MARION — Bistro 3 Nineteen owner Brittany Hannah has always known what she wanted to do with her life — be a chef.
“I have never wanted to do anything else,” she said.
She split her childhood between Iowa and San Jose, California, which is where she really got interested in cooking, working in food ministry at her church, which served 150 kids a week.
“There’s something beautiful about making food for people,” she said. “You’re taking part of yourself, your overall vision on something, and saying, ‘I really like this, and I hope you like this, too.’ It’s taking care of people in one of the most basic ways that we can.”
After high school, she attended the Culinary Institute of American in New York and got her bachelor’s degree in baking and pastry arts management. She coupled that with an MBA from the University of Iowa while working at area restaurants before finally being able to open her own place, Bistro on the River in downtown Cedar Rapids about four years ago.
Then Hannah decided to move her venture to Marion, her hometown. The new incarnation of her eatery, Bistro 3 Nineteen, opened one week ago, almost exactly a year after closing Bistro on the River.
Moving to Marion made sense to her, because it was where she grew up. She also liked the Uptown Marion business district and thought her bistro would be a good fit for the neighborhood. She cited a study by the city that said a large chunk of dining dollars spent by Marion residents went to Cedar Rapids businesses.
“This area is growing so much,” she said. “Marion is very good at supporting local restaurants and businesses, and there’s a severe lack of restaurants in Marion compared to the whole population.”
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She initially planned to reopen in the former Maid Rite building in Marion, but that plan didn’t work out. But she said she likes the location she settled on just around the corner.
Newly remodeled after its previous life as an office building, the space features floor to ceiling windows that can open on nice days and a long reclaimed wood bar.
“I love how open and airy it feels,” she said. “There’s good foot traffic, and the business owners around here have been very supportive and welcoming.”
She said the menu is an expansion on the dishes she served at Bistro on the River, which was open for three years.
“It’s new American food, with as much as possible from scratch,” she said. “New American is a combination of almost all of the regions of food ... because we’re such a melting pot. But it’s still the core of Americana with sandwiches and burgers, along with more upscale things like braised short ribs.”
She serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a sizable menu featuring everything from comfort food like mac & cheese bites and buffalo chicken nachos to Norwegian salmon or Greek salads. Sandwiches include a caprese panini or the Beef ‘n’ Blue with steak, arugula, tomatoes, red wine mushrooms and Maytag blue cheese sauce, with burgers made with a combination of round beef and lamb. The entrees range from stuffed pork loin with bacon and fig jam and leek bread pudding to pineapple barbecue fried chicken to chicken pesto orecchiette.
“It’s fusion without using the word fusion. Gastro pub is another word people use. It’s taking classic items and using really great ingredients and elevating them without complicating them,” Hannah said. “My goal has always been to have a nice restaurant without pretension ... a place where you can be wearing jeans or wearing a suit and feel at home.”
l Comments: (319) 398-8339; email@example.com
If you go
l What: Bistro 3 Nineteen
l Where: 796 11th St., Marion
l Hours: 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday to Friday for breakfast and lunch, 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday for dinner, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday for brunch
l Details: (319) 363-0500, bistro3nineteen.com