After eating at - and doing background research on Pazzesco Pasta and Chophouse in Ames, IA (see my entry on that place here) - I found that the owner was also a partner in a new gourmet burger joint in town, Oddfellows Burger Kitchen. I was in Ames recently calling on a dealer and I found that Oddfellows wasn't far from his office. I stopped in for lunch that particular day just to see if their burgers were as good as advertised.
(Update - Pazzesco closed their doors in March of 2012, not long after I visited their restaurant. They say on their web site they're looking for a new location, but as of the fall of 2012, they appear to still be closed.)
The owner of Pazzesco, Chris Patterson, partnered up with Sai Kiojai, to open Oddfellows earlier this year in the old Cafe Shi location in the Northern Lights shopping center, just north of the North Grand Mall on Wheeler Avenue just off Grand Avenue on the north side of Ames (see map). Patterson is a native of nearby Nevada, IA and attended Iowa State University. He had a long history of working at, managing and owning a number of restaurants around the country before moving back to Ames a couple three years ago to open Pazzesco. Patterson saw a need for an upscale burger place in Ames and came up with the concept of Oddfellows.
The decor of Oddfellows can easily be described as colorful and funky. The walls are painted in bright pastel colors and covered with movie posters, odd-ball antiques and concert posters. Most of the posters are tacked up with staples and I'm wondering how long it will be before some of them are torn off the wall. There's a main dining area and a bar area. The main dining room was still full just after 1 p.m. when I got in there, so I took a seat in the bar area.
A large group of workers from Iowa State University was finishing up their lunch when I was seated near a window in the bar. There are a number of flat screen televisions in the bar area and it looks like it would be a good place to watch a sporting event. But I would stop short of calling it a sports bar.
The young man who directed me to my seat dropped off a menu and told me my waitress would be with me shortly. I took a look through the menu as I waited and found that Oddfellows did, indeed, have some interesting burgers on their menu. They grind their beef fresh each day and feature fresh ingredients for their toppings. Their signature Oddfellow burger features a burger that uses a split donut instead of a bun. The Elvis burger is topped with bananas and peanut butter (editorial comment: "Yuck!"), and they had a grilled cheese burger that is basically a double grilled cheese sandwich made with four slices of Texas toast and a burger in the middle. They also had burgers, one topped with crab meat, another with beef brisket. They also had a number of appetizers including bacon-wrapped dates. I'm not big on dates, but it's pretty hard not to like a food that is wrapped in bacon. (Although I recently did have bacon-wrapped braunschweiger that almost made me gag.)
I had been there for about three minutes and the young guy who seated me came over and said, "Sorry she hasn't been here to take your drink order. She's a little busy finishing up with this big group. What can I get ya?" I ordered a bottle of beer and continued to look over the menu.
My waitress came over to me and dropped off my beer. She had the unique name of Kearstin and profusely apologized for not coming over sooner. I told her I fully understood. She had a large group that all paid individually and she and another waitress were doing their best to keep up. By that time, I'd had enough time to look over the menu and I had decided to get the green chile burger, topped with pepperjack cheese, cooked medium. I had my choice of sides like fries, rings or macaroni and cheese. For funsies, I got the mac and cheese.
Less than 20 minutes after I ordered, Kearstin cheerfully dropped off my burger at the table. The pepperjack cheese was melted over the green chiles, holding them on top of the burger patty. Actually, I don't know if I would call the green chiles as "fresh" - they looked like they had just come out of a can. That didn't matter to me all that much.
The burger, itself, was cooked exactly as I like with a little bit of pink in the middle. Too many times I encounter grill chefs who don't quite understand that a burger cooked all the way through is not medium. The meat did taste fresh and had the nice flat griddle taste to it. The bun was light and fluffy, lightly toasted and a little chewy. It held together well with the juiciness of the burger. The only problem was that the chiles kept falling off. It made for a messy burger and they need to put more napkins on the table when they serve a burger like this. I went through the napkin I had on my lap rather quickly and had to reach across the table and steal the napkin wrapped around the extra silverware.
While I can say the burger was above average, the mac and cheese was "eh!" It was pretty basic and lifeless. Trader Joe's mac and cheese out of a box was much better than the mac and cheese at Oddfellows. I just had a couple bites before I decided it wasn't worth eating any more.
While the burger was very good, it was also a little expensive ($9.00). I don't know how a place like Oddfellows will do in a smaller university town in the Midwest like Ames, but I'm hoping they do make it. Kearstin did a nice job in taking care of me and I hung around a bit taking a look at some of the posters and memorabilia they had on the walls at Oddfellows. All in all, I give Oddfellows Burger Kitchen a "thumbs up". A little expensive, but still pretty darn good.