Tyler & Downing’s Eatery in Anamosa now in its fourth generation
The story of Tyler & Downing’s Eatery began four generations ago.
“You asked for the novel that wasn’t written,” said Dirk Downing, who describes his title as owner/head/HR/maintenance/accounting/marketing/storyteller. “So here’s the condensed version of Reader’s Digest.”
The business started with Downing’s great-grandfather, Don Arnold Downing, and his partner, JE Tyler, and was primarily a butcher shop. The current Downing in charge describes the legacy as follows: “Four generations, from the slaughterhouses of Chicago in 1889 to today in Anamosa, Iowa. Butchers, businessmen, athletes, fathers, citizens,” Downing said. “Leaders in the community, in their fraternal organizations and dedicated supporters of the schools. Hardworking, intelligent, with a dose of humor that transcends their generation.
He adds: “There are thousands of stories. Some mundane, some risky, the funniest.
Tyler & Downing Grocery & Meats was an Anamosa institution for over 100 years. “It was not the food business or being butchers that made our success,” said Downing, “but rather the character and integrity of these men that led to success.” Between the practical jokes, the camaraderie and the cuts behind the counter, Tyler & Downing was arguably Anamosa’s most entertaining company.
Downing does not take his role in this long line of respected and successful businessmen lightly.
“I’m the last one left,” he said. “I owe them so much. I’m embarrassed that I didn’t do more, but I’m not left out either. What does this mean now? I’m lucky to have what I have and I’m lucky to be part of this family.
Describing his restaurant as “comfortable, clean, proper and delicious – with just a touch of fun, nostalgia and irreverence”, Downing said a good restaurant must have a solid burger. “We do. In spades,” he said. You can also find blackened catfish, salmon and of course good old-fashioned hand-cut steaks, reminiscent of the days of butchery. Downing said his favorite menu item is Rare, USDA Choice Aged Rib Eye Steak “It’s in my genes,” he says.
Tyler & Downing’s also offers “off-menu” specials, monthly features such as Shrimp Etouffee, Jambalaya, Grilled Rack of Lamb with Black Raspberry Pinot Noir Reduction, Jaeger Schnitzel or Seafood Pasta Italiano. Weekly lunch specials range from a Shrimp Po Boy to an authentic Cuban sandwich.
Downing attributes the restaurant’s success to “primarily the food, 18 years of consistent quality and of course, my bubbly personality”.
Address: 122 E. Main Street, Anamosa
Call: (319) 462-5533
Distance from downtown Des Moines: 148 miles
Hours: 4 p.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday
Reservations: If you have more than four people in your party, Downing recommends calling to make a reservation, with Friday and Saturday being the busiest.
Drinks: Tyler & Downing’s has a full bar offering three Iowa craft beers on tap: Big Grove, Exile and Backpocket Brewing.
Kids: Downing says the restaurant is considered family-friendly “since we put beer signs in the windows”. Downing went on to explain that he and his wife opened Tyler & Downing’s Eatery in 2004 as a fine dining restaurant. “We had a formal dining room, a detached speakeasy lounge upstairs, waiters in tuxedos, white linens, vases with fresh flowers and absolutely no beer signs in the windows,” he said. “People saw the fashion, and children were welcome but not frequent guests. The fall of 2008 nearly bankrupted us, so we changed the concepts to more casual fare, as the indicator was that the lounge was busy and the formal dining room was not. I quietly asked about the beer signs to further ‘lighten’ the atmosphere, and my wife agreed. The public perception then was ‘Oh, they sell beer and food. You can take the kids there. It was a commercial windfall. »
Events: Come the second Wednesday of the month for Open Mic Night from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
while you are here: Downing recommends a visit to the National Motorcycle Museum and the Anamosa State Penitentiary Museum, as well as time spent outdoors at Wapsipinicon State Park, Wapsipinicon Golf Course or Fawn Creek Golf Course.