on Thursday, September 29, 2016
I mentioned in a recent Facebook post that a major benefit of filming Travel Waterloo is finding out new things about some of my favorite places. As we filmed this week’s episode, I had a chance to learn new things and spend some time with some really awesome members of our community.
The Brown Bottle is located in the historic Russell Lamson building at the corner of 5th and Commercial Streets in downtown Waterloo. The Russell Lamson, built in 1913, was the largest west of Chicago at the time. It was purchased in the early 1970s and at that time, Don Landau (Chuck’s father) was approached about putting a restaurant in the building. From 1974 to today, Brown Bottle has served amazing Italian food. I didn’t realize until we sat down to chat that the original menu had eight entrees on it. They were, for the most part, recipes developed by Chuck’s mother in the family’s kitchen. Those original eight are still part of the menu today.
The Brown Bottle proudly makes everything in house. The dressings, like the creamy garlic and thousand island, are crafted in small batches and you can even take home a pint. Chuck, Joanna and I talked about the garlic bread, and they shared that one person hand-cuts and hand-butters all the bread they use for both garlic bread and the toasties that come with your salad. They use approximately 100 loaves at a time, cut into 12 slices each. So there’s someone preparing 1200 slices of garlic bread daily.
In the 42 years that Brown Bottle has been in Waterloo, the menu has remained very consistent. There have been some changes, but the classics like lasagna, spaghetti and chicken marsala have remained as they were originally prepared in Chuck’s mother’s kitchen. The pizza is something many don’t always gravitate to initially, but it is definitely worth venturing away from “the usual” to try. And definitely save room for dessert! The brownie pie is outstanding and the most popular dessert on the menu.
Brown Bottle’s atmosphere is really unique, and Joanna told me that they have expanded the library significantly over the years, as guests have come to love that part of the restaurant.
Both Landaus told me that they are sometimes seen as a “special occasion” restaurant, but they have regulars who are in sometimes multiple times each week. We were there on a Monday and there were a number of tables, even early in the evening. The daily specials provide some additional reason to try Brown Bottle as an everyday treat, not just a night to celebrate. On Mondays, bottles of wine are half price. Kids eat free on Tuesdays. The Early Bird specials are available all night long on Wednesdays. Brown Bottle offers a special “date night” menu on Thursdays. Martinis are half price and appetizers are $2 off on Friday nights.
Maybe you’ve never been, or maybe it has been awhile since you were a guest at Brown Bottle. Either way, you owe it to yourself to introduce, or re-introduce, yourself to some of the best food and hospitality you’ll find, served to you like family.
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- Aaron Buzza, Waterloo Convention & Visitors Bureau