CEDAR RAPIDS — When restaurant developer Kory Nanke hire Rob Bly to open his new restaurant Midtown Station, he tasked him with finding chefs for the downtown eatery.
Bly happened to know two; his sons Jerrad and Ryne Bly, who were both cooking at Basta in Iowa City. Nanke liked their food and agreed to hire them. Now Jerrad is head chef, Ryne his sous chef, and Rob is general manager of restaurant operations.
The space, in the former Shawn Ryans Irish Pub location across from the downtown Cedar Rapids fire station, was freshened up with bright white paint on the exterior and a smaller bar that allows more space for tables inside.
“It’s diner inspired. It’s a Saturday night vibe with a Sunday morning twist,” Jerrad said.
By that he means Midtown Station serves breakfast all day. It’s a favorite meal for the Bly family, and they applied that enthusiasm to the menu.
“Hash browns all the way,” Rob said with enthusiasm.
His daughter Anna Babcock also cooks at Midtown Station. Cooking together has a been family affair since oldest brother Jerrad was small, and Rob would bring him to work with him.
“I had him with me cooking. We were so busy, I brought him into the restaurant, and he was making toast,” he said. “The whole family cooks, every one of us.”
Ryne said their mother, Jill Bly, is also an influence in the kitchen.
“I’ve been cooking since I was about six years old,” he said. “I make my mom’s cinnamon roles and soups and sauces from scratch. She makes everything from scratch. Growing up, there was a huge amount of cooking constantly going on at home, whether it was mom or dad.”
Jerrad said as kids, their house was where their friends came to eat.
“Mom was always trying to force feed our friends whenever they came over,” he said. “She’d ask, ‘Are you hungry?’ and regardless of what you said, she was already opening up the fridge.”
They’re serving her recipe for pickled cucumbers and jalapenos on the Midtown Station menu. The jalapenos help kick up some of the dishes — Ryne said they wanted a few spicy things on the menu in honor of the fire station across the street.
Rob said Nanke has also tasked him with renovating and opening two other Cedar Rapids restaurants in the Boston Fish location at 804 Fifth St. SE, which closed at the end of May, and in the space formerly occupied by Pig & Porter, 1028 Third St. SE, which closed in July.
They plan for Boston Fish to remain a seafood spot with an updated menu, Rob said. Plans are still under wraps for the Pig & Porter spot in the NewBo neighborhood, as are timelines for the two projects.
He said, for now, they’re focused primarily on getting Midtown Station on its feet. The restaurant opened July 24, with official grand opening celebrations planned for Oct. 24 to 26.
The all-day breakfast menu includes things like breakfast burritos, rumchata French toast, omelets, pancakes, biscuits and gravy and shipwrecks — loaded hash browns and eggs. Midtown Station also features dishes like poutine, brussels sprouts, sandwiches like burgers, Philly cheesesteak and ahi tuna, and wraps and salads. Rotating specials are advertised near the front door, and some favorites may be added to a revamped menu in the near future.
“I like being able to be creative with food,” Jered said. “It’s a bit of an art form, but it takes it to the next level — you can see it, touch it, taste it, and it’s always going to be needed.”
If You Go
• What: Midtown Station
• Where: 715 Second Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids
• Hours: 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Kitchen closes 8 p.m. Sunday, 10 p.m. Monday to Saturday.
• Details: (319) 200-1094, facebook.com/midtownstation
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