Tucked on the town square of Sully in an unassuming storefront is one of Iowa’s food gems. A short drive off of Interstate 80 leads to a warm cafe experience that offers a utopia of acclaimed dishes.
The Coffee Cup Cafe, established in 1970, offers tasty food that has some hefty accolades. Their banana cream pie was named as one of the 10 best in the United States and their stacks of buttermilk pancakes have kept discerning patrons coming back for many years.
Robin and Darin Morvant have owned the cafe for the last 10 years, building a menu of tasty food that can be sampled six days a week from breakfast to dinner.
“I have people ask what coffee is our specialty because of the restaurant name,” Robin Morvant says with a grin. “I tell them regular and decaf. We’re not a gourmet food shop, we’re a comfort food shop, that’s what we do.”
They’re also known for customer service that comes with a smile and a warm welcome regardless if you are from Sully, a neighboring town, or even out of state.
The name of the cafe and the town itself is rooted in the farms that have been growing food for generations. Farmers and community members visiting the cafe in the early days left their favorite mugs on a shelf so they wouldn’t have to bring them back day after day. According to Robin, the numerous coffee cups on the shelf led to the cafe’s name.
The sense of community has grown over the years. On any given morning you can walk into the cafe and see about 25 people visiting about crop conditions, Sully civic news and even some of the hot town gossip.
“It is the highlight of their day to come here and to talk with their fellow farmers and neighbors,” she said. “And I’m glad they have a place to do that. It seems like when the restaurant is closed the (town) square is dead.”
Most days you can find Robin and her mother, Dee Vander Wilt, in the kitchen preparing their famous pies. They make about 10 daily from scratch using only the best ingredients. Most of the recipes are secret but Robin did let me in on a tip that is sure to help your pie crusts at home.
“People ask how we get our crust so flaky and I tell them we still use real lard,” Robin said without apologies.
That lard is bought from Dayton Meat Products, a local locker in Malcom, along with some of the other ingredients they use in their foods.
Beyond sharing her tip about flaky crusts, Robin was tight lipped about the other recipes they use to make the acclaimed food at the cafe. But from my observations I think that the food and the experience at the Coffee Cup Cafe comes from more than a single ingredient. It comes from the warmth of the staff and patrons.
“I love coming out here and talking to people,” Robin said. “I like to think that this is an extension of my living room.”
Next time you are thinking about taking a road trip or are driving by the Sully exit on Interstate 80 take a detour and visit the Coffee Cup Cafe. As their slogan states; “Sit back and relax you’re home at the Coffee Cup Cafe.”
Story and photos by Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager