NORTH LIBERTY- At Ledi, everyone's family.
At least, that's what co-owners Tammy Mowder and Ikmet Rushiti had in mind when opening the restaurant in May at the former Brown Bottle location in Beaver Kreek Center.
"That's the type of place we want to be, where everybody knows your name," said Mowder. "We're getting there."
The old-fashioned American diner is a far cry from the dimly-lit, Italian-style restaurant Brown Bottle customers remember, but Mowder promised equally-satisfying dishes from the new joint.
"We cut our own meat," she said. "Our turkeys are not sent to us cooked. Our biscuits and gravy, my cook stands back there and makes that. We don't pour a package in."
After over 30 years in the restaurant industry, from Florida to Illinois, Mowder said choosing quality ingredients and vendors was of utmost importance when opening Ledi, as well as making virtually every menu item fresh.
"It means sometimes it's not exactly the same as it was the last time but it's even better. Because they're making it that morning," she said. "That's what we're trying to do, put good quality of stuff on the table. And, do it as reasonable priced as we can for this area."
In North Liberty, a city of over 18,000, Ledi is one of just a few sit-down restaurants serving breakfast- and just the third serving it all day, every day.
"We picked North Liberty. We wanted this town," Mowder explained. "We wanted to be a part of this community. We want to reach out to this community and give them a choice. It's nice to have choices in a place."
Rushiti, a native of Macedonia, said he moved from the Chicago area to North Liberty five years ago and knew something was missing.
"I had a feeling for a long time to put a family style restaurant in this town," he said, adding everything is "fast food or bars" nowadays. "This type of restaurant, they need to bring them back. They're trying to forget the family restaurant."
With over 20 years of kitchen experience, including running his own restaurant, Rushiti said he's where he wants to be.
"I loved cooking from the beginning," he said.
At 15, he was working in restaurants in his hometown of Ki?evo. And, before that, he grew up watching his mother cook- everything from scratch, he noted. When he came to the United States, he took his first job as a dishwasher, working his way up to line cook before taking cooking classes to perfect his craft.
"This is my dream, to be a cook, running a restaurant," he said. "It's my hobby. I go home and I dream in cooking."
While his roots manifest in Greek or Mediterranean foods, the Ledi menu is more home-style, American diner food. But, he noted, he's flexible.
"Any food they want me to make for them, I can do that. If I have my ingredients, no problem, I can make whatever," he said.
In fact, Mowder noted, they're still perfecting the menu based on customer's wishes.
"We wanted to be open a few months and see what really went well," she said. "Once we feel like we've been here long enough to know what the crowd likes, we'll pick the specials."
What you can expect are extra-large helpings- of chicken fried steak, liver and onions, American goulash and fish, as well as the typical sandwiches and burgers. Not to mention all-day breakfast.
"You get plenty of what you pay for," said Mowder.
One thing Ledi likely won't budge on: serving alcohol.
"A lot of folks have wanted us to do beer and wine, and we've thought about it, but I want the folks to come in after church," Mowder shared. "I want them to bring their kids and color my pictures and grow up and been coming here for 20 years kind of thing. There're a million places to go have a drink and be an adult."
But at Ledi, it's about family, and being a kid. That's the restaurant's namesake, after all. Rushiti's only son, Ledi, was born after 15 years of marriage.
"He's my miracle baby," he said. "I waited so long for that kid."
Mowder said both she and Rushiti are family-oriented, which made their business venture run so seamlessly.
"We've known each other a long time," she added. "He runs the back and I run the front. Coming together made it a perfect match."
So far, the restaurant does boast a couple regulars, but Mowder admitted it's been difficult getting the word out.
"I get a lot of Solon and Coralville customers, but we came to North Liberty," she said.
She added they'd like to start booking their party room, which holds up to 65 people and is free of charge as long as you order.
"This is our first place," said Rushiti. "We want success. We want more Ledis coming around. I want to see my restaurant talking good stuff, people smiling and happy about this place. I want to make it feel like home."
Ledi Family Restaurant is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday (breakfast buffet only). Located at 125 E. Zeller Street, Ledi is offering two free pancakes for kids 6 years old and under throughout the month of July.