During our vacation up at Lake Okoboji this past summer, I was talking to our friends, Craig and Kathy Evert, about a place they took me to when I was traveling through the area about six years ago. Kathy said, "Oh, we took you to Yesterday's." I remember it being very nice and I asked if it was still open. She said, "It sure is. We were just there a couple weeks ago." I wanted to take Cindy there for dinner one evening during our vacation and I did just that.
Duane and Marilyn Zahradnik have owned and operated Yesterday's for nearly 30 years. Duane runs the kitchen and Marilyn is the one who runs the front of the house. The little place went through an expansion in the mid-90's by upgrading the bar area and adding another section of seating. They added a Teppanyaki grill along the way and I believe Duane is the Teppanyaki chef for the restaurant, as well.
It was around 7:30 when we walked into Yesterday's on Broadway in Arnolds Park. (see map) With the summer vacation season winding down, we didn't think we needed a reservation. Unfortunately for us, the place was still pretty full. Marilyn Zahradnik met us at the front and told us that if we wanted to wait in the bar area we should be able to be seated in about 15 minutes.
The bar at Yesterday's is an art deco design, something that was inspired from restaurants near the Zahradnik's winter home in Florida. The "V"-shaped lighting frames a mirror over the back bar. It was actually pretty cool to see. We ordered a couple drinks and waited for about 15 to 20 minutes before a table in the original front part of the restaurant opened up.
Marilyn directed us to a high-backed booth along the east wall of the place. It had been a few years, but I vaguely remembered the cozy atmosphere of Yesterday's with the wooden walls and comfortable seating. We looked through the menu that evening and after a bit our waiter for the evening, Charlie, came over to greet us. He told us of a couple of the specials that evening including one called the "Cheese wheel". I didn't quite understand the premise of it as he explained that it was steaming fettuccine noodles placed in a large ruggiano parmesan cheese wheel, mixed up with the cheese, then served with your choice of grilled shrimp or chicken, or nothing at all. But later on, someone at the table next to us got the cheese wheel and I saw what it was all about. It was intriguing, to say the least.
We figured we were probably going to do seafood that evening as the menu at Yesterday's skews more toward seafood selections. However, they do have a number of steak, pork and chicken entrees on the menu, as well. I looked through the wine list at Yesterday's and found a somewhat reasonably priced bottle of Ferrani-Carano Chardonnay.
One of the appetizer specials that evening was a tuna carpaccio with a cucumber wasabi dressing. I had Charlie re-explain that one to me when he came back to see if we had any questions. I ended up ordering that to start out while Cindy and I tried to figure out what we wanted.
The tuna appetizer came out a few minutes later and it was so good that I forgot to take a picture of it. Thin slices of rare tuna on a plate of cucumber straws and greens with a drizzle wasabi cream dressing is the best of how I can describe it. The tuna was fresh and not fishy in taste at all.
I was torn between a couple things on the menu. The pork medallions were calling my name - two boneless pork chops served on bed of mashed potatoes, then drizzled with a red wine reduction mushroom sauce. Mmmmm.... I also thought about getting the scallops as the ones Cindy got a couple nights before at Maxwells Beach Cafe were very good. But then I saw the cheese wheel come out again for someone else and it just intrigued me so much that I had to end up ordering that with the grilled shrimp.
Cindy was looking for a shrimp dinner to have that evening and she decided upon the shrimp scampi - sauteed shrimp served with brown rice and a vegetable. That evening the vegetable was broccoli. We also both got Caesar's salads. "Throw a couple anchovies on your salads," Charlie asked. Absolutely!
The Caesar's salads were good with Yesterday's homemade Caesar's dressing. The greens were fresh and crisp. We made short work of the salads before the main courses came to the table.
A few moments after our salad plates were taken away, Duane Zahradnik wheeled out a cart to our table with a large cheese wheel that was hollowed out in the middle. A metal cooking bowl full of steaming fettuccine noodles sat at the side along with about five or six grilled shrimp in another small bowl on the side. Duane took the fettuccine noodles and placed them in the cavity of the cheese wheel and placed the bowl over the top. He let it sit for a few moments before opening it up and began to stir the pasta around the inside, melting the inner walls of the cheese on the noodles.
He then added the shrimp to the pasta in the cheese wheel and continued to stir and toss the two inside the hollowed out cavity. When the cheese had come to a gooey consistency with the pasta and shrimp, he pulled it all out with a pair of tongs, placed in on a plate and served it to me. I asked him,"So, how many meals can you get out of a cheese wheel."
Duane thought for a second and said, "You know, I've never really counted. I'm guessing probably 175 to 200 per wheel." I asked him how many wheels he'd go through in a season (they're open late April until late September), and he said, "This year we've gone through six or seven. Since we're going to be closing here for the season in about a month, this will probably be the last one we do this year." That's a pretty popular dish.
I asked him what he did with the cheese he used to hollow out the cheese wheels and he said, "We grind it up and put it in these bowls to use," pointing at one of the parmesan cheese bowls on the table. Oh, yeah. Well, duh!
The ruggiano parmesan fettuccine and shrimp had sort of a somewhat pasty texture to it. The shrimp had a flavorful crusty outside to them, probably grilled in butter, I was thinking. The taste was excellent. The ruggiano parmesan had melted throughout the entree and each bite was this delightful cheesy taste. I also got a side of broccoli crowns with my pasta and I added a couple to the dish to get that cheese taste on the veggies.
Cindy's shrimp were more grilled than sauteed. There were six large and plump shrimp that were on her plate with a bed of brown rice and a small bit of broccoli off to the side. There was a drawn butter dipping bowl in the middle. Cindy said, "Oh, these are good."
The fettuccine I had was simply wonderful, but - oh! - so rich. I was getting full, but I couldn't stop eating the ruggiano parmesan cheese sauce. I knew I was probably going to regret it when I stepped on the scale when we got back home, but it was so good. And it was very popular - while we were there, I counted no less than 10 times that Duane had to bring the cart out from the back to serve the cheese wheel special.
Charlie came back around and asked us if we wanted any dessert. I sort of let out a groan because I was simply stuffed. But he went ahead and began to name some of the desserts they had. When he said, "We have a key lime pie that's pretty good," Cindy stopped him and ordered that with two forks.
Actually, the slice of key lime pie was pretty good. It had a very creamy texture to it along with a very forward and sweet citrus taste. Cindy said, "Yeah, this is pretty good, but I think you make a better one at home." Thank you, dear!
I remember the food being well above average on my initial visit to Yesterday's so many years ago and this time was pretty much the same. The cheese wheel was certainly unique to me and it offered some pretty good taste sensations. Charlie's service was impeccable and we spent some time visiting with Marilyn Zahradnik before we left. (Cindy was intrigued by the bags made out of old sail cloth that she had on display in the restaurant - it turned out her daughter sold them at a shop not far away from there.) It would be tough to say who had the better meal between Maxwell's and Yesterday's. Both were very good for what they were. I don't think you'd go wrong with either place if you were looking for a nice meal at Lake Okoboji. But if I had to pick between the two, I'd go back to Yesterday's first.