Ray Hoffmann has work to do this week. It’s high time for the Luciano’s Restaurant owner, who has more than dabbled in Republican politics for 30-plus years.
“Every Republican who has run for president since 1980 is pictured on a wall in my office,” said Hoffmann, who served as state chairman for the Iowa GOP from 2005 to 2008.
With seven Republican presidential candidates in Sioux City for Thursday’s debate, Hoffmann must catch them for a candid moment.
Actually, the candidates often catch Hoffmann on HIS turf. At Luciano’s.
What’s a good conservative like for dinner at his place on Historic Fourth Street? “They come for the pasta,” said Hoffmann, who added that Osso-Bucco, a pork shank that can feed two, is also popular.
“There’s also a Shrimp Italiano that I invented,” said Hoffmann, a German immigrant whose only run for public office ended with his defeat.
It’s a good political tale he relives from time to time. “I ran for mayor in the city of Anthon in the 1970s,” Hoffmann said with a laugh. “I was unopposed, and I said that wasn’t the American way. So I went out and recruited two guys to run against me. I finished third. That told me right there: I make a great guy to run things from behind the scenes.”
Behind the scenes is where Hoffmann will work this week, hosting at least one fundraiser for a candidate. Look for the picture to be in place by week’s end.
“I like the Iowa Caucuses because they show there are people out there who care about this country and want to make it better,” he concluded. “It also shows me how powerful Iowa can be. The whole world’s eyes are on us.”
The news world has its eyes trained on Sioux City this week. That’s apparent to Rick Bertrand, owner of McCarthy & Bailey’s Irish Pub in Sioux City. Bertrand, the first Republican in 32 years elected from District 1 to serve the Iowa Senate, planned to roll out his pub’s red carpet for Fox News pros, the candidates, their staff members and the public this week.
Developer Bertrand describes himself as part of the new wave of Republicans, officials that blend conservative principles with hands-on business experience.
“We’re a block-and-a-half from Stoney Creek Inn & Conference Center, where a lot of the national media and the staffs are staying, and we’re a block-and-a-half from the Sioux City Convention Center,” said Bertrand. “We’ve invited all the candidates and their staffs here after the debate. I think we’ll see some activity, and it’s open to the public.”
Four candidates on the stage Thursday — Michelle Bachman, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Rick Perry — already have made campaign stops at McCarthy & Bailey’s Irish Pub, part of a new development on Pearl Street. The pub features Irish plates like Bangers & Mash, Shepherd’s Pie and Will’s Fish-n-Chips.
What food preferences will show in the hours following Thursday’s debate?
“Well, I’m sure a lot of ‘red meat’ will fly during the debate,” said Bertrand. “They may want to go light, and leave some room for a beverage.”
Of course, there are many options Republicans and political fans have in Sioux City when it comes to dining. You can get everything from hot dogs (at various places, including Sioux City’s oldest restaurant, Coney Island) to Iowa chops (again, at several places) to steak and shrimp (yes, at any number of establishments).
For local flavor, here are a couple of other interesting bets:
Try a Charlie Boy and a schooner at Miles Inn. This Morningside-area staple claims to serve this city’s coldest beer — something it’s been doing since 1925. The 20-ounce frosted schooners come with loose meat sandwiches (they’re called Charlie Boys), the recipe of which remains a protected treasure.
The Charlie Boy takes its name from founder John Mile’s grandson, Charlie. Legend has it that rather than refer to Charlie as Charlie Jr. (he was named for his father, Charlie) the family called him Charlie Boy.
A pair of Sioux City natives put Green Gables Restaurant on the map decades ago. The near northside eatery founded by attorney Albert Seff in 1929 became a favorite haunt of the Friedman twins — Eppie and Popo — later known to millions of readers throughout the world as Ann Landers and Abigail Van Buren, syndicated advice columnists.
Other past Green Gables guests include Liberace, Jimmy Stewart and Charlton Heston.
The Gables’ Hot Fudge Sundae remains a foodie landmark locally, as does the Matzo Ball Soup.
Speaking of food landmarks, Sioux City is dotted with a dozen or so authentic Mexican restaurants. One of the best known is La Juanita’s on Pierce Street, immediately north of downtown. Victor and Cristina Bautista, natives of Jalisco, Mexico, began their business out of a truck parked near manufacturing facilities in 1997.
The eatery specializes in fresh fare that ranges from tacos and burritos to Camarones a la Diabla, that’s Spanish for “shrimp marinated in hot sauces.” It remains the hottest dish served at La Juanita’s, maybe the hottest dish in town, according to Cristina Bautista.
As heated as the political final Republican presidential debate? We’ll have to see for ourselves come Thursday.