WEST LIBERTY, Iowa — Judges in the Muscatine County community made their choice clear when it comes to fine dining. The group chose a couple from Illinois, Laura Gilbert and Robert Miller, as the winners of this year’s restaurant challenge. The contest’s official title is “Iowa’s Best Bite Restaurant Challenge,” and it is a yearly competition seeking to place upscale restaurants in rural communities. The prize for the winner or winners was more than just a trophy or ribbon. The winner gets a package totaling approximately $120,000 in exchange for opening an upscale restaurant in the community.
Gilbert and Miller will have the use of a one-time bank building that housed an upscale restaurant until it closed in 2010. The prize also includes $70,000 worth of commercial-grade restaurant equipment, free rent for six months and reduced rent for an additional 30 months.
15 community judges participated in a taste-off to select the winner from two finalists. The other contestant was Zach Goldsmith of Iowa City. The winners proposed a restaurant with an international flavor and will be moving soon. Gilbert and Miller hope to open the restaurant in October.