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McCLELLAND, Iowa — A question. A laugh. A story. So it goes at the Dew Drop Inn.
The family-friendly restaurant and bar is a fixture in this Pottawattamie County village, population 151.
We weren’t even sitting yet when a local man struck up a conversation with my husband and they both ended up laughing. That’s one of the great things about small-town spots such as the Dew Drop Inn: We immediately felt welcome, at home and relaxed.
Connie Starnes of Malvern, Iowa, wrote to suggest the Dew Drop Inn as a hidden gem. She described the place as a quaint little diner that has great food and a friendly vibe.
Owners are Keith and Rebecca Rice of Council Bluffs. They have owned the Dew Drop for six years, but it predates them: The sidewalk outside is stamped 1910.
Keith Rice grew up nearby and began coming to the restaurant and bar as a child. He worked 20 years for Duncan’s Cafe in the Bluffs before buying the Dew Drop.
The old stone building, next to the fire station, seats about 30 at the bar and tables. Walls have knotty pine wainscoting with brown paint above.
The corrugated steel addition seats more than 50 and offers video games, pool, foosball and bigger tables. Decor is similar to the original room.
There’s a lot to look at in both rooms. T-shirts, humorous signs (“Forget the dog, beware of owner”), photos, album covers, hubcaps, posters, beer advertising signs and more cover the walls.
When I asked about what looked like a tire skid mark on the floor, there was outright laughter and Rice dished on himself.
He used to ride street bikes. When he sold his last one, the bike was indoors because the Dew Drop wasn’t open. He needed to move it outside so the new owner could take it.
Rice swears he barely touched the throttle. If that skid mark could talk, would it tell a different tale?
The menu is typical bar food with unexpected twists. Prices range from $1 for cheese sauce for dipping appetizers to $14.95 for a 12-ounce New York strip steak or 12-ounce ribeye steak.
In between are $5.50 for gizzards or corn fritters, $6.95 for a hand-breaded pork tenderloin sandwich, $4.35 for a BLT, $9.25 for chicken fried steak, $13.95 for meat lovers or supreme combo pizza, $7 for a grilled chicken salad and many other options.
The kids menu has five items.
The Dew Drop Inn has a daily weekday lunch special. It comes with chocolate cake homemade by Rice’s parents, Carl and Pat Rice of Council Bluffs.
Some nights there are specials, too, such as tacos on Tuesdays.
During our recent visit, we started by splitting breaded mushrooms ($5.50) with ranch dressing and cheese sauce as dipping options. The portion was enough to serve four. The mushrooms were hot and tasty. I had a can of pop ($1.25) and a delicious, juicy cheeseburger ($3.95) that filled the bun.
When I asked if it was a third-pound of meat, Rice said he didn’t know. He makes the hand-formed patties from beef ground 80 percent lean and sizes them like he would for himself at home.
My husband ordered a can of pop and a patty melt ($5.45). He said it was among the best he’d ever tasted and shared that with the owner.
Rice waited tables, prepared salads, delivered food, served beverages, bused tables and did cashier duty, too. Employees did the cooking.
The Dew Drop Inn, 109 Main St. in McClelland, opens at 11:30 a.m. Mondays through Saturdays. The kitchen is open until 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
The place is closed Sundays.
After you eat, walk across the street to the gated garden. The owner has done a great job of creating a beautiful, relaxing space. Stay outside the gates, however, because the garden is private property.