MARION — At Goldfinch Tap & Eatery, a restaurant that opened Sept. 13 in Uptown Marion, co-owner Andi Sofranko and chef Brandon Banaszek want the focus to be all about Iowa.
“Hospitality is the most important thing ... It’s about Iowa and community and what it’s like to live and eat in Iowa,” she said. “A lot of menu items are reminiscent of a childhood in Iowa or gatherings in Iowa.”
Banaszek has worked in the restaurant world since he was 15. He attended Kirkwood Community College’s Culinary Arts program and more has worked at Big Grove in Solon and Pullman in Iowa City.
“I love the creativity that comes from cooking,” he said. “I have a lot of standby recipes I can go to when I don’t want to think too much, but then I have recipes I can tweak a little bit, and it’s completely different.”
He grew up on the Illinois-side of the Quad Cities, but said after six years living on this side of the Mississippi, “I’m a converted Iowan now.”
“Iowan” is the broad basis for Goldfinch’s menu, which features entrees like pan roasted chicken breast with gnocchi and pork rib-eye with potato and summer squash gratin along with burgers and sandwiches and appetizers and salads like cheese curds and seven-layer salad.
That was a dish Banaszek said he wanted to play with because while it is familiar from a lifetime of potlucks and family gatherings, it was not something he saw at restaurants.
“I thought, I’ve never seen it on a menu, but let’s try it,” he said.
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Other items are also meant to evoke classic Midwestern cuisine. The Tavern Sandwich is his take on a Maid-Rite. There is a tenderloin, and Banaszek’s mac and cheese is his grandmother’s recipe.
“I just thought that’s what Marion would cling to. Food cooked simply, but with a lot of love and honest ingredients,” he said. “It’s food I want to eat. I want to eat chicken and dumplings, I want to eat a Maid-Rite.”
Diners can order beer, wine or cocktails from the bar, with a focus on a variety of Moscow mules served in copper mugs.
Along with lunch and dinner, the restaurant serves brunch from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. each Saturday and Sunday. Options include standards like eggs, pancakes and biscuits and gravy, as well as loaded toasts and a weekly French toast special, plus bloody Marys and mimosas.
The space previously housed Louie’s Scoreboard, and the new owners gave it a significant makeover.
“It was really dark, and we really wanted to lighten up the space,” Sofranko said.
That translated to light walls, a white paneled bar and lots of gold light fixtures for a midcentury modern aesthetic. In addition to a bar space and dining room, there is room for private events and patio seating behind the building.
Sofranko’s co-owners are Josh Immerfall and Joe Selix. Immerfall also owns Donnelly’s Irish Pub in Iowa City, and Selix is managing partner at Tin Roost in North Liberty. Sofranko previously worked at a number of restaurants around the Corridor, including Lincoln Cafe.
She said Goldfinch Tap’s name comes from Iowa’s state bird but also her own childhood memories.
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“Growing up, my grandfather had a ton of goldfinch feeders. It’s a really fond memory for me,” she said.
She hopes others make memories of their own at Goldfinch. Building relationships with community members is why she loves working in restaurants, she said.
“It’s the people — getting to chat with all kinds of different people,” she said. “It’s learning what’s going on in their lives, it’s making connections.”
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If you go
• What: Goldfinch Tap & Eatery
• Where: 740 10th St., Marion
• Hours: 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Bar will remain open after 9:30 p.m. kitchen closure.
• Details: (319) 826-2047, goldfinchtap.com