Downtown Farm Kitchen

"There's been this whole rise of Southern food in the last few years, but Midwestern food hasn't gotten the attention it deserves," says Joel Mahr, who was the original chef at Lot 2, and has been working in some of Omaha's most prestigious kitchens for the past 15 years.

Joel's got a plan to change that, and we're lucky to get a sneak peak at his vision at today's Dandelion. He's going to be focusing on the types of classics that come out of his wife's family's kitchen on their farm in Iowa -- but giving them his own, award-winning chef touch. So, his fried chicken sandwich will have tomato pepper jam and tarragon aioli. His "slaw" will actually be a crunchy, healthy kale and cabbage salad (an earlier incarnation of which was a big hit at Lot 2). And his take on the iconic Iowa Maid-Rite loose meat sandwich will be vegan -- with seitan, house-made pickles and beer mustard. There will also be chocolate chip cookies, from his grandmother's recipe, and lemonade with elderflowers and strawberries straight from the family farm. "We let the garden direct the menu," says Joel. 

 From these fields, a great restaurant will grow

From these fields, a great restaurant will grow

That's how he's going to run his kitchen at Primrose, the new restaurant in Corning, Iowa that he hopes will open this fall, too. Situated a mere 20-minute drive from the farm where much of the food will come from, Primrose is Joel's love letter to the region -- its very name was inspired by a native Midwest flower that captured Joel's attention in a line in the Jim Harrison poem I Believe.

"There's nothing like the taste of a strawberry that someone planted, and took the time to cover with hay in the winter to protect the roots, and then in the spring and summer, there are all these little red jewels," says Joel. "I can wait a whole year for that."

On the farm, he's been working with a lot of heirloom seeds, sourced from Missouri-based company Baker Creek, which will bring even more Midwestern authenticity to the menu at Primrose. But, thanks to the wonders of our modern world, he's also going to be able to offer things like locally-raised sustainable seafood, such as Blue Valley Aquaculture steelhead trout, out of Sutton, NE and Rock Creek Aquaculture shrimp from Diller, NE. "Chefs used to have to pay to ship seafood in frozen," Joel says. "But now we can get it as fresh and as beautiful as it is on the coasts."

We still have a few months to wait before Primrose officially opens but Joel's Dandelion event definitely gets us excited for more great things to come.