Since this blog is named Road Tips, the purpose should really be to point out some of the more obscure and secret places that I've found in my travels around the Midwest and beyond. One place that I've stopped at for years and years is the Colony Point Deli located in the BP gas station at the Williamsburg (IA) exit on Interstate 80. (see map) They have a great little sandwich place in there and I thought I'd share it with you today.
I have no idea of the history of the Colony Point Deli, but it's just a part of the Colony Point travel stop located right next to the Tanger Outlet Mall off Interstate 80 at exit 220. But it's not unlike many travel plazas that you find on any interstate across the nation. First of all, it caters to automobiles and not trucks, so it's definitely not a truck stop. Secondly, Colony Point is sort of like an upscale convenience store with knick-knack gifts, Amana foods and, of course, a pretty good little deli in the place.
The nearby Amana Colonies feature a handful of very good German-American restaurants (we've been talking about going there to one of the restaurants and doing an entry for Road Tips), a good little bakery called the Amana Bakery that makes breads, rolls and bagels, and the Amana Meat Shop and Smokehouse that is famous for their hams, bologna, sausages and smoked pork chops, as well as their cheese. The Colony Point sells a number of these items for people who aren't willing to venture the 10 or so miles to the north and east to go to the Amana Colonies.
One thing that Colony Point sells is the Amana pickled ham. This stuff is like heroin. In fact, I contemplated making a separate entry for the Amana pickled ham under the "Guilty Pleasures" column of this blog. They take an Amana smoked ham, cut it into square chunks and then put it pickled vinegar water with onion slices and let it cure. Oh, man! It is so addictive. I've found myself just sitting with a fork, watching TV and eating the pickled ham until I looked down and realized that I'd eaten half the bottle. Then, of course, I'm wrought with guilt afterwards.
The first time I'd had the pickled ham was at one of the Amana Colony restaurants that I went to with my old college roommate, Billy Wilson. Billy grew up near the Amana Colonies and every once in a while his parents would invite us to come over from Iowa City to have dinner with them on a Friday night. The first time I went there nearly 30 years ago, they brought out a bowl of the pickled ham with the family style meal, I had one and I was hooked. It got to a point where when we sat down we'd order our drinks AND a bowl of pickled ham. And Billy and I would constantly fight over the last few morsels of this delectable offering from the God of Pigs. If you would tell me the secret of the taste of the Amana pickled ham is pig urine, I'd still eat it.
Since I was on my way home, of course, I had to pick up a jar to take with me. I can't tell you how many times I've resisted picking up a plastic fork and taking it with me so I could eat some on the way home. I'll admit, I've done that a couple of times. It's amazing how your dignity vanishes when it comes to the Amana pickled ham.
The deli area isn't much. It's a small counter with a menu behind it on the wall, and a small station where the sandwiches are made. The menu isn't big - they just have the basic ham, roast beef, turkey, etc. They also have capocolla and hard salami sandwiches. I really like a good spicy capocolla and Colony Point Deli's capocolla is very good.
I ordered up a roast beef with provolone cheese on the Amana German rye bread. They also have a great Amana dark rye, as well as wheat and regular white breads from the Amana bakery. You get your choice of veggies - tomato, lettuce, onion - as well as either German mustard or yellow mustard, and a vinegar and oil topping. I ordered mine with all the veggies, oil and vinegar (with Italian spices mixed in) and yellow mustard. Since they're made to order, you have time to walk around and check out what else Colony Point has to offer. (They also have pre-made sandwiches in a case if you don't want to wait.)
Another guilty pleasure in life is Sterzing's Potato Chips. This is another taste sensation that I acquired while going to the University of Iowa in the early to mid-80's. I have to tell you, Sterzing's Potato Chips are another horrifyingly addictive guilty pleasure of mine. Once again, I could dedicate a whole entry for my Guilty Pleasures category on Sterzing's. But I decided to make it just another part of this entry.
They make the potato chips in Burlington, IA and have been in existence since 1933 when it started out as a candy factory. Founder Barney Sterzing began to play around with the notion of making potato chips about the time World War II ended. The taste and texture of a Sterzing's potato chip is very unique and it's the same recipe they've used since Day 1. They claim they only use salt and oil in cooking their potato chips, but I have to guess there are small amounts of opium mixed in, as well. They are just that addictive. They were a great late night, munchy snack after the bars closed for a guy like me when I was going to college. But I would always eat too many of those grease-sponged chips that it would make my stomach hurt.
Barney Sterzing's daughter, Billie, and her husband, Dutch Duttweiler, took over the family business in 1959. Dutch Duttweiler oversaw an expansion of business that included moving to their present day production facility in Burlington along with an expansion of distribution. For years, Sterzing's Potato Chips were only available within a 50 mile radius of Burlington, but in the 90's they expanded their distribution and the prominent yellow and red bags can now be found at convenience stores such as Casey's and Kum and Go, as well as many Hy-Vee grocery stores.
In 1994, the Duttweiler's retired and their daughters, Jill Blackwood (with her husband, Tom) and Judy Arledge took over. Earlier this year, the third generation family sold their interest in Sterzing's to long time employees Craig Smith and Gary Schmeiser. Smith started with Sterzing's in 1980 as a route driver and worked his way up to production manager for the plant. Schmeiser also started as a route driver in 1989, but became the sales manager for the company in 1997. Smith and Schmeiser aren't planning on any wholesale changes for Sterzing's, saying "Why tamper with success?"
Of course, I had to get a small bag of Sterzing's Potato Chips to go along with my sandwich. It had been such a long time since I'd had some that I decided to treat myself to some.
One other thing that makes a trip to the Colony Point Deli a treat are their wonderful home-baked cookies. Of course, they put them right up in front by where you order and pay for your sandwich. They have all types of cookies including chocolate chip, M&M's cookies, chocolate chips WITH M&M's, white chocolate chip - the list goes on and on. They also have baked goods including pastries in the case. I decided to treat myself to a white chocolate chip and macadamia nut cookie for a dessert. Hey, I was on vacation at the time and I thought I deserved it.
On the other side of the counter where they have the pre-made sandwiches, they also have homemade pies that you can buy whole or by the slice. A slice of their lemon pie has been calling my name for years, but I've successfully have dodged all attempts by the ladies behind the counter to take a piece with me.
The lady called out my name when my sandwich was ready and I took all my goodies including the jar of pickled ham, the Sterzing's and a bottle of water to the counter and ordered up the cookie when she asked if there would be anything else. The sandwich also comes with a pickle spear and each sandwich also gets a peppermint candy placed underneath the sandwich.
You can get half sandwiches at Colony Point, but I got a full one this time. And it's pretty big. They really lay on the vegetables and the Italian spice-infused oil and vinegar tastes great on the lettuce, tomatoes and onions. I normally don't get onions on my sandwiches from the Colony Point Deli, but this time I did. And they were fresh and strong!
The sandwich had three thick slices of roast beef and a thick slice of provolone cheese on top. The bread was a little dried out - I knew I should have gotten the dark rye bread. But it was still good. I like a lot of yellow mustard on my roast beef sandwiches and they slathered it on. This is not a sandwich that you can easily eat while you're driving down the road. Even though there is a small dining area in Colony Point, I sat out in the parking lot and ate a good portion of the sandwich before heading back home.
The sandwiches at the Colony Point Deli aren't going to be as good as what you'd find at a big city deli such as Manny's Deli in Chicago (look for an upcoming entry on that place on Road Tips), but for out in the middle of the cornfields of Iowa and just off Interstate 80 it's a good place to stop, grab a sandwich and other Amana food stuffs, then head on down the road. While my sandwich was a little dry with the bread and almost had too many veggies (lettuce, especially), it's still a pretty good value. The Colony Point Deli a great alternative to Arby's, McDonald's or Subway - all of which are also in the immediate vicinity at that exit. It's all the extras that you can get at Colony Point that makes this place one of my guilty pleasures in life.