It was birthday weekend 2014 for two very important ladies, in Team Goodvin- Mama and the Gigi! So begins the classic story of a family that journeys to Dubuque County and Iowa’s oldest restaurant while braving the first major cold spell of the young winter season. We give you- Breitbach’s Country Dining in Balltown, Iowa’s oldest restaurant with some of the most welcoming servers and owners.
Whether you’re celebrating your 7th birthday or……30ish birthday, you need some great food. For us, a road trip to Balltown secured that necessity. We heard about this historic gem from Julie, one of my wife’s co-workers who’s originally from the area. That was all the incentive we needed to pack up the family grocery-getter and make our way to this historic Iowa restaurant.
The owner, Mike Breitbach, welcomed us in to his family’s restaurant and he and his staff never let up on making us feel at home. Sam, our awesome and very patient server, walked us through the menu and didn’t hold back when it came to telling us about the homemade cream pies. The dining room was bustling with regulars that helped us make our choices when we were mulling over the selections. The menu was loaded with good ole fashion Iowa comfort food. From prime rib to fried frog legs to thick Iowa pork chops and healthy cuts of Iowa ham. Steaks, catfish, pike and a list of huge sandwiches. All of our entrees were great, but my favorite part of the meal was the salad bar that would make any homesick native Iowan weep with thought of Breitbach’s selection of spreadable meats, pickled this and pickled that, creamy cottage cheese, sharp cheddar cheese dip, pipping hot homemade chicken noodle soup, and your picnic staples of potato salad, macaroni salad and the fruity fluffs with pockets of mini marshmallows throughout every bite. And absolutely no shortage of dinner rolls with butter!
Sam, our rock star server, took a moment to take our picture and then came charging in with the Snickers cream pies. By this time the atmosphere in the restaurant was boisterous while the locals exchanged stories of the areas towns and attractions with us. We entered Breitbach’s as rubbernecking tourists and left proud patrons of an absolute Iowa treasure. Our bellies were so full that the kids didn’t mind taking a pass on swimming at the hotel when we arrived. Job well done, Balltown!
This was our family’s second trip to Dubuque in 2014 and our second stop at The National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium. The first time was in the summer while Monie entertained her parents at the area’s casinos. The kids and I explored the NMRMA and quickly promised ourselves that we’d be back someday. Well, it was November and Gigi’s birthday was coming up on the 30th. Pizza party? No. Bowling? No. Cake and ice cream with a funny smelling clown? No. Gigi picked a place that’s a perfect getaway from what can sometimes be (and let’s face it, it’s the Midwest one day from December) a cold weekend break from nose numbness. Take the drive to Dubuque and spend most of the afternoon at the aquarium. Happy 7th, Gigi!
The NMRMA is split up between two buildings and has many things to do on the docks of the mighty Mississippi. They offer many more activities in the summer, but it’s a great way to spend a wintry day. They do an amazing job of keeping all ages entertained. There’s plenty of interactive exhibits, art, exhibits, and theaters with short movies telling you about the history of the great river from its origins in northern Minnesota to the southern Louisiana delta. Dubuque has many great restaurants, but don’t be afraid to grab a quick meal at the River’s Edge Cafe. It’s easily one of the best pit-stops I’ve ever experienced from any place like the NMRMA. I recommend the bratwurst gyro!
After lunch we ventured outside and followed Dee, our tour guide, aboard the William M. Black, a preserved steam powered dredge boat. Dee did a wonderful job explaining the purpose of the steamboat, the life of the crew and officers, and the period of history when the William M. Black was making its way up and downstream of the great river.
The whole reason for my new seven year old’s return was awaiting us on the upper level of the second building . The museum and aquarium are fun, but the kids were wanting to play in the water and not have to worry about hypothermia. The NMRMA had them covered.
The afternoon slipping by into the early evening and it was time to drive home through towns called Sherrill, New Vienna, Luxembourg and Dyersville. Dubuque County has an amazing place in our country’s history and we can’t wait to make our summer trip through it’s hilly country roads and river bluffs. The people of this area welcome all and will leave you wondering how your’re going to fit in all their suggestions during your next visit. Thank you to all, especially to Mike and the crew in Balltown. Keep the pie, frog legs and braunschweiger stocked and Team Goodvin will be back to Breitbach’s again and again!
Thanks for reading! -Team Goodvin