Le Mars, IA is one of those great little Midwestern towns that are all over northwest Iowa. You can take any of them - Spencer, Carroll, Estherville, Emmetsburg, Spirit Lake - and they're all just wonderful towns to drive through. The streets are wide and clean, the houses are grand and spacious, there's still that "small town" feel to most of these towns.
And most of those towns have a drive-in restaurant that is a signature of the town. Le Mars' signature drive-in is Bob's Drive-Inn. Bob's was started in 1949 by Bob Kass, and is run today by his son, Myles. Myles hopes that one day his kids take over the business.
Having dinner in Le Mars the night before, I found myself driving back through town after calling on a small account in Sioux Center (another nice little NW Iowa town). It was lunch time, I wanted to stop at Bob's, so I did.
Bob's signature sandwich is what we would call a Maid-Rite in Central and Eastern Iowa, but is known as a "tavern" in NW Iowa. Others call them "loose meats'. They're all basically the same thing - a loose meat beef sandwich that's either steamed or pressure cooked with spices. (Picture courtesy of Michael Stern)
Bob's "tavern" is moist and has a good flavor. It's not like the Maid-Rites which tend to be more dry and crumbly. The meat on Bob's "tavern" kept it all together in the bun and a spoon wasn't needed to clean up the meat that usually drops out (which takes a lot of the fun out of the meal).
Since Bob's "taverns" weren't all that big, I had what they called a "tavern dog", an all-beef Wimmer's hot dog with a load of "tavern" meat on top of the dog. I had them add mustard and onions. The hot dog was great and the loose meat on top gave it a unique flavor - nothing like I'd ever had before. (Picture courtesy of Michael Stern)
For years, the buns that Bob's used for their "taverns" and hot dogs came from the legendary Vander Meer Bakery in Le Mars. One of the truly famous bakeries in NW Iowa, Vander Meer's sadly closed their doors at the end of last year. I don't know who is supplying the buns at Bob's these days, but they were still pretty good.
As the sign says, Bob's is open daily. (But I'm sure, knowing small town Iowa, they're closed on the major holidays in the winter). It's worth the stop if you ever make it through Le Mars. Or even if you have to make a side trip, it's still worth going out of the way.