OTTUMWA, Iowa -- It’s not unusual for a business to have to endure a season of construction in Iowa’s summer months.
At the Canteen in the Alley in Ottumwa, its out of the way location is being made a little more difficult this summer, with construction in the alley where the business is located.
In May, USA Today named the Canteen in the Alley the Best Loose Meat Sandwich in Iowa. Generations of customers have been coming to this tiny lunch counter for years.
“The thing that makes us a special place special is it's been in the same building since 1936,” said General manager Lindsey Newland. “People have been coming here for decades. They can be with their grandparents and parents, and now they're bringing their children and grandchildren.”
New owners took over in 2015, but the tradition and product have not changed. Newand said there is no plan to change or alter anything, including the sandwiches and restaurant decor.
John Collette grew up in this area, and stopped by for a visit.
“We’re coming back for a wedding. This is absolutely one of the places I'm going to be every day until we leave, which will be next Tuesday,” he said. Collette also remembers how he and his brother would come to Ottumwa to shop, and they would eat here twice in the same day because they liked the Canteen so much.
The construction has made parking an inconvenience for some.
“The construction has made it challenging, but there are parking spots around,” said Newland. “You just have to swing around the block just to find a spot that works.”
One customer put things in perspective when it comes to the alley construction around the Canteen.
“The city was going to build the parking garage, and they were either going to move the Canteen or tear it down, and the people in Ottumwa said, no you're not, this is our canteen that we had for years and years, we're not going to have it torn down,” said customer Jody Bogert, of Ottumwa. “So, they actually built the parking garage around the Canteen."
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