Leading up to this year's RAGBRAI, the folks at Orlondo's Bar & Grill on Park Ave. expected a huge surge of business with thousands of riders setting up camp mere blocks away from the bar, located just east of the intersection with George Flagg Parkway. Hopes were high to serve up many kegs of beers, innumerable cocktails, and thousands of slices of pizza throughout the night to hungry, thirsty riders. The following morning Orlondo's would offer Bloody Marys, egg and pepperoni pizzas, and breakfast sausage pizzas.
When the day came, the turnout at Orlondo's was significantly lighter than expected. Rigid control of the route into town shunted all the riders straight to the camp site at Water Works Park with little option to veer and explore. Once at camp, riders were shuttled off by the thousands to the official RAGBRAI celebration site located downtown on the river.
To add insult to injury, the nearby Izaak Walton League lodge – conveniently located on the bike route and visible from the camp site – set up their own beer tent to attract the remaining riders who stayed at the park. Such is the fickle nature of things.
I however, embarked on a trio of walking treks to visit the bar over the course of the weeks leading up to RAGBRAI, and a final visit a few days after most evidence of the ride had been cleaned up from Water Works Park.
On my first visit after trudging through floodwater mud-slickened grass in the park after walking down from Ingersoll, I stumbled into the bar, quaffed an ice water with a mini-pitcher of Fat Tire for a chaser, and ordered a 12 inch Combo on wheat.
The Combo – built on Orlondo's housemade wheat crust with a bright tomato sauce, über chunky housemade Italian sausage, pepperoni, mushroom, onion and roasted red bell pepper – was a delight! The uphill trek afterward up Park to Fleur to the nearest DART bus stop wasn't.
I took another route – longer but much drier – on my next visit, walking over from S.W. Ninth. The reward for my efforts? Italian Nachos!
Orlondo's take on nachos starts with tortilla chips piled up with grinder meat – Orlondo's sausage served loose with marinara sauce – plus roasted red bell pepper, jalapeño, fried banana pepper, black olive and onion, with a side of salsa, and sour cream on request. A hearty treat and tops in my book!
Drunk with good food in my belly I splurge on a cab ride home. The bill though was quite sobering, matching the cost of my meal and drink.
On my last visit I revisited the route down from Ingersoll through parkland bereft of spring floodwaters. Greeted by the now familiar face of the day barkeep, I was offered a slice of pepperoni pizza while I waited for a Grinder sandwich and salad. For a slice under a heat lamp, it wasn't half bad.
A small House Salad with mozzarella cheese, croûton and a peperoncini, was adorned with a goodly amount of Orlondo's smooth and sweet Creamy Italian dressing. A bit much though, the croûtons near the bottom softened up. Lettuce was reasonably fresh and crisp.
A seriously moist Grinder sandwich was put before me, loaded with the same saucy grinder meat that made the Italian Nachos so tasty. Fennel dominates the aroma, oregano the flavor. The toasted hoagie roll moistens up so keep a fork handy.
When the weather cools down from this late summer heat wave I hope to return to Orlondo's for Grinder Sliders, Egg and Hot Banana Pepper sandwiches, a Cavatelli Combo dinner, or pizza built on a rye crust. Now if I could only convince DART to operate a Southwest connector route down Park Ave.