Sometimes the best things in life are right under our noses.

Such is the case with the latest Iowa Roadie adventure that takes us only a few miles down the road to Bradford, Iowa…home of the Stumble Inn. 

Now if you follow the Iowa Roadie at all, you’ve likely seen the pictures I’ve posted of the food here before. Specifically their “crispy pig”…a monster of a breaded tenderloin that was recently honored as the second best tenderloin in Iowa by the state’s Pork Producers. But behind every good sandwich and order of cheeseballs is a good cook. And in this case, that cook is named Johnny.

Earlier this fall, Johnny was hospitalized for a week with septic pneumonia. Because of his illness, he missed weeks of work and acquired thousands of dollars in medical bills. To show support for their beloved chef, The Stumble Inn recently hosted a benefit for Johnny which included a live auction, dj and potluck. (In an era of hand sanitizer and flu shots, I find a potluck a rather effective way to counter germaphobia. Raise your hand if you feel sneeze guards are overrated.) 

As I have previously written, the people we meet on our Iowa Roadie adventures often become our friends and family. Johnny and the rest of the crew at The Stumble Inn have become especially important to us. And so, it was without question, that we felt compelled to attend the benefit on Johnny’s behalf…particularly since the auction consisted of pies baked by Stumble Inn owner Alex’s 80-year-old mom.

By now many of you have seen the YouTube video by the You Betcha Guy depicting small town bars. A classic scene in the video is one bar patron giving the other some homemade jerky. The Stumble Inn has something even better than jerky…individually wrapped peppermints made by Alex’s mom. They sit in a jar on the counter, and are free for customers. She makes them fresh, and the Iowa Roadie and husband have been known to eat “one or two” after our meal. (Translation…We have cleaned out the jar of peppermints before.) So the promise of pies made by the creator of our beloved peppermints would have lured us to the benefit, even if our loyalty to Johnny had not.

Upon arriving at the benefit, we found seats along the soup buffet. (Side note…We were not able to claim our usual seats at the bar because we had been in the middle of Home Remodeling Hell and consequently arrived late. However I confess that sitting at the same table as the chicken & dumpling soup and homemade brownies had its own perks.) 

The auction was underway, and we soon found ourselves in a bidding war for pie. I’m not sure what it says about a person when they are willing to sacrifice their weekly grocery budget on a dessert product. What I CAN declare is that the pecan pie we purchased was quite literally a little slice of heaven…soaked in bourbon and brown sugar. My only regret is not purchasing the coconut cream pie as well. Unfortunately I couldn’t justify a second week of eating ramen noodles just to satisfy my sweet tooth. (That’s what the free peppermints on the counter are for!)

Following the auction, I had a chance to visit with Johnny’s long-time girlfriend about my secret wish to visit the Villisca Axe Murder home. (No judging allowed!) It turns out that she has a sensitivity to the paranormal. (I understand that some of you, dear readers, may scoff at this. I ask…Have you ever seen The Exorcist? Is there nothing more terrifying than that scene where the little girl’s head spins 360 degrees and she vomits all over the priest?) Thank you Bri for indulging me in my supernatural fascination. And may all you doubters get attacked by Freddy Kruger in your sleep tonight! 

A special shout out to our new friend Mickey who purchased a jar of homemade apple pie shots on the auction for $100…and then shared them with us for free! 

Besides Johnny, there are two other cooks at The Stumble Inn…Josh (who makes an amazing red wine sauce) and Uriah, who I secretly refer to as “my prison boyfriend” because he’s so darn cute. Uriah recently spent a night in the county jail, where he played cards for candy bars and watched the movie “Talladega Nights.” (For the record, I asked Uriah for permission to share this scandalous information. I did NOT, however, reveal that I would be introducing him as my Prison Boyfriend.)  I would also like to note that the Iowa Roadie’s husband does not seem the least concerned that Prison Boyfriend Uriah is a threat to our relationship. (I should probably be offended by this.) 

Besides the Number Two Tenderloin in the State, Stumble Inn Alex also boasts one of the best drinks around…a Smith & Kearns. If the pecan pie was “a little slice of heaven,” Alex’s Smith  & Kearns is the “nectar of the gods.” No matter how full one is, this refreshing cream cocktail just kind of slides its way down with its own kind of deliciousness. (Order one and put it on the Iowa Roadie’s tab. But after buying the pecan pie, I can only afford to treat one or two of you.)

The Stumble Inn has shown me that the Iowa Roadie doesn’t have to go far (a mere ten miles, in fact) to enjoy good food and drinks. But an award-winning sandwich and a top-notch drink will always take a backseat to the good friends and memories we have made at The Stumble Inn. 

Even if I’ve hidden the pie and peppermints in that backseat…and stuffed Prison Boyfriend Uriah in the trunk. 

(On a final note and in the true spirit of holiday giving, Johnny organizes a toy drive for families that are experiencing difficult times. If you would like to make a donation, go to “Santa’s Little Helpers-Hardin County Iowa and Surrounding Areas” on Facebook for more information.)

The award-winning “crispy pig” and Iowa Roadie favorite tator tots
Johnny’s famous Steak De Burgo
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