Q • After great fried chicken at Gallagher’s, we sampled a few flavors of Susie’s Sheet Cake but especially loved the lemon blueberry. — Kathy Kohlbry, Clayton
A • In Waterloo that “Sunday-smell of someone fryin’ chicken” memorialized by Johnny Cash wafts from Gallagher’s, the family restaurant in Waterloo’s historic district. People travel from all over, says Susie Gallagher, attracted by the restaurant’s upscale-tavern fare, including steak and burger specials on Tuesdays and Thursdays and especially family-style fried chicken on Sundays.
Susie’s husband, John, and other family members took two years to restore their 1870s-era bank building, retaining original floors and woodwork and building tables from lanes from a nearby bowling alley, a local institution. The Gallaghers envisioned three distinct dining scenes, a convivial pub on the first floor, a 19th-century hotel dining room on the second and an intimate speakeasy for private parties on the third. Most of the Gallaghers’ eight children plus respective spouses and partners work at the restaurant, and eldest son James “practically runs the place” these days, Susie says.
Many of her famous sheet cakes are made from scratch, she says. The flavors vary from week to week, four or five different ones on Sundays when squares are complimentary.
But this recipe came from her mother, a scratch baker who baked dessert every Sunday. Until finding her mother’s recipe scribbled on scrap paper, Susie had no idea that the family’s favorite cake started with a mix. After her mother died, Susie thought she might bake a cake every week in tribute. “And to think that now I make Sunday cake for more than 500 people.”
Gallagher says her cake can be made ahead of time. “Keep it covered in the refrigerator. I swear, it gets better every day.”
114 West Mill Street, Waterloo