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Lessons learned at Middlebrook Mercantile

4/3/2024

You won’t find a teacher or students writing their ABCs at this charming, refurbished one-room schoolhouse in Cumming, but you will see a chalk board with available house wines and musicians singing tunes.

The Middlebrook Mercantile owners opened in 2022 in downtown Cumming. For newbies to Iowa — yes, that is the correct spelling of the town. It’s located just south of Des Moines and is one of the smallest of the suburbs in the county. If you’re a bicyclist, it’s just a block or two off the Great Western Trail.

Middlebrook has a full bar and lots of seating with high- and low-top tables set among brick walls and wood floors. The backdrop includes unique arched windows, which offer a glimpse of greenery and light outside, giving it an airy, open vibe.

Front and side patios offer a quiet view. Inside, there’s a variety of wine by the glass, including Capital Call Vintners wine, which is available exclusively at the Mercantile. Most wines run from $10-$16 a glass or can be purchased by the bottle. Sample a flight of four select wines for $15. During happy hour from 4-6 p.m. Get $7 select wine glasses and $1 off beers and well drinks Wednesday through Friday.

There are about a half dozen beers on tap, plus other cans, ciders, seltzers and coffee. A full bar includes several dozen spirits, including Iowa pours from Cedar Ridge, Revelton, Swell and The Iowa Distilling Company, which is right up the street. Prices start at $8.

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One drink, the Harkin, is named after Tom Harkin, former Iowa senator who attended school at the building. The Harkin includes Iowa Legendary Rye, Triozzi Sweet and Dry vermouth for $12.

When I inquired about how sweet a wine selection was, a friendly bartender offered a few tastings before I settled on a smooth Cab.

There is no kitchen. However, there is a display case with local cheeses, including Maytag Blue Cheese, meats from La Quercia, prosciutto, salami, beef sticks and more. Pair this with a package of crackers, pita chips, trail mix or salty snack. This a great way to build your own charcuterie tray with your favorites. A $20 bill gets you a nice snack selection of four.

On select Friday or Saturday nights, a food truck offers additional food choices. They also sell local honey, candles, jams and other items, which take up a small corner of the school.

Music nights are offered Fridays or Saturdays, along with Sunday afternoon tunes featuring groups or solo guitarists. The music volume was low enough to carry on a conversation.

During the summer, “Fridays at the Farm” takes it outside and across the street, featuring vendors, music and drinks by the Mercantile Wine Wagon. Patrons can bring camp chairs. On Friday nights, head back to the Mercantile for an after-party with more music.

Middlebrook Mercantile offers private events, renting out the space. They’re closed Mondays.

School for adults is always in session at the Middlebrook Mercantile. You might even earn an “A” next time you bring your friends. ♦

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