Eating out for Easter

Amy Kent/Clinton HeraldHillbilly Jacks will be one of several local restaurants expecting to see a heavy Easter brunch crowd Sunday, but visitors at the barbecue joint will be seeing a special menu unlike what first-time diners Betty and David Collins received Wednesday at the Clinton eatery.

CLINTON — Families across the nation this year will take to the tables to celebrate Easter — the buffet tables that is.

Out of the approximately 33 million Americans that will dine out for their Easter meals this year, around 50 percent of those diners will search for buffet-style meals to satisfy their hunger. While the majority of Clinton's eating establishments don't feature buffets on a regular basis, many will pull out all the stops to ensure families in Clinton will have the best of everything when they celebrate the holiday.

That's not anything new to Mike Rastrelli, owner of Rastrelli's, who has offered a special Easter brunch on-and-off for more than 25 years.

"We stopped doing Easter brunch about 10 or 12 years ago and had so many phone calls of people asking for it back, we decided to bring it back," Rastrelli said. "It's a convenience. People are going to church, many have family home during that time and they don't want to cook or clean up after, so they come here to enjoy a meal without dealing with any of that."

While there's no question that dining out removes the responsibility of hosting an Easter luncheon or other family gathering, other people chose to spend their money at local restaurants because of the variety of eating choices they will find there.

For guests selecting Gil's Ballroom as their Easter restaurant, lack of food will not be one of the concerns.

With a ballroom capable of seating 400 people and a brunch menu with approximately 15 breakfast, lunch and dinner options, owner David James is making sure no one attending his holiday celebration will be limited to their selections.

"Brunch seems to be a very popular item after church on any Sunday," James said. "I just thought that it would be great to offer my customers something special on Easter Sunday. I've got the room and I've certainly got the food, so it should be a good day."

Brunch is not only a popular way to celebrate Easter Sunday, it actual adds to the holiday's national ranking as one of the top five dining-out holidays in the United States.

Topping Easter's dining out popularity are Mother's Day at number one, Valentine's Day, Father's Day and New Year's Eve.

The reason behind families choosing to dine out to celebrate Easter is a simple one, according to Jessica Dunker, president and CEO of the Iowa Restaurant Association.

"Easter is a family focused holiday, but not necessarily a stay-at-home holiday, so it’s not a surprise that it ranks among the top five dining-out holidays in the United States ,” Dunker said. “Whether it’s a brunch or an order-from-the-menu lunch or dinner, people are looking for traditional favorites like ham and pastries to mark the holiday.”

Also joining in on the special occasion dining options for Sunday are local eateries Hillbilly Jack's and one of Clinton's only buffet-offering restaurants the Sawmill Buffet at Wild Rose Casino and Resort. 

Each establishment will provide a wide array of menu options during the day including the Easter favorite ham — approximately 39 percent of people dining out will seek a restaurant serving ham on the holiday — along with a number of sides and deserts.

Wild Rose Casino Marketing Manager Jenny Weaver said the company intentionally expands its menu to provide brunch for the holiday because of the response it receives from the community, and to give its customers the experience she believes they deserve.

"We don't do a lot of family events, and this is one we do see a good reception; Easter brunch is actually one of our busiest brunch days," Weaver said. "That's one of the reasons we wanted to keep it, even though we don't do brunch normally. We add some more menu items than what we would have on a breakfast or lunch buffet because it is a special occasion."

Clinton Herald Staff Writer Amy Kent can be contacted at amykent@clintonherald.com.

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