The Scarlet & Black

The Independent Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

The S&B reviews the Classic Deli in Brooklyn, Iowa

Chloe Wray ’21 poses with “The Duke” John Wayne and the “Howdy, Pilgrim!” rock outside of the Classic Deli in Brooklyn, Iowa.

By Zoe Fruchter & Chloe Wray

“I’ll get the Italian Stallion … Oh! On sourdough, and can I get a side of potato salad?” asked Chloe Wray, ’21. The waitress at the Classic Deli then looked to Zoe Fruchter, ’21. “I’ll have the pastrami sandwich but instead of mustard, can I have thousand island dressing? On rye, please.” 

 Sitting between us were two cups of coffee, a brew that exceeded our expectations of diner fare. Lining the walls were Grant Wood prints; behind us and lofted above the entrance to the back hall sat a collection of antiques, the most prominent item being a bike from the 1940s. Shadowing taupe walls trimmed in gray and red is a ceiling of red tin. There are 48 seats, seven large tables and a counter. 

This is the Classic Deli of Brooklyn, Iowa, to which we made the 15-mile jaunt on Friday, Nov. 2.  

On the drive from Grinnell, we passed hills dotted with cows and combines, teams of pick-up trucks working late, tractors taking in the last of the harvest, all illuminated by the gentle light of the setting sun behind us. Driving home two hours later, the fields had grown darker and more ominous, intermittently lit by the red lights of the wind turbines lining I-80, flashing across the four miles of fields that separate Route 6 from the interstate.   

Turning off Route 6 towards Brooklyn, we stopped short of the Deli, arrested by the site of a rock engraved with the greeting, “Howdy, Pilgrim!” A 300-pound metal statue of actor John “The Duke” Wayne and an informational plaque flag each side of the rock. The plaque claims the site as the former home of Wayne, stating that Marion Mitchell Morrison was born in Winterset, Iowa, in 1907. He lived in Brooklyn until his family moved to Southern California in 1914, where he would reach the heights of his fame and change his name to John. 

Wayne’s house on Jackson Street, Brooklyn’s main drag, is half a mile up the road from the town’s business district and the Classic Deli, officially referred to as the Classic Deli & Ice Cream Shoppe, where your writers indulged in two hearty sandwiches and dessert. 

With menus before us, we were faced with a tough decision: to order a sandwich, or a special. The variety of panini and sandwiches is the standout feature of the menu, and ranges from classic deli staples like the Reuben to the calorically carefree grilled cheese with bacon. Listed on a board, the specials are also posted every day on Facebook. We both ordered sandwiches, though the specials of ribs or shrimp were tempting.   

 The portion sizes are generous and will not shrink your wallet dramatically; the food at the Classic Deli is both delicious and affordable, with most sandwiches listed at around $8.  

For dessert, we shared a vanilla milkshake and a slice of chocolate meringue pie. Fruchter was unconvinced by what she called an unlikely pairing of chocolate and meringue. Wray, who had never indulged in meringue was fascinated by the peaked egg whites hardened into a pseudo-foam. Both writers were pleased with the milkshake, the rightful companion to any meal at a restaurant which recalls the soda fountains and drug stores of days gone by. 

For anyone with access to a car, the short drive across the cornfields to Brooklyn is well worth the visit to the Classic Deli, and while you’re at it, John Wayne’s boyhood home. 

Chloe Wray ’21 poses with “The Duke” John Wayne and the “Howdy, Pilgrim!” rock outside of the Classic Deli in Brooklyn, Iowa.
Leave a Comment
More to Discover
Donate to The Scarlet & Black
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The Scarlet & Black Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *