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Where good friends meet to eat

NORTH LIBERTY — Okoboji Grill is now open in North Liberty. Actually, the neighborhood restaurant opened nearly a month ago, but owner-operator Mike Waltz isn’t sure that the word has gotten out.
The eatery is now one of nine stores in the Iowa-based chain located around the state and features a wide-variety of menu items, or “something for everybody.” Salads, steaks, burgers, pasta, sandwiches and wraps cater to the tastes of a wide clientele, from the young to the older. Many items are made fresh on-site, in keeping with the “homemade” theme of the restaurant. For health-conscious diners, a “Lighter Side” offering suits the bill.
Ground was broken at 1650 Jordan St. on the south edge of North Liberty last September, with the foundation poured in November. Favorable weather allowed general contractor Hodge Construction to work through the winter. Waltz noted that Hodge and the various sub-contractors were all from the local area.
“We created a good project for them,” Waltz said.
Okoboji Grill opened its doors in early April; bringing the same menu but a different layout from its sister location in Iowa City. Waltz said the process of designing the interior was fun and exciting with the result a modern, more open floor plan with open ceilings. A multitude of flat-screen TVs are mounted throughout the main dining room and in the separate bar area.
Waltz chose North Liberty because it is a fast growing community with a bright future ahead. Waltz complimented the city for being easy to work with, and said they “made it fun to come to North Liberty.”
Waltz sees his new restaurant as an option on many fronts. With gas prices rising almost daily, Okoboji Grill provides variety without having to travel to Iowa City, Coralville or Cedar Rapids. The restaurant also subscribes to a “buy local” philosophy. Although a chain franchise, Waltz explained that money spent in North Liberty stays in town and is circulated throughout the community, rather than going to a far-off corporate headquarters. And that helps the local economy.
“It’s tough times for everybody,” Waltz said, “which makes it more important than ever for people to patronize local businesses.”
Despite the economy, Waltz is optimistic.
“You try to do what you can to keep things going. It’ll be good. The community is geared to a lot of the locals and it’s the locals you depend on.” While the dinner crowd has been steady, lunchtime has been a little “soft” prompting Waltz to wonder if people know the Grill is open.
“People may not realize they can get in fast and get out fast (for lunch).”
Okoboji Grill is opens daily 11 a.m.–10 p.m. during the week, and 11 a.m.–11 p.m. on weekends. Happy Hour is from 3-7 p.m. daily with half-price drinks.
For call-ahead seating, phone 459-1017. Takeout is also available.
“North Liberty is a good fit for our type of restaurant. Once they try us, they keep coming back.”