wilkerson also made sure to include healthier options, he said, like wraps and salads, along with the Beyond Meat Burger, which he said as been popular. The restaurant makes all of its own pickles and sauces in house, he said.

“I did not want to have typical bar food that goes from frozen into a fryer,” he said. “It was really about bringing fresher, housemade food to the menu.”

In honor of his grandfather’s spirit of service, he also wants to use the restaurant to get involved in the community through fundraisers, such as a current effort to raise money for an adaptive bike for a boy with cerebral palsy.

He said he knows that part of asking the community to come in and support his business is giving back to the community in return.

“I feel like, when you take the risk to open a business and be a part of your community, there’s more to it as well,” he said. “Most of the small business owners I know want to give back.”

If You Go

 

• What: The Local Craft Ale House

• Where: 4001 Center Point Rd. NE, Cedar Rapids

• Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday and 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday

• Details: (319) 320-7644, facebook.com/TheLocalCraftCR

l Comments: (319) 398-8339; alison.gowans@thegazette.com