Not to say it won’t happen, but don’t expect to see Jennifer Aniston sipping dollar cups of coffee or Matt LeBlanc asking, “How you doin’?” at this popular local Estherville café.
Stepping into Central Perk Coffee House on South 6th Street in Estherville might have you singing “I’ll Be There for You,” as you reminisce about the fictional café below the apartment building where Monica, Rachel, Chandler, Ross, Phoebe and Joey lived in the TV sitcom “Friends.”
Central Perk isn’t trying to be the “Friends” TV café. There isn’t a well-worn orange couch to sit on or noisy New York hipsters crowding the tables. Nope, those things are you could say “on a break” from the décor.
There are a couple of similarities, like the coffee house is on a corner like in the TV show and there are apartments above.
That’s about it. But that shouldn’t stop you from snapping a quick selfie in front of the large metal Central Perk sign on the wall. Or, more importantly, enjoying the excellent coffee drinks and extensive menu while visiting.
More about that in a moment. Pivot!
Estherville is a great small town in north central Iowa at the junction of Highway 4 and Highway 9. Compared to many small Midwest towns, Estherville, for a town of about 6,000 residents, has a good selection of businesses, gas stations, grocery stores, and places to eat.
It’s the county seat for Emmet County which helps drawn traffic to town. There’s an airport where you can learn to fly, plus a golf course and the main campus of Iowa Lakes Community College. The town boasts of a restored Carnegie Library, along with several nice community parks, and Fort Defiance State Park.
During your visit you can check out the World War 1 monument, the Emmet County historical museum, and play a round at the frisbee golf course.
The Des Moines River, known for its occasional flooding, cuts a swath through the middle of town (Look for the high-water mark sign near Riverside Park along WS 1st Street) and offers good fishing and tubing opportunities.
That’s all well and good, but what sets Estherville above the other small Iowa towns may surprise you.
Gather around kids and I’ll tell you a true story about the early days of Estherville. This event is of such historical significance that the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History had to get in on the action.
The way the story goes, it was back in May of 1879 when a visitor from outer space landed just outside of town. Well, it was more like slammed into Earth a few miles outside of town. It was an exploding fireball spectacle of Biblical proportions.
According to the website Meteorite Recon – https://www.meteorite-recon.com/portfolio_page/estherville – it was late afternoon on that fateful day when townsfolk were startled by a loud thundering explosion that blew out windows and rattled grandma’s China in the cupboards.
Eyewitnesses told how they saw a huge fireball rocketing from southwest to the northeast. The explosion they saw and heard was caused when the celestial mass fragmented as it careened towards Earth.
“Two people crossing the prairie in an open rig near Superior, IA, 6 miles to the west of Estherville, found themselves directly under the fiery mass when it exploded,” reported the Meteorite Recon website. The fireball broke into at least three large pieces because of the explosion. Cattle stampeded at the sounds and nearby lakes were peppered with small fragments of the meteorite.
We can only imagine what was going through people’s minds more than 100 years ago after seeing that once in a lifetime event happen right before their very eyes. Later, once everyone calmed their shattered nerves, three large fragments of the meteorite were recovered. They say the biggest was buried 15-feet in the ground and weighed 431 pounds!
One of the meteorite fragments is still on public display at the Emmet County Library. Another large chunk is part of the Smithsonian’s collection, with remaining large portions of the space rock displayed at museums in Vienna, Austria and Munich, Germany.
A 3-D metal rendering of the Estherville Meteorite and a sign are mounted on a small brick wall seen as you come into the east end of town along Highway 9.
So, with that bit of crazy history out of the way, we’re all hungry now! And truth be known, we would rather get up close and personal to one of Central Perk’s scratch-made cinnamon rolls or panini-press sandwiches than look at an old space rock any day!
For a humble small town coffee house, Central Perk has a large menu that features a wide variety of sandwiches, salads, daily specials, all day breakfast and ice cream. Having so many food choices is definitely an added bonus to their extensive coffee and smoothie offerings.
In her new book “100 Things to do in Iowa Before You Die,” author and travel blogger Sara Broers put Estherville’s Central Perk at the Number 11 spot out of the 100-bucket list Hawkeye state destinations. In her book, Broers said, “Central Perk is the perfect way to start your day.” Find the book here. https://www.amazon.com/100-Things-Iowa-Before-You/dp/1681063506/ref=sr_1_1?crid=140XTX2XTYT4N&keywords=sara+broers&qid=1655758266&sprefix=sara+Broers%2Caps%2C93&sr=8-1
Speaking of starting the day, Central Perk Coffee House serves a full list of breakfast favorites, cooked to order, including pancakes, breakfast bowls, waffles, French toast, and a build your own breakfast burrito. Of course, they have a display case of filled with wonderful pastries and coffeecakes, plus fresh fruit, yogurt, and oatmeal choices. And did we say, they offer breakfast all day?
For lunch, the menu lists 18 different sandwiches, all of which can be put into their panini press and toasted to melty perfection. All sandwiches can be made as a wrap for no extra charge. They offer gluten-free bread option too. “I know!”
Our top “Sammy” choices include the Turkey, Apple Cheddar for $8.99, the Capresi Melt with mozzarella, pesto, and fresh tomatoes for $7.99, the Chicken Bacon Ranch with melted white cheddar for $9.99, Pot Roast Grilled Cheese at $8.99 and our favorite the Monica (Wait… that’s a “Friends” reference sandwich!). This sandwich pairs hand-carved turkey with provolone cheese, cranberry sauce, and whipped cream cheese for $8.99. JK gets this sandwich on sliced sour dough grilled on the panini press.
Craving gooey Mac and Cheese, they have it in two sizes with or without bacon or in a bread bowl if you be lovin’ you some carbs!
Wanting a refreshing chilled salad for lunch? The menu has Asian, Caesar, Greek, Berry, and Apple Chicken salads with prices starting at $7.99. Where else can you order a traditional old fashioned favorite BLT, Ham and Cheese, Chicken Salad, or Egg Salad sandwich? Central Perk has them.
They show case a couple lunch specials each day and have a kid’s menu with breakfast, lunch, and beverage choices.
All sandwiches are accompanied by a choice of side salads, chips or fruit and are served on super cute baking sheets. It’s a really fun idea that we are incorporating into our own van life mealtimes.
“Joey doesn’t share food,” and maybe this is why.
Portions at Central Perk are modest, compared to our culture’s current super-size stuff your face dining out food expectations. We’ve found the smaller “normal” portions fine because we all tend to overeat nowadays. Plus (lol) it leaves room in our bellies for some dessert afterwards, and we don’t have to wear our “Thanksgiving pants” to enjoy the after meal treat.
There’s always a good selection of sweet treats and baked goods in the display case, but if you don’t see what you’re craving, “pivot” to the ice cream freezer right next to it for a hand dipped cone or cup, ice cream sandwich, or 16-ounce specialty shake.
Rounding out the video menu boards high up behind the counter are the coffees and frozen drinks.
We usually get “bottomless” brewed coffee, in which daily bean offerings are brewed and decanted into vacuum pump pots lined up against one wall, perfect for self-service refills. If you need a serious morning coffee wake up, may we suggest adding a shot of espresso to any of their coffee drinks or order a Red Bull Smoothie or the “Depth Charge” to get your caffeine fix!
Smoothies are extremely popular, especially during the hot summer weather when they open the roll-up garage door in front allowing for an open-air café feel inside. Outside there are a few tables and chairs on the sidewalk to gather and enjoy your coffee and treats. They have free Wi-Fi for customers, too.
Blended coffee drinks, or frappes, are in abundance on the drink menu, with mashups such as frozen hot chocolate, mocha, turtle, Italian cream soda, and vanilla bean frappes.
Central Perk is centrally located in downtown Estherville a few short blocks from the Emmet County courthouse, government offices, and local downtown merchants, so lunchtimes can be a little busy. You can call 712-380-1300 ahead for pick-up, and they offer a drive-thru window for those running and gunning.
Central Perk is located at 12 South 6th Street, Suite A in Estherville, IA, next door to the Sawmill home design and specialty wood products store. (Need an 18-foot-long live-edge log countertop or custom milled table? Go see them.)
You can keep up with Central Perk’s daily specials and happenings at: facebook.com/CentralPerkCoffeeHouseEstherville
The coffee house is open Mon., Tues., Weds., and Fri., 7 a.m. until 2 p.m. Thursdays they are open until 6 p.m. and on Saturday they open at 8 a.m. until 2 p.m.
They are closed Sundays. Supposedly the owners of Central Perk asked Phoebe if she could work Sundays, but she told them: “I wish I could, but I don’t want to!”