HoQ Specializes in Farm-to-Table Dining

By Kriss Nelson, Iowa Soybean Association

Suman and Cynthia Hoque, owners of HoQ, a farm-to-table restaurant, are passionate about creating healthy, seasonal dishes with global flavors. They handpick suppliers and are proud to serve local items in the restaurant.

Suman Hoque’s restaurant embraces the philosophy of “local food, global flavor.” Photo Credit: Joclyn Bushman/Iowa Soybean Association

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“Local farms, global flavor” is how chef Suman Hoque and his wife Cynthia describe the dining experience you can expect at their farm-to-table style restaurant.

HoQ is built on the experience Suman Hoque gained while working at another farm-to-table restaurant before the couple moved to Des Moines. Before moving to Iowa, Suman’s love of food inspired him to attend culinary school in Geneva, Switzerland. Following his education, he worked in restaurants in Europe before bringing his vision to America. He then worked in Vail, Colorado; Jackson Hole, Wyoming and Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

HoQ features fresh, locally grown ingredients making up 90% of the food used at the restaurant.

“I like to know where my food comes from,” he says.

Something New Every Week

Suman says his menu is very simple, and patrons can expect something new every week.

“We use beef, pork, lamb and chicken as the base of the protein we serve and pair it with seasonal vegetables,” he says.

And there is always soup. Right now, Suman says he is featuring squash soup and soon will offer a variety of soups, including asparagus, tomato, broccoli and even one featuring Iowa’s fresh grown sweet corn.

The restaurant’s salads are all made from greens grown in Iowa, and the cheese plates boast local cheeses.

And don’t forget dessert. Ice cream, cake and a seasonal fruit crisp are the perfect ending for a delicious meal.


Farm-to-Table, Continuously Evolving

Farm-to-table dining allows Suman to showcase the finest Iowa ingredients while supporting local farmers, including everything from the wine served to the meats and the flour used in his dishes.

Suman has learned to accommodate for the off-season – just like a gardener or farmer makes year-round plans.

“We do a lot of prepping in the summer and freeze fruits and vegetables for use in the winter,” he says.

While Suman waits for warmer temperatures to serve spring vegetables like asparagus, he uses squash and French fries from potatoes that were cut and frozen last fall and beets that have been stored in the root cellar.

For pork, Suman looks to Berkwood Farms of Des Moines.

Gregg Mooers, key account sales manager for Berkwood Farms, says they have been supplying pork to HoQ since the restaurant opened a decade ago.

“Suman makes his own choices of cuts,” Mooers says. “He uses our ground pork in his breakfast burritos. He does a little bit of everything, and his menu is always evolving.”

Berkwood Farms is a coalition of 80 independent family farmers supplying 100% certified pure heirloom Berkshire pork to customers throughout the U.S. and Japan.

“Our farmers just don’t raise Berkshire pork, they also raise corn, soybeans and beef. They are the farmer you see when driving down the road,” Mooers says.

Mooers believes Suman is a leader as a restaurateur, specializing in the farm-to-table concept.

“His whole business is built around local suppliers, and he works with every local person possible,” Mooers says.

Tofu’s on the Menu

Suman says he purchases tofu from Iowa City.

“It is some of the best I have had,” Suman says. “I have found you can make anything with it.”

From sweet to savory or smooth and even crispy dishes, tofu has earned a place on Suman’s menu.


Suman integrates tofu from Old Capitol Food Co. into many of the restaurant’s dishes. Photo Credit: Old Capitol Food Co.

Matthew Mesaros and Jake Gratzon are the co-founders of Old Capitol Food Co., suppliers of tofu for Suman.

“We love working with places that are farm-to-table oriented like HoQ,” Gratzon says. “They approach their restaurant the same way we approach our production.”

Old Capitol Food Co.’s mission is “we want to prepare the best food, using the best local ingredients.”

With that mission, Gratzon says they strive to work with people also dedicated to producing fresh food with local ingredients.

“That is the gold standard as far as I am concerned. We are dedicated to using local foods,” he says. “They use ingredients from their area, using produce in season, which is on the right side of where food should be headed.”

Old Capitol Food Co. prides itself in using soybeans grown in Iowa. Through learning the ancient art of tofu, building equipment and constructing a kitchen, they have developed a product that is sold fresh to restaurants, colleges and stores.

“Our tofu has a subtly sweet quality. It’s firm and will not fall apart,” Gratzon says.

Keeping it Fresh and Simple

When using fresh homegrown foods, Suman says his recipes are simple.

“The ingredients already taste so good; I only use salt and pepper. I don’t need to add anything else,” he says.

Even the flour Suman uses is locally grown, supplied by Jeff and Shannon Hafner, owners of Early Morning Harvest located near Panora.

“Suman is a good person. It is all about working together,” Jeff says. “He cares about the food he makes.”

The Hafners raise and process all the grains on their farm, where they primarily offer wheat flour, rye flour and cornmeal. In addition to supplying flour to HoQ, Early Morning Harvest distributes its goods to other bakeries and retail stores. They also sell products via their online storefront.

Some of the grains used for flour are also used as cover crops on their certified organic acres to help prevent soil erosion and increase soil fertility.

Jeff says all the flour is whole grain, meaning the germ or bran is not removed.

An added benefit to HoQ’s offerings, such as grains from Early Morning Harvest, is knowing where their food is coming from. Something Suman says outside of dining at his restaurant, people should know.

“People should know the source of their food,” he says. “You don’t have to travel far away. The food is right here. Get to know your local farmers.”

The Hafners appreciate knowing the traceability of their product.

“We pride ourselves in knowing that each grain is traceable to the field where it was grown,” Jeff says.

Money talks when it comes to buying local, as well. Consumers are seeing a significant spike in prices at the grocery store –something Suman has been able to avoid. He has also been fortunate not to face any supply issues.

Not only does Suman take advantage of cooking with high-quality food grown and raised in Iowa, but he is also passionate about supporting local farmers.

“It’s a wonderful part of our business, as 90% of my money is spent right here,” he adds.