116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Just a few months after transforming Rodina into SureBurger to cope with the sudden loss of refrigeration space, Rodina is making another big transition.
Rodina has hired a new chef di cuisine to be the head of Rodina as its owners, Chef Samuel Charles and Phoebe Charles, make good on a vision they’ve always had for the upscale, Midwest comfort food restaurant in the Czech Village.
Chef Marcus Eng — who has extensive experience in the Denver, Colo., restaurant scene both with award-winning Chef Samuel and James Beard semifinalists — starts at Rodina this week as the restaurant expands its catering and event center arm.
“Marcus is coming to help take the reins of Rodina to help us position ourselves to open our next concepts and to explore catering,” Samuel Charles said. “We’re looking to open an elevated concept in Iowa City.”
Diners should expect a significant overhaul of Rodina’s menu toward a more seasonal focus — about half of it is changing — as Marcus brings in a new skill set and philosophy for cuisine and sourcing. With extensive experience in one of the hottest culinary scenes in the country, Rodina’s owners say he will position them for new growth.
“For the last two years, the narrative (in the restaurant industry) has been to survive and persevere,” Samuel Charles said. “For us, the narrative has been different — it has been to thrive. To bring someone in like this feels like it’s bringing us back to that path.”
Rodina has started its new path to grow as a catering company and the Corridor’s “premiere boutique event space,” and has started accepting bookings for the its small but well-appointed space along C Street Southwest. The restaurant recently hosted events with a California distillery and plans to do not only drag queen brunches, but drag dinners — a first for Cedar Rapids.
“Because of COVID, we had to force ourselves to cater so much,” Samuel Charles said. “It was amazing professionally, but it kind of took ourselves away from what we believed the heart of Rodina was supposed to be.”
The new hire will help return Rodina to that vision as the owners’ eyes shift to a more expansive future.
“We wanted to create a restaurant you could plug into any major city and we would be a contender,” he said.
The move toward an event center follows similar announcements from Popoli toward an event center, announcing its closure only months after reopening. Chef Samuel Charles said the move was partly influenced by Big Grove’s plan to come to Cedar Rapids with the First and First West development in the works.
“This is a national trend,” he said. “I think it really goes with the fact that restaurants and breweries had to think outside the box so long.”
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