When in Rome (Iowa)...

There is an old proverb that says, "When in Rome...do as the Romans do".


To summarize, it means that when you are in an unfamiliar place or foreign land, just do or follow what the locals do to fit in.


Of course, this old saying is attributed to the long ago period of ancient Rome.


While I've never been to Italy, Iowa Adventurer did make a recent visit to Rome, Iowa.


Rome is a small spot on the map just to the west of Mount Pleasant in Henry County. Henry County is in far Southeast Iowa. Rome was founded in 1846 - the same year that Iowa became a state.

And when I was in Rome, I did as the Iowa Romans do and I visited the locally popular "Rome's Hot Spot Bar and Grill". On Google Maps, it's simply referred to as Rome Tap and a previous owner appeared to have named the place "Nicks Rome Tap" and the current Facebook page simply calls it "Rome Bar and Grill".

Whatever you want to call it, the place has a ton of character. It's located in the middle of town in a large two story yellow building. The word "ROME" is at the top of the top of the building in big capital letters.

Inside, the place looks a lot like many small town Iowa locales. There's an assortment of seating options and plenty of beer and Hawkeyes signs adorning the walls.

I don't know if there will be any sports to watch this fall, but there are a couple of nice sized televisions behind the bar.

I particularly love that the ceiling is covered in handwritten messages. I've seen places that cover the ceiling in dollar bills, but handwritten messages is a new one. It didn't look to be as lewd as what you might find on a bathroom stall, however.

The place has a full bar and the back of the bar showcases all kinds of deer antlers. There's no shortage of deer in southern Iowa (or really ANY part of Iowa) and there's no shortage of deer racks in this hot spot.

I sat at one of the high top tables and a very nice lady came to wait on me. However, the only menu I could spot (I wasn't handed one at my table) was actually on a wall near the front door. It was handwritten on some poster-size green paper. Definitely no frills.

Since it was a Tuesday and I like to make it habit of trying either the special or what the place is known for (if they have won an award for something) when I'm out and about, I decided to give the Philly sandwich special a try.

It came on a paper plate but make no mistake - this was fine dining quality. Simply outstanding. I don't know if I recall ever having a more tasty Philly and I've eaten a few in Philadelphia.


I declined the option of having mushrooms mixed in (no fungus for me), but it was a tender pile of steak with peppers and onion mixed in. Then, it was covered in melty swiss cheese and piled high (overflowing really) on a soft hoagie bun. It came with french fries and they were very nicely cooked, especially if you like fries crispy (which I do). I cannot vouch for any of the rest of the menu as I've never tried anything else. That said, based on this meal, I would consider this place to be truly legit.

There was a steady crowd of locals there the whole time.

A couple of them were playing pool on the billiards table.

Like just about any small town bar and grill or diner, there's a bulletin board by the door where community event fliers or business cards can be pinned up. At this spot, there are both...plus lots of fishing photos.

There are also a few other handwritten messages that are both funny...and perhaps the brunt of some sort of local inside joke.

I'm not sure who Rodney is...but...he is apparently impressed with himself.

In keeping with the handwritten notes, it should also be noted that the place does not accept credit cards so be prepared with cash. Also, no pets allowed.

Where else in Iowa can you find a happy hour that starts at 10 A.M. and goes all the way until 6:00 P.M.? 8 hours of happy hour...that's like a full time job.

Now, if you do come to Rome for the 8 hour happy hour or for a delicious meal, there is more to Rome than just a quirky but excellent restaurant. For example, not far up the street from the restaurant is a nice little city park.

The park has playground equipment and a small picnic shelter. I was most impressed with the city sign as well.

The park is also home to a bus stop. I am guessing this is for use for school children and it's a very nice amenity to have. There are probably more small towns that should have this sort of thing especially if kids have to board the bus and head to a nearby larger town where the school is located.

Elsewhere, I found a sign pointing the way to Rome Baptist Church.

It appears to be a nice church building, though not overly ornate from the outside.

Next to the church is a stately old tree and someone put an oversize dream catcher in the tree. It definitely caught my attention.

The church is near Rome City Hall. There's nothing too fancy about this either, though I like that they simply put "ROME" at the top of the building. It's not unlike the style of the yellow bar.

Rome is home to Pulse Auto Salvage.

With a population of 117 as of the 2010, there is a wide variety of housing in the community. I noticed both modest single family dwellings and a trailer park or two.

Additionally, the population of the town also includes some horses.

I spotted an incredible old building that looks like it has slipped into a state where it may be hard to salvage. That is too bad. My guess is it once was a church but I suppose it's possible it might have been a library or a school. Whatever it's purpose once was, it looks to be an amazing old building. If there is anyway that it could be brought back to life, I hope someone is willing to make the investment to do so. Maybe it could have a new life as someone's residence?

On the north edge of town, there's a neat railroad bridge over the road.

I entered town from the west. Had I instead gotten off of the busy Highway 34 exit, I might have discovered the Rome Lunch Box instead of making it over to the Hot Spot Bar & Grill. Oddly enough, it's advertised on signs and Facebook as "Mama's Back Porch". It's pretty rare for a town the size of Rome to have two restaurants/bars. Many can usually only barely support one. I did not go in as I had already eaten. That said, there were a few cars in the lot and I'll add it to an itinerary for a future visit to Henry County. The information on the website make it sound pretty tantalizing.

I did not inquire whether it also had an 8 hour happy hour.

Rome is not far off of the four lane Highway 34. Thus, if you are traveling between Mount Pleasant and Fairfield and want to find somewhere new to visit or eat, you would do well to make the exit to Rome.

While I had been to Henry County on numerous occasions before, this was my first foray there for Iowa Adventurer. Beside there being a lot of great history, people, and businesses, it's definitely home to some nice communities, too. Rome is certainly one of them. There's a lot of character to the town and I hope for the hour or so that I visited, I fit in with the locals okay.


As the saying goes, "When in Rome...".


I welcome your suggestions of places to visit and profile whether in Henry County or any of the other 98 counties in Iowa. If you have a good idea or would like to host the Iowa Adventurer, please drop me a note through this site.

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