RESTAURANTS

After their Kingston Pub was closed by the derecho, resilient couple reopens Red Frog bar

A T-shirt with a design for The Red Frog in Czech Village, Cedar Rapids.
A T-shirt with a design for The Red Frog in Czech Village, Cedar Rapids.
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Jake Brummer and Amy Winker weren’t going to let the derecho keep them down. The Aug. 10 storm ripped the roof off their bar and restaurant, Kingston Pub, just six weeks after they had first opened the business on First Avenue SW in Cedar Rapids.

With repairs looking to take months, the couple started looking for something else to keep their dream of running their own bar alive in the meantime. They found it in the Czech Village: they would bring back the Red Frog bar.

Today is opening day for their new incarnation of the classic bar.

“We had to find a new location, and this happened to be empty. There have been many stories of the Red Frog,” Winker said. “We thought, why not bring it back? We’d like to kind of bring back one of the Czech Village originals.”

The business was previously the Red Frog, then Al’s Red Frog from the 1980s through 2008. Then it went through a string of other incarnations, including twice as the Red Frog under different owners. It was most recently the Dirty Shirley bar, which closed in the spring.

Winker said the neighborhood has been welcoming as they’ve prepared to open the bar, with other business owners stopping by to offer well wishes even as they clean up their own derecho damage.

“You can definitely tell the Czech Village community is going to be a little bit different. They definitely care about all the businesses in this area and focus on bringing the district back to what it used to be,” she said.

The bar features elements people will recognize from Al’s Red Frog, including an original sign and a mural on one wall. There is no outdoor seating, at least for now, though they will offer carryout.

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The kitchen will be run by the Bly family, who opened Midtown Station, Boston’s and Red Clover Deli. All those buildings and the Red Frog building are owned by Kory Nanke.

Winker said they’ll serve breakfast on the weekend and will feature some Czech dishes on the dinner menu, such as goulash and cabbage rolls.

She’s focused on the bar side and has been researching Czech drinks, including a mulled wine called svarak vino.

“I started bar tending at a golf course at 18 and have been running and managing bars for about 20 years,” she said. “I love the customers. Every day you come to work, it’s a little different. You meet someone new, you hear a different story. You kind of build a family who you wouldn’t normally meet. You kind of get to learn their life stories.”

Brummer said while working his previous job in the trucking industry, he would picture opening his own bar.

“Running a bar was always my dream job. I’m very social. In this business, service is everything. The reason I’ve always wanted to do this is to be around people. Most days, I come to work my shift, and I don’t even feel like it’s work.”

Neither of them were ready to let that dream die, even with a pandemic and a hurricane-force storm to contend with.

“Good food, good people, good stories,” she said. “That’s what we’re after.”

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

If you go

l What: Red Frog

l Where: 88 16th Ave. SW, Cedar Rapids

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l Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. Hours will be limited during the first week open, with no weekend breakfast

l Details: (319) 200-5005, facebook.com/redfrogcr

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