Surf District Rock ‘n Roll Grill has only been open a couple months, but it already has earned buzz as a must-see destination for Clear Lake vacationers, including RAGBRAI cyclists who will roll through town later this summer.

Owner Grant Maulsby, a music lover and frequent concert-goer, said he wanted to open a restaurant modeled after the Hard Rock Café, but with a one-of-a-kind tie to the famous Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake.

The Surf Ballroom board approved a licensing agreement that allows Maulsby to use the Surf’s name at the restaurant. The board members also helped design the interior of the restaurant to match the style of the Surf Ballroom.

The Surf loaned memorabilia to display on the restaurant’s walls and stage. Maulsby said his favorite items are blues legend B.B. King’s autographed guitar and the hat worn on stage by former Guns N Roses guitarist Slash.

“Everything in here is something that came from the Surf. That’s what makes it special and unique to Clear Lake. No one can replicate what we do here. It’s the only one,” Maulsby added.

In addition to the music, Maulsby said he wanted to make sure the food and drinks at Surf District Rock ‘n Roll Grill are just as unique as the atmosphere.

The Surf Burger features Iowa premium beef with Wisconsin cheddar cheese and “boom boom” sauce. The La Bamba flatbread is topped with avocado, chicken and jalapenos.

And customers love to dig into the Wisconsin cheese curd burger, topped with fried cheese curds, and the bacon mac-n-cheeseburger, with bacon mac, cheddar cheese and fried bacon on a pretzel bun.

“Everything is Iowa-grown beef,” Maulsby said. “Just like with our local beer (on tap), we really want to support Iowa. It’s important to us. And I think, Iowa beef, you won’t get any better beef than what you get here in Iowa.”

Popular appetizers include the pretzel bites served with homemade beer cheese, made with Lake Time Brewery beer from Clear Lake.

“The flavor (of the beer) changes every week or two weeks. It’s a unique thing that we get from them, and it keeps it local,” said Chef Michael Holmes, a North Iowa native who heads up the kitchen.

Holmes said the Surf District’s chicken wings also stand out from typical bar food. “We fry them, bake them, glaze them, grill them and then re-glaze them. The grilling really gives them a unique flavor,” Holmes said.

Added Maulsby: “We wanted a unique menu that no one else really had. Our whole theme is to be energetic with the music and the food.”

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