Bonaparte Retreat Combines
Rustic Charm and Iowa Fare

"We don't do anything fancy or gourmet. Our food is like Grandma would have made," smiles Rose Hendricks.

Rose and her husband Ben own the Bonaparte Retreat, a steak house in a once working grist-mill along the Des Moines River in southeast Iowa.

Rose and Ben HendricksToday, the town of Bonaparte is one of a cluster of historic riverside villages in Van Buren County. The steamboat and grist-mill relics in the restaurant's decor remind patrons of this tiny town's boom days. High ceilings, huge beams, and 2-foot-thick walls -- all visible in the one-room dining area--haven't changed since the mill was built in 1878.

A Van Buren County native, Ben remembers visiting the mill, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as a kid. "I'd go upstairs and swing from the old equipment," Ben recalls. "When I came down, I'd be white with flour."

After Ben's stints in the Air Force and as a miner in Colorado, the Hendricks opened their restaurant in 1970. Rose does all the cooking ("I live in my apron," she claims).

Famous for its hand-cut, broiled steaks (especially the rib eye), the restaurant also fills plenty of orders for crispy fried chicken, center-cut ham, Windsor chops, and seafood. Dinners come with Rose's light Indian bread (flat pieces of panfried dough) and her homemade soups, plus salad, potatoes, and wild-rice stuffing.

"We always overfeed people so they'll come back," Rose laughs. "Doggie bags are our specialty."

From an article in
Midwest Living Magazine