116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Patrons looking for lunch that is outside the box have an additional option in downtown Cedar Rapids.
Healthy Choices, which offers Dominican cuisine, opened recently in the Armstrong Centre Food Court, 210 Third Ave. SE. Healthy Choices joins Austin Blue Barbeque, the other restaurant in the food court.
Longtime food court eatery Sub King Deli, which had been open at least 20 years, closed on June 28.
"I think it was a combination of factors. There was more competition in the sub field, a couple of national guys that came over in the last couple years," said Jon Dusek, president of Armstrong Development Co., which owns the building. "I think that was pretty much the difference."
Sub King Deli, owned and operated by Byron and Cindy Blackman, had survived the June 2008 flood.
"We felt that we'd made a lot of friends and that we were supplying the downtown with a decent product," Byron Blackman said. "We had a customer base, but it just wasn't working and we just couldn't go on spinning our wheels so to speak and not getting ahead."
Vicente Javier, Healthy Choices owner and manager, was looking for a way to offer tasty cuisine that was true to his roots while at the same time reasonably good for customers.
Javier, a native of the Dominican Republic, previously owned a Chinese restaurant at 310 Third Ave., next to Guaranty Bank, which he sold in June 2000.
"I went back into the manufacturing industry but I always continued to do food research," Javier said. "For example, how to take the MSG out of a stir fry and how to cook without sugar and soy sauce.
Finally, when I felt comfortable with the combination that I had, I started seriously looking at a place back in the downtown area."
Among the items Healthy Choices offers are Dominican bowls - steamed or mixed rice topped with pinto or black beans and marinated beef or chicken. The restaurant also sells Asian stir fry with chicken, beef or vegetables over steamed rice.
Austin Blues Barbeque offers pulled pork and chicken sandwiches among other options. The barbeque business has been operating in the food court for eight years, said Barb Hartgrave, owner and operator.
"The pulled pork is the most popular and we get a very good response," Hartgrave said. "We're the only barbeque place downtown Cedar Rapids. Locally owned and operated, which is huge."
Hartgrave said one of the advantages of being downtown is the ability to bring core business district employees to the business.
There also are risks, she said.
"What scares me the most is the fact that franchises came down here," Hartgrave said. "It was just too much competition that locally-owned businesses can't compete with."
Dusek said there are a few voids for dining downtown that he would like to see filled with the food court, such as a Chinese restaurant.
"We've got some ideas on the empty area to try to do something different there," Dusek said. "It's like everything else in the world. You've got to keep getting better at what you're doing. You can't stand still."
At a glance
[naviga:li]Name: Barb Hartgrave, owner and operator, Austin Blues Barbeque, and Vicente Javier, owner and manager, Healthy Choices[/naviga:li]
[naviga:li]Companies: Austin Blues Barbeque and Healthy Choices[/naviga:li]
[naviga:li]Address: 210 Third Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids[/naviga:li]