116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
MARION — Its food may be hot, but The Hip-stir is serving all cool vibes in Uptown Marion.
What do a seared bologna sandwich, lobster and shrimp cheese ramen and waffle fries topped with prosciutto have in common? All of them are served in the new restaurant, offering a peek at what’s cool before it catches on in mainstream dining.
The Hip-stir, which opened at 1120 Seventh Ave. for patio and carryout service in September, opened up its captivating dining room on Nov. 3 to offer an atmosphere that matches its eclectic menu without being kitsch.
With a design described as Victorian steampunk, owners Justin Zehr, Tim Kindl and Tim Oathout managed to make doors on the ceiling, oversized barrel booths, airplane wings and a lounge area with tinted windows and a keyhole entryway fit together cohesively. As the eyes go from the tinted front windows to the matching lighting behind the bar, geometric shapes help guide the eyes to various focal points.
What: The Hip-stir
Where: 1120 Seventh Ave., Marion
Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight Monday to Friday; 10 a.m. to midnight Saturday and Sunday.
Phone: (319) 200-5465
Details: Now open for dine-in and carryout with a full bar. Patio service offered seasonally; currently closed.
“We find things we love and build around it,” Zehr said. “We find a cohesive layout with the room and then we find more big ideas and fun things to try to come up with a way of making it all come together. It’s something we’ve learned to do over time.”
The three restaurateurs, who have known each other for more than 20 years, are working on their first restaurant all together as they make their first splash in Marion. Zehr and Kindl own other Cedar Rapids restaurants through the Fun Not Fancy Restaurant Group, including LP Street Food, Moco Game Room and Hot Dog Bar, Cliff’s Dive Bar & Grill and the upcoming Taco Gato.
Oathout, formerly a chef, general manager and co-owner of Zeppelin’s Bar & Grill, now runs the kitchen as a co-owner at The Hip-stir.
When they joined forces to create what diners see now, they didn’t have a name, logo or much of a specific concept in mind to fill the space formerly occupied by Ramsey’s Wine Bistro, which closed in January. But they did have ambition — something that shines through after nine months of renovations.
“We usually have ideas of things we try to include, but they don’t always come to fruition,” Kindl said. “We don’t force it.”
The menu, a product of dozens of revisions, brings a selection just as fun as the atmosphere.
“The feeling was to cook like I’d want to cook if I was at home entertaining friends. Or just cooking the food we’d want to eat,” Oathout said. “With that comes a lot of energy and passion. I think it shows in the food — it is homey and hearty.”
Selections like the seared bologna sandwich and fried chicken sandwich offer comfort without being homely. Dishes like lobster and shrimp cheese ramen or pork belly steam buns offer something a little more adventurous.
With an unique curation of cuisine that could only be described as hipster, the menu and atmosphere manage to bring an aura of coolness without the pretentiousness associated with hipsters. But getting to that point was no easy feat. It was a challenge to make a manageable menu that fit on one page.
“It’s important to give a high quality food and fresh ingredients and sophisticated flavors without being pretentious,” Oathout said. “There’s no winning if you’re trying to showboat … and say ‘look how good I am.’ ”
What matters is the expression diners give when they try something delicious for the first time, he said.
Items like braised ribs came about mostly by accident after a delivery came in with the wrong product and was served to staff for a family meal.
Other items on initial drafts evolved over time to what they are now on the menu, like the Steak Frites. What initially started as prime rib later evolved to a fried rib-eye that’s unlike the meat you can get at other restaurants. Frying it creates a caramelized texture and unique flavor.
Capitalizing on uptown Marion’s growth and improvements, The Hip-stir is one of several restaurants making a new scene along Seventh Avenue. But what’s more, is that the owners are trying to make Marion a destination in itself for Cedar Rapidians looking for something new to eat.
Kindl said the Uptown District has a more community-oriented atmosphere.
“So many people in Marion tell us how they leave town, they go into Cedar Rapids to eat,” Zehr said. “We want to not only retain people in Marion but draw people from Cedar Rapids to come in here. If we start drawing Cedar Rapids, it’s going to bring even more energy. It’s exciting to think about.”
Comments: (319) 398-8340; firstname.lastname@example.org