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Elkader Restaurant, Cultural Experience

ELKADER, IA (CBS2/FOX28) - After 911, Frederique Boudouani who was living in Boston at the time, tried to make sense of the event by learning more about his Islamic roots. That quest lead him to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, home to the first mosque in the nation, The Mother Mosque of American. After that, he traveled to Elkader, a city that made him feel much closer to his homeland, Algeria.
 
Frederique and his husband, Brian Bruening, from New Hampton, Iowa soon found where they belong.   

Ten years ago you would have told me that I'd be living in a small town in Northeast Iowa, I would have called you insane! Boudouani said.

Yet, all it took for Boudouani was a closer look at Elkader. The local bank building was one of the first signs Boudouani would change his mind about small town Iowa. At its top stands a minaret, a beacon common in Islamic religious architecture. It did not end there. 

It was kind of my joy of joys to discover that the town was named after Emir Adb El Kader which is in a way, the George Washington of Algeria, Boudouani who is of French-Algerian descent said.

For Bruening, his joy came from cooking in the kitchen when they bought a restaurant in Elkader that they later named Scheras. That was in 2006. Bruening used recipes that Boudouanis mom taught him and then tried them out on his Midwestern parents.

It's in my mind, its a very sort of Midwestern sort of ethos in that, it's not too spicy, it's not too sweet. We kind of figured if they were like willing to try it and they liked it, the odds were other people would, and it proved true, Bruening said.

The couples regular customers certainly have their favorites.
The hummus is one of our favorites, it's really, really good, the falafel, that's actually what I got today! Kate Davis who has lived in Elkader her whole life said.

Meara Selene who lives in Colorado but loves visiting Elkader, also returns for the good food.

I've had the falafel, and I thought it was wonderful! Selene said.

Samuel Meyer went to high school in Elkader and works at Scheras. He said hes benefited from the cultural opportunity of the restaurant and the city. 

We've embraced kind of the culture of the sister city which you don't necessarily see a lot, particularly in small towns, Meyer said.

Elkader's connection to its sister city, Mascara, Algeria, has had a vast impact. During the floods of 2008, the Turkey River flooded. That brought the water to about a half an inch above Scheras patio that looks out onto the river. Mascara decided to donate $150,000 to help Elkader out. 

It's really a proud and amazing moment, Boudouani said describing the help the city and his restaurant received from complete strangers to get back on their feet.

Its that connection and pride that keeps drawing people to Elkader.

I think it's one of those things that if some random out-of-towners  just found it, I think they would talk about it like when they went back home, Selene said.

Thats because Elkader is unique thanks to a decision made by its founders more than 100 years ago.

Truthfully, they didn't share his culture, his language, his religion, yet, they were open minded enough to name their town after him, Boudouani said.

Elkader is also unique thanks to Scheras.

For me food is really a common denominator, so it's probably the easiest way for people to explore new cultures, Bruening said.

While Boudouani  helped found the restaurant, he is no longer a co-owner. Bruening still runs Schera's. Boudouani  now distributes craft beer through his company, Abu Nawas.



 

 
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