These inspiring words were spoken on the silver screen by prizefighter Rocky Balboa in 1976, the year of the USA’s bicentennial celebration. These words, however, were written a year earlier by a starving, penniless Sylvester Stallone, who, unknowingly, within mere months, would be seen on television screens around the world holding an Academy Award. By 1978, Stallone would be filming his next motion picture right here in Dubuque, IA.

The film was F.I.S.T., which portrayed another inspiring struggle of Depression-era union workers. Several scenes in F.I.S.T. were filmed at the CARADCO Building, which occupies an entire city block in the Historic Millwork District of downtown Dubuque, once the heart of the nation’s window and door manufacturing industry. The millwork factory plant, built between 1880 and 1906, was originally the Carr, Adams & Collier Company. Today, the historically honored structure is known as the Schmid Innovation Center after a multi-million dollar redevelopment by Gronen Properties Restoration.

The revitalized 186,000-square-foot edifice features timeless, authentic, urban characteristics such as distressed wood and metallic structure, sealed concrete, exposed brick, and weathered utilitarian accents. A particularly distinguished 2500-square-foot area of the Schmid Innovation Center is Inspire Café, aptly named by owner and manager, Sara Post, who, with co-owners Julie and Scott Theisen, opened the venue in January of 2015.

Not closing the door on the past? A window of opportunity? Just another coffee shop from the neighborhood?

Well, let’s take a closer look, shall we…

Melanie and I walked into the café past the five-foot Buddha statue and approached the service counter to check out the menu boards. Not sure what you want? Have questions? We asked Libby, who answered with a bright smile.

We were there for lunch, but good news! Breakfast is served all day, every day. Scientists have now proven that the difference between breakfast and lunch is not what we once thought it was, so take a close look at breakfast sandwiches like the East Mill Egg Sandwich, or an East Mill English Muffin with pepperjack or cheddar cheese, Canadian bacon, and eggs. Andie’s Classic is an open-faced wheatberry bread topped with your choice of cheese, egg, pesto, kale, and avocado. The Breakfast Burrito is a tomato-based tortilla, with egg, hummus, avocado, spinach, green peppers, red onion, and salsa. Better Belgian Waffles are made in Bellevue, IA and topped with chocolate and powdered syrup. There are also a variety of specialty omelets available!

On the main lunch menu you will find sandwiches and wraps. The Roasted Red Pepper sandwich has ham, turkey, pepperjack cheese, tomato, pickled red onion, spinach, roasted red pepper, and aioli sauce on a hoagie roll. Stacie’s hero is ham, salami, greens, mozzarella, green pepper, black olives, and house vinaigrette.

The Five Cheese Grilled Cheese is a combination of cheddar, white cheddar, blue, provolone, and mozzarella grilled on Panini with pesto mayo. The Spicy Choy Chicken Wrap offers tomato basil tortilla stuffed with chicken, sriracha-soy sauce, hummus, sunflower seeds, kale, and feta cheese. Then there is the Merton Veggie, a spinach tortilla, herb cream cheese, kale, cucumbers, tomato, green peppers, and avocado.

Flatbreads are also an option. You can choose from the Margherita, with basil, tomato, and mozzarella, or the Don Miguel, a blend of chorizo, roasted red onion, bleu cheese, and spinach. The Florentino consists of spinach, Kalamata olives, and goat cheese, while the Harv Supreme introduces chorizo, mushrooms, black olives, green peppers, and bleu cheese. The Chicken Pesto Alfredo in a creamy Alfredo sauce with pesto, grilled chicken, and mozzarella. The Antonio has hummus, chicken, spinach, feta cheese, honey balsamic, or you can just go with the Hummus Pita itself.

Inspire Café’s super soups are ever changing, so don’t be shy at the counter. Ask about the daily specials! Upon our visit, they were Chicken Tortilla and Tomato Florentino.

Among the salads offered are Spiced Squash with mixed greens, dried cranberries, bleu cheese, roasted spiced squash, red wine, and walnut vinaigrette. The balsamic features spinach, pickled red onion, sunflower seeds, tomatoes, Parmesan, and strawberry vinaigrette. Inspire salad includes brown rice and quinoa, kale, roasted spiced squash, rosemary, walnuts, lemon-thyme vinaigrette, avocado, and flax seed. Also, the caprese: urban greens, garlic chicken, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, and vinaigrette.

Combinations such as salad and sandwich, soup and sandwich, or soup and salad abound. Extra meat, cheese, or vegetables are available by request, as is gluten-free bread, and even a small side of kettle chips.

If you have a sweet tooth, or lots of sweet teeth for that matter, you will be happy to know that they have a wide array of baked goods, pastries, muffins, cookies, cupcakes, scones, and other treats from which to choose. Choices include Mama Mary’s Homemade Treats, tantalizing goodies from Manna Java Bakery, East Mill Bakery, and Betty Jane Candy.

Hot drip, cold brew coffees from Kaldis Roastery in St. Louis, MO are served, along with latte, speedball, café au lait, pour-over, traditional espresso, macchiato, or cappuccino.

The teas are from around the world, always steeped to perfection with regard to temperature, time, and weight. Select from black, green, botanical, hibiscus elixir, Indian rose garden, basil lemonade, hot or iced.

Refreshing Peachberry, Vegged Out, Mango Butternut Squash, or Strawberry Twist Blend Bar smoothies may be the route you want to go.

Long lunch? Well now, I certainly don’t want to get you in trouble with the folks back at the office, however, an assorted selection of craft beer, red, and white wine are available.

When it came down to it, Melanie opted for the soup and salad combination, favoring chicken. The delicious chicken tortilla soup had a creamy, spicy, but not overwhelming flavor and the Chicken Caprese Salad was a nourishing and tasty combination. To wash it all down, she drank the light and refreshing basil-infused lemonade. For dessert, she enjoyed one scrumptious peanut butter cookie and a Sweet Berry Smoothie.

As for myself, I liked the sound of the Roasted Red Pepper Sandwich and I was not disappointed. I enjoyed the half sandwich with a bowl of Tomato Florentino soup. Amazingly rich flavor! I could’ve, should’ve stopped there… alas, I did not! I just had to have the Five Cheese Grilled Cheese and a Justine’s Cookie. I then polished it all off with iced hibiscus elixir tea… no regrets!

Coming soon… The Buddha Bowl – quinoa, rice, with just the right amount of spice. But wait, there’s more… the change received at the register when you purchase The Buddha Bowl may be used to make your very own wish at the Buddha statue.

Be sure to ask for information regarding English Afternoon Tea, a reoccurring event that promises to be a beautiful and elaborate experience based on English tradition and prepared by Inspire Café’s Kitchen Manager Sara Johnson. Reservations are required.

Art showings, musical performances, and the Inspiring People Speaker Series are a few more of the features offered at Inspire Café.

Inspire Café is, as Sara calls it, a “third place,” a community engagement anchor that is home away from home or away from work. Serving the community, connecting with others, informing, and creating – these all comprise the mission of Inspire Café: to make a difference in our world, and celebrate our beautiful differences. “If you inspire one person, you inspire many” says Sara.

Inspire Café has created a unique experience, provides excellent food and beverages, and is going the distance. Not just another coffee shop from the neighborhood, but the very essence of inspiration.


Inspire Café
955 Washington St.
Suite 105
Dubuque, IA 52001
(563) 583-8338

Hours of Operation:
Sunday-Wednesday 7:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
Thursday-Saturday 7:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m.
Payment options: cash, credit, and debit cards

Richard G. Shaluly and Melanie Devaney
Richard G. Shaluly is a Southern boy, but he claims that he hasn't missed a beat when it comes to finding warm hospitality and good down-home cooking right here in the Midwest. He has never backed down from a good-looking cheeseburger, but he has also enjoyed getting to the bottom of mouth-watering dishes in cozy spots from California to the Caribbean. His passion for Middle Eastern cuisine keeps him always willing to follow the sound of the adventurous dinner bell, dive in deep, and try something new. Melanie Devaney lives in Epworth. In her ‘other life’ as a singer-songwriter, she has traveled all over the country, as well as in Europe, discovering many delicious meals along the way. With an emphasis on maintaining an overall healthy diet, Melanie strives to find the perfect balance between tasty and nutritious. As a Dubuque County native, Melanie is delighted to see so many new, high-quality restaurants opening throughout the area.


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