Susie Lyon and Diane Cox

Suburban Restaurant, Gilbert, traditional cooks
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Susie Lyon and Diane Cox, two sisters who run the Suburban, a now 3rd-generation family restaurant in Gilbert, 5 miles north of Ames on Highway 69. The Suburban Restaurant, first run by Diane and Susie’s parents, Maurie and Bernice Cox, and now jointly owned by Lyon, Cox, and their other two sisters, Nancy Bates and Pat Ellingson, has been serving breaded tenderloins since 1963. According to Susie, her dad, born in Ames, was the real talent in the kitchen. Their mom created the homey, hospitable atmosphere and was the first to open the door to customers every day.

Following in their parents’ footsteps, Susie and Diane graciously welcome customers to their roadside café. The sisters grew up in the (Ames) Topohollow restaurant, which their parents ran in the 1940s and 1950s. Winners of the Iowa Pork Producers’ 2004 Best Grilled Tenderloin Contest
, the sisters also serve the more traditional breaded tenderloin, both made from the whole loin. They start with good pork, and they don’t pound it to tenderize it, explains Susie. Their tenderloin recipes and a variety of others come from their father. According to Susie, the grilled version used to be known as “boneless pork steak.” Changing the name in 1996 made the tasty dish appeal to a more health-conscious crowd. “Grilled tenderloin is yummy!” says Diane.

As a child, Diane worked with her dad and learned by watching what he did. Although she still uses his knives and pans, when she and Susie took over the restaurant in 1991, they changed the menu offerings somewhat. Maurie and Bernice Cox served “farmer food”: big plates of meat and potatoes. Their daughters offer more salads and low-fat dishes as well as huge plates of homemade spaghetti and meatballs, and those tasty tenderloins.

Susie and Diane also make their own plentiful variety of homemade breads and desserts, including fruit and cream pies, cakes, cookies, and bars—all from scratch. Customers offer suggestions for different desserts, which keep things exciting. Lard makes their pie crusts tender and flakey and tender pie crusts; local lockers supply all their meat.

Susie and Diane, who work well together, also employ a niece. They love their jobs and believe it’s important to continue their family business. But they also love their freedom to create new dishes. Patrons of the Suburban include regulars as well as newcomers, and the children and grandchildren of regulars now come in with their own families. Hungry customers drive in from as close as Ames, Des Moines, and Ankeny and as far as Colorado, Wyoming, and Arizona to eat the restaurant’s cream of chicken and wild rice soup, cherry pie, plates of homemade spaghetti and meatballs, chocolate chip caramel muffins, and, of course, the Suburban’s breaded or grilled pork tenderloins.

Contact: Susie Lyon and Diane Cox, Suburban Restaurant, 17029 Highway 69, 5 Miles North of Ames at the Gilbert Corner, 515-232-3135,