Visit Factory City Gastropub...Your Taste Buds Will Thank You
Factory City Gastropub, located inside the Ramada Hotel in downtown Waterloo, is now open and ready to thrill your taste buds.
First and foremost, you might be wondering about the term “gastropub.” What is a gastropub? The term was coined in 1991 in England after The Eagle pub in London was transitioned from a traditional pub, serving only drinks or cold dishes, to a pub that served high-end food. A gastropub is simply that: a pub that specializes in serving high-quality food. “Factory City” comes from the nickname Waterloo used to have as a major manufacturing city in the Midwest.
Chef Matt Hoecker and his staff have a passion for food and hospitality. In a visit we had recently, he said he wants Factory City to be a place where people can gather, have some drinks, and enjoy some great food together.
As much as possible, the food is either locally-sourced, homemade, or both. Chef Matt’s eyes gleamed when he talked about their four sourdough starters (the whole wheat starter is named Chewbacca, by the way) and the mushrooms they’ll be getting from a farm in Vinton, just 40 minutes south of Waterloo. A staff member of the Ramada was gushing about the hand-made marshmallows that Pastry Chef Steph Paul made that morning.
During our visit, we had the opportunity to taste several of the items that will be regular features on the menu. To say each item we tasted was better than the last would be a lie because each one was as incredible as the previous one.
We started with two items from the “To Share” section of the menu. Chef Matt’s twist on the classic pub offering, Scotch Egg, was a boiled egg wrapped in sage sausage and deep fried. It is served chilled with a spicy aioli and mustard. I actually cleaned the plate to ensure I was able to get all of the aioli and mustard. The crab cakes were equally as amazing. The last time I had crab cakes was during a visit to Washington D.C., so I figured there was no way an Iowa-made crab cake could compare. I was wrong. These were the best I’ve ever had. There are three on the plate and they’re made with jumbo lump crab, pickled shallots, and served with a tamarind aioli. The flavor was outstanding and it was obvious there were no “fillers” like you might find in crab cakes at other restaurants.
The next item we were served was the BLT. The staff isn’t cutting corners in their food preparation. The breads are all homemade and the meats are cut, aged and smoked in-house. The bacon on this BLT was as good as you’ll find anywhere. Chef Matt was very excited about getting locally-grown heirloom tomatoes in the next few months for this sandwich too. He also explained that they’ll be making their fries from scratch as well. The bread, which Chef Steph makes, was also outstanding.
Our journey continued with the Porcini Rubbed Hanger Steak and the Scallops and Pork Belly. These are the most expensive items on the menu, but they’re both worth every penny of the $26 price. The hanger steak is classically known as the “butcher’s steak” because butchers often kept it themselves rather than offering it for sale. It is the most tender cut of steak and at Factory City it is prepared with the sous-vide method. The staff seals the steak in an airtight bag and places it in a water bath to cook it. The results are a more accurately-regulated temperature throughout and a very tender steak. It is served with miso-honey roasted carrots (also cooked using the sous-vide method) and turnip puree. The Pork Belly and Scallops are served with black bean risotto and a chimichurri citrus reduction. The meats are melt-in-your-mouth tender and the risotto has both incredible flavor and is cooked perfectly.
The turnip puree and the pork belly are great examples of the “twist” on classic fare that Factory City is offering. You can get a great steak and be a little adventurous with something like turnip puree. The pork belly is an extremely flavorful, boneless cut of pork. It is a very popular cut of pork in Chinese, Korean and Philippine cuisine. The adventure is in the name or in the concept, but you’re getting the best pork you’ll have anywhere, or a side dish that is much like mashed potatoes.
For dessert, we were served a Pecan Pie Egg Roll. It tasted amazing and came with Rum and Coke syrup for dipping. One person in our party liked the flavor of the syrup so much she considered just drinking it directly from the serving dish. Other guests have raved about the desserts, and I can say that the carrot cake I had on a subsequent visit was the best I’ve ever had.
The beer selection is outstanding. Factory City manager Kegan Bakken is hoping to have all Iowa beers on tap in the near future, but the offerings now pair very well with the food Chef Matt and his staff are preparing.
The menu will evolve and rotate as produce is in season and as new ingredients are available. There will be specials on a regular basis, as well. Factory City will begin with breakfast and dinner hours, with the lunch hours to follow in the very near future.
After the initial visit, four of us walked away satisfied but eager to head back to try other offerings. Some friends had a similar visit the week before ours, each ordering something different and passing plates around the table. I’d highly recommend this approach for your first visit or two. As noted, the menu offers some classic fare, but with some really interesting twists. I think each of us will find our “go to”, but based on the five items we were served, it may take multiple visits to actually narrow that down. Visit early, visit often. You’ll be glad you did.
Hours: Open daily for breakfast and dinner. Breakfast: Mon-Fri 6:30-10:30am; Sat-Sun 7-11am. Dinner: Mon-Thurs 5-10pm; Fri-Sat 5-11pm; Sun 5-9pm.
- Aaron Buzza, Waterloo Convention & Visitors Bureau