Grinnell’s Prairie Canary blends Midwestern cuisine with international flavors

Prairie Canary has had an interesting start. In 2012, a vacant restaurant space on Main Street in Grinnell that needed to be filled inspired the city and owner to enter Iowa’s Best Bite Restaurant Challenge.

“It was a competition where applicants submitted restaurant ideas and business plans to a committee, and the committee picked the winner,” said Paul Durr, current owner and chef of Prairie Canary. “The winner received seed capital, working capital and an ongoing lease.”

After winning the contest, Prairie Canary was born.

Durr started in catering at university.

Grilled sirloin, grilled prawns and parmesan mashed potatoes with garlic cream sauce at Prairie Canary in Grinnell.

“I went to college at various restaurants in Columbia, Missouri,” he said. “I was fortunate enough to land a job at the Country Club of Columbia, where I worked under Executive Chef Charles Long for a few years before becoming his Sous Chef and eventually Assistant Food and Beverage Manager. drinks there.”

By 1996, Durr and his wife Kalyn had returned to their hometown of Grinnell and decided to buy a classic steakhouse called JD’s that had been a staple in town for three decades.


“Shortly after JD’s renovation, a restaurant across town became available on a renovated train, so we moved our restaurant there. The restaurant became The Depot Crossing,” Durr said.

But in 2005, the parents feel the need to be more present for their children and decide to change.

“We left the world busy and sold the business,” Durr said.

Macaroni Burger with Bacon Jam at Prairie Canary in Grinnell.

Fast forward nearly 10 years, and Durr’s passion for restoration had not abated. By 2014, the owners of Prairie Canary had decided to move on to other projects, and the restaurant needed an owner.

“The director of the Grinnell Chamber of Commerce contacted me about purchasing Prairie Canary in the spring of 2014,” Durr said. “By June the details were finalized and Kalyn and I took ownership in July.”

The Durrs have taken over Prairie Canary, with an eclectic and varied menu. Order anything from a grilled cheese with pears and gouda to a hummus wrap with homemade hummus to a chicken and maple sriracha sandwich for lunch. Kim’s fried Brussels sprouts and Vietnamese spring rolls are top-selling entrees.

“We also have an Iowa Chop that’s sous vide and served with a wild mushroom truffle sauce,” Durr said. He also recommends Chicken DeBurgo, Eggplant Parmesan, or their latest menu item that has been hugely popular, Phad Thai.

“We like to describe our food as a fusion of Midwestern cuisine and international flavors,” Durr said. “We source locally as much as possible from places like Prairie Produce, Olsen Farms and Mariposa Farms.”

“We believe the quality, creativity and vibe of Prairie Canary is unique to Grinnell,” Durr said. “It’s a mesh of urban and rural, simple and complex.”

Address: 924 Main Street, Grinnell

Call: (641) 236-0205


Distance from downtown Des Moines: 54 miles

Peach and prosciutto at Prairie Canary in Grinnell.

Hours: Prairie Canary is open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and dinner from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday.

Reservations: Book a table on

Drinks: Prairie Canary offers a full bar with an extensive wine and craft beer selection as well as excellent craft cocktails, including the Boozy Canary, which features Cody Road Bourbon, Courvoisier Cognac, Grand Marnier, Aperol, orange, orange bitters, simple syrup and egg white.

The name“When we bought the restaurant in 2014, the name was one of our favorite things about the place,” Durr said. “Prairie Canary is another name for the goldfinch, Iowa’s state bird.”

Prairie Canary is located at 924 Main Street in Grinnell.

while you are there: Having grown up in Grinnell, the Durrs believe the small, city-like town has a lot to offer residents and visitors alike. “Grinnell College is a great place to visit. the Faulconer Gallery on campus has some fantastic exhibits,” Durr said. “If you like nature, the Jacob Krumm nature reserve in spring and summer is worth a visit. Red Rock State Park is 10 minutes’ drive away. We also have several organic farms that do tours. »

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