Find colorful charcuterie boards like this one, plus other fresh snacks to go, at the new Middlebrook Mercantile. Photo courtesy of Grazing Table Charcuterie.
Writer: Karla Walsh
Hop on the Great Western Trail, head 8 miles south and you’ve landed in Cumming (population 536), one of the hopping destinations in Central Iowa on beautiful summer evenings. Beloved as a hub for bikers, the town is also home to Middlebrook Agrihood. Now, you can ride (or drive) to a new spot in the agrihood: Middlebrook Mercantile (4125 Cumming Ave.).
“We consider the Mercantile to be the social hub for the area. We have a full bar, local goods, retail wine and a patio,” says Robert Wilke, the Des Moines-based manager of Middlebrook Mercantile.
The building was constructed in 1900 as a one-room schoolhouse. (Fun fact: Former U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin once walked the halls as a young scholar.) In more recent times, the building has housed three different restaurants. But since it never had a kitchen, each iteration struggled to stay open.
With this refresh, Wilke called in some help from a few friends with large followings—and zero requirements for a stove or oven. Guests can snag grab-and-go meals and snacks from the Grateful Chef straight from the refrigerator (save room for the creamy hummus), or order a beautifully curated box of charcuterie from Grazing Table. If you’re feeling creative, choose from the Mercantile’s build-your-own-charcuterie menu, which features Maytag cheeses, Firehook Bakery crackers, and a rotating selection of meats and bison summer sausages.
To wash it all down, you can choose from a menu of Oregon wines hand-picked to be unique for Middlebrook Mercantile, Wilke says. The shop partners with the Gorge Wine Co. out of the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon and sells exclusive labels from Windhorse Vineyard and Wheatfield Vines. Craft cocktails and beer are also available, as are some home goods, stationery, oils, vinegars, rubs and more—all created by local makers.
As a big fan of Oregon pinot noirs, I’d say that any night the Mercantile is open is a good night to visit. But if I had to make a suggestion as to when to go for your inaugural trip, make it a Friday. That night, you can swing over to the nearby farmers market and stock up on fresh produce while listening to live music. If you plan on July 29, bring a blanket: It’s movie night with a showing of the animated “Aladdin.”
Middlebrook Mercantile is open Wednesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Keep up with the events, food truck schedule and current menu offerings at middlebrookmercantile.com/events and on Facebook.