Appanoose Rapids offers a culinary experience in a unique historic setting

When the opportunity to buy the Appanoose Rapids restaurant in Ottumwa came up in 2018, David Niño-Liu was working for a large agricultural company in the area. Former Ottumwan Dennis Willhoit had recently returned to tend to his family and their inherited farm.

“Becoming a small business owner was my ticket to unfulfilling corporate work,” Niño-Liu said, “and we were both convinced that with our distinct vision of hospitality and smart working, we could run this restaurant business differently, better, with an immediate impact on our community and a direct contribution to the local economy. He added, “It all came true.”

Since acquiring the restaurant, Niño-Liu and Willhoit, with the help of their chef, have pared down the menu and focused on fresh ingredients and Midwestern classics with a twist, offering a few staples and specialty dishes. seasonal. Casual elegance and a relaxing, mature vibe is what the co-owners strive to cultivate.

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Saffron Seafood Stew at Appanoose Rapids in Ottumwa.

“What sets us apart is the creativity and passion for good quality food of our chef Thomas Roberson, who has worked with us since the beginning, as well as several other talented culinary arts students whom we have employed over the years. years,” Niño said. – Liu. “Our menu is smaller now than it was three years ago, as we have focused all of our efforts on top-selling items to maintain consistent quality. Our menu selection process is simple: it is determined by sales and by the seasons of the year.

Their best-selling entree is the Rapid Fire Shrimp, and the two most popular entrees are Grilled Rib Eye and Atlantic Salmon.

Appanoose Rapids is located at the edge of the Main Street Historic District in a building that was erected in the mid-1870s. Over the years the building has housed many different businesses and merchants, but originally housed a grocery store and a tailor’s shop on the first floor and a hotel on the second.

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“We have always loved visiting historic downtowns and county seats throughout the Midwest. Having our own restaurant in a renovated historic building gives the feeling of an ‘old world American’, with stories to share and many experiences to look forward to,” said Niño-Liu.

Raspberry soufflé at Appanoose Rapids in Ottawa.

Niño-Liu and Willhoit think Ottumwa is an ideal setting for their restaurant. Located at the intersection of major highways and a working railway, Ottumwa is an important trading center

for southeast Iowa with countless business travelers and visitors moving through the city daily. Revitalization efforts in the Main Street neighborhood have added to the city’s appeal.

The co-owners think Appanoose Rapids is worth a “cistern trip” because it offers a different dining experience in a unique historic setting.

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“We offer 14 craft beers on tap, an extensive wine list, freshly made cocktails and very delicious food. We also have a beautiful south-facing patio open in warmer months, a bar and lounge, and two indoor dining areas,” Niño-Liu said. “Our location is so worth the trip; everyone should spend time exploring Main Street just west of our door and enjoying the reclaimed building facades and renovated architecture.”

Caprese Salad at Appanoose Rapids in Ottumwa.

Address: 332 Main Street East, Ottawa

Call: (641) 954-9818


Distance from downtown Des Moines: 86 miles

Hours: 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Saturday for dinner and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday and Friday for lunch

Reservations“We strongly recommend table reservations as our seating capacity has changed and the majority of our clientele are planning ahead and reserving early,” Niño-Liu said. Call (641) 954-9818 during business hours to reserve your table.

Beef tenderloin with tomatillo sauce at Appanoose Rapids in Ottumwa.

Drinks: The restaurant includes a full bar with a generous craft beer and wine list. “We had several creations in our cocktail menu as well as world classics,” said Niño-Liu. “Our signature cocktail is the Royal Apple & Caramel, made up of two whiskeys, a vodka, ginger beer, fruit and spices. However, we love mixing some of the world’s most popular cocktail families using freshly squeezed juice, quality liquor and a dedication to original flavors.

The name: Appanoose Rapids is the restaurant’s original name, named after the private company that claimed the land along the Des Moines River in the 1840s and mapped out a new town that was named Ottumwa. “We love this name because it evokes the origins of the city and our location in its historic downtown,” said Niño-Liu.

Community involvement: Niño-Liu and Willhoit are passionate about supporting community engagement. “One of the ways we engage with our community is by continually supporting the few causes that are close to our hearts: local performing arts, regional symphony orchestras and our main street business district,” said Nino-Liu. “As a small business, we simply cannot support every cause financially, but we encourage a dialogue to find other creative ways to help any organization, so we welcome inquiries through our website. “

Appanoose Rapids on the 300 block of Main Street in Ottumwa.

while you are there: The Ottumwa region offers many opportunities for visitors, depending on your interests. “For museum lovers: the Iowa Heartland History Connection and the American Gothic House and Visitor’s Center; for nature lovers: birdwatching or hiking along the Des Moines River trails; for music lovers: find out what’s going on during your stay and you might find yourself at a symphony concert, a musical, a free concert in Central Park or an intimate rock show or an opera on tap in our local bars; Shoppers: Stores in the South Church, North Court and Main Street business districts are great places to visit,” said Niño-Liu.

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