Thanx to Doug T. for the tip on the burgers at Grinnell Steakhouse, just off Interstate 80 at the Grinnell, IA exit (see map). I'd probably gone past this place a large number of times over the years, but never stopped in. Doug e-mailed me a few weeks ago and asked if I'd ever had the cheeseburger at the restaurant. Nope, I hadn't. He suggested I stop in when I could and see what I think.
I found out that the cheeseburger at Grinnell Steakhouse was one of the Top 10 finalists for the Iowa Beef Industry Council's "Best Burger in Iowa" contest for 2011. Grinnell Steakhouse is run by Laurie and Greg Hauser, assisted by their son, Chad. I was told that it's been in business for about three years, but I seem to remember that there was a restaurant in the building previous to this. Actually, now that I think about it, I believe that it was more of a bar than a restaurant. Either way, I'd never been in the place before this visit.
The key feature of the Grinnell Steakhouse is their "cook you own" concept. There's a couple three other places in Central Iowa that do "cook your own" steaks - Rube's Steakhouse is the most notable with their original location in Montour, IA (not far from Grinnell), and a location just west of Des Moines, just off of I-80 at the Waukee exit. It has been - geez, I don't know - about 25 years since I'd been to Rube's in Montour. I don't know if I'm a big fan of grilling my own steaks in a restaurant. Actually, I'm sort of scared to do so as I'm such a grilling snob that I'd probably end up cooking everyone's steaks, even people that I didn't know.
Grinnell Steakhouse had not one, but TWO open pit grilling areas in their restaurant. They had this one in their main and spacious dining room, and they had another one that was smaller than this one and situated back in a smaller dining area back near the bar that is probably used as overflow on busy nights, or for private parties.
It was after the lunch rush when I stopped off I-80 on a springlike day as I was on my way to Des Moines for a mid-afternoon meeting. From the outside, it didn't look like the place was open. If a large sign out front hadn't said, "Open Daily at 11 a.m.", I probably would have just driven on.
I was greeted by a young lady - Jazzmin was her unique name - and she asked if I wanted to have a table or eat at the bar. The dining room was empty, as was the bar. I decided to sit at the bar. Actually, the bar - although not very large - was sort of nice. It had seats for seven or eight people and had a nice back bar area filled with bottles of liquor and an assortment of beers they had to offer. A couple nice glass-faced refrigerators full of beer were down below.
Jazzmin gave me a menu and even though it appears that steak and chops are the focus at Grinnell Steakhouse, they also had a lunchtime menu that featured a handful of burgers and sandwiches. A good sized salad bar was one of the more prominent features in the main dining area.
I pretty much knew what I wanted - a burger and when Jazzmin asked me if I was ready to order, I didn't hesitate. I got a cheeseburger (I had a choice of American, cheddar, pepperjack, bleu cheese or Swiss - I got pepperjack) and a side of fries. They evidently had a grill in the kitchen because I could easily smell the charbroil scent of beef when the burger was cooking.
Jazzmin brought out the burger and set it in front of me. At first, I was sort of taken aback at how thin it appeared to be sitting open-faced on the plate. The overall size of the burger was big, but I thought it would have been a little more thick. But after taking a couple bites of the burger, I found that it was actually a lot more thick than I thought it was. Fresh red onions and pickles came with the burger, as did a lettuce leaf. A large sheet of very fresh and pungent pepperjack cheese laid on top.
The taste of the burger was good - very good, in fact. The meat was lean, but still had some juiciness to the taste. It had a little bit of pink in the middle, just as I like it, and the thick-melted pepperjack cheese gave each bite a little aftertaste kick. The bun was light and was a nice complement to the burger. Overall, it was a very good burger, one that definitely was worthy of a mention for one of the best burgers in Iowa. But I don't think I could put it on my Best Burger list. An honorable mention - probably. But it could be a Top Ten if I just did a list for the state of Iowa.
I really don't do a very good job of closing out my blog entries. So, thanks to Doug for the tip on the burger at Grinnell Steakhouse. I'm sure the steaks they have at Grinnell Steakhouse are good, but I was impressed with the burger. It was good and a pretty good value. I'll go back again if I get the chance.