In the little town of Colo, Iowa at the intersection of the Lincoln and Jefferson Highways, is the Reed/Niland Corner. Here stands Niland's Cafe, originally opened in 1923, and the Colo Motel--both open for business--and Reed's Gas Station, not in operation.
On our way to deliver the concrete pads for propane tanks to a co-op, we stopped here to take a look and eat lunch. The price of gas at the restored station was 13.8 cents plus 4 cents tax for a total of 17.8 cents per gallon! Too bad it isn't open; if we had a time machine we could certainly put it to good use!
Above: Reed's Gas Station, Niland's Cafe, and the Colo Motel.
Inside, Niland's Cafe, which was restored by the city and is rented to a private operator, had a definitely 50's style look; even the waitress attempted to dress in a retro style. We sat down in a booth and were soon given our menus.
I ordered a breaded chicken sandwich ($4.75), water, and later a milkshake, Papa ordered a hamburger without cheese ($3.75) with fries and a drink, and my sister ordered a grilled cheese sandwich and a drink. Our total bill came to $21.28.
While we waited we looked at the historical information displayed on the walls about the surrounding area. Papa noticed the photo above taken between 1902 and 1906. I have a feeling it's one of the earliest instances of photoshopping... What do you think?
Service was definitely not as fast as Culver's, but the waitress came with our meals just about 1 second before I was going to say, "This restaurant is not going to get a very high mark on speedy service!" She barely made it...close one!
My sister rated the grilled cheese sandwich as just ok. My breaded chicken sandwich, however, was superbly tasty; from the breading to the tomatoes to the buns and the meat it was completely better than McChickens. Niland's is just a step behind Chic-Fil-A, but Chic-Fil-A makes the most perfectly tender and juicy chicken sandwich, so it's hard to beat.
Papa's hamburger was also ok, but not impressive. What Niland's really needs to improve though are the fries which are way too healthy. Usually I won't complain about healthy food, but when it comes to French Fries, if they don't have any grease and hardly any salt they completely lose their value and taste. It's good to eat wholesome foods, but saltless and greaseless French Fries don't do justice to the name of fries.
Now are you ready for what was really good? A strawberry milkshake topped with a Maraschino cherry and two slices of strawberries! It had just the perfect coolness and taste and was a smooth delight to the tongue!
This vintage half-of-a-car was in the second dining room. Niland's is a great place to go for a taste of history, a chicken sandwich, and a strawberry milkshake.
Burger: 3 stars
Chicken Sandwich: 4 stars
Fries: 2 stars
Ice Cream: 4 stars
Cleanliness: 4.5 stars
Service: 3.5 stars
Affordability: 4 stars
Historical Value: 5 stars