Midwest Living magazine listed their favorite burger places across the region earlier this year (click here to see the article). One of the places was in Council Bluffs, IA, just across the river from Omaha - a little ice cream parlor called Christy Creme. After a morning meeting with one of my dealers in Omaha, I was heading back east and decided to find Christy Creme to try one of their burgers.
Christy Creme is an institution in the Council Bluffs area - it's been in business since 1954. Generations of families have come here for years for ice cream, burgers and other snacks. And do not mistake Christy Creme as the same as the Krispy Kreme donut shops - they don't serve donuts.
The "Christy" behind the name belongs to founder Art Christiansen and his wife, Jeanne. They decided to build a little ice cream place in the front yard of their home on N. Broadway, what was then the Lincoln Highway, one of the main routes in and out of Council Bluffs at the time. The original Christy Creme was nothing more than a small building with walk-up service. The Christiansen's would open sometime in February each year and would stay open until sometime in mid-November, closing only for the Independence Day holiday.
The Christiansen's were helped out by their four children in the summertime. The shop was so small that they had to store the supplies for the business in their house.
In 1972, Art and Jeanne Christiansen decided to retire and they sold the business. The business went through a handful of owners over the next four years with no one being able to duplicate the magic the Christiansen's started with the business 20 years before. The Christiansen's son, Dave, and his wife, Sue, moved back to Council Bluffs from Texas to buy the business and make it a family-owned business again. Today, Dave Christiansen's son-in-law and daughter manage the day-to-day operation. And now Dave Christiansen's grandkids now work in the business. Since his grandmother helped out his parents in the 50's, there are now five generations of the Christiansen family who have worked at Christy Creme since it opened nearly 60 years ago.
In 1995, the Christiansen's tore down the original roadside stand and replaced it with a new modern facility that allowed for sit down dining inside. Due to flood restrictions, they had to build it up higher and back from a road a little bit.
The Christiansen's are also promoters withing the community. For two days during August, they have a "Dog Days" promotion that allows customers with their dogs to get a free ice cream cone for their pooches when they buy an ice cream cone for themselves. Also, Christy Creme sponsors an annual bike ride - One Lap of the Bluffs - that takes participants on a 20 mile-plus ride on the bike paths around the Council Bluffs area in early October. Money that is raised for the event is earmarked for the American Cancer Society in memory of Sue Christiansen, who tragically died of cancer a few years ago.
I punched in the address for Christy Creme on my GPS and it took me along Broadway until it veered north. I found it on the right side of the road with a nice parking lot just off of Broadway (see map). It was before the noon hour so there was only one other customer in the building when I went in. However, before I left there was a tour bus that pulled up in the parking lot that was full of people. I'm glad I got in there when I did.
The inside of the Christy Creme is bright and well lit with a handful of booths along the wall. Green and white tiled floors keep the color scheme the same as the outside of the building. Articles on Christy Creme are framed along the wall above the booths. Along the upper part of the wall in the kitchen/serving area are a number of knick-knacks including a number of coffee cups with advertising on them. I never really figured out what the coffee cups were all about.
The menu board is located on a wall in the front part of the kitchen area. It's angled above three soft-serve ice cream machines - triple the number of machines the Christiansen's used in the original Christy Creme building. In addition to ice cream and burgers, Christy Creme also a pork tenderloin sandwich, a chicken sandwich, a chicken club sandwich, and they have a patty melt on the menu, as well. Christy Creme's quarter pound burgers are all processed and ground by Omaha Steaks, the famous mail order meat processor. I ended up getting a cheeseburger (double cheeseburgers are available).
They make the burgers as ordered, so it was about a 10 minute wait as they flat grilled the burger and made it up for me. With everything on it, the bill came to $3.75 plus tax.
I took the burger out to my car since I had a bottle of water out there. It was wrapped in green and white checked wax paper. It was piping hot directly off the grill.
The first bite yielded not much of a taste buzz for me. The burger was a little dry and overcooked. I could tell that it was just a processed burger patty - one that you could get from a number of food distributors across the Midwest. It did have that good flat grill flavor to it and it did have ample amounts of condiments on the burger. I especially liked the chopped onions - they were extremely fresh and flavorful. The bun was not much to talk about. It, too, was a little dry and lifeless. Quite frankly, the cheeseburger at Christy Creme reminded me of the burgers you can get at most Dairy Queen's. And don't get me wrong, Dairy Queen makes a surprisingly good cheeseburger. I'd put Christy Creme's burger on par with Dairy Queen's burger. But if I had my choice, I'd support Dave Christiansen over going to Dairy Queen anyday.
Yeah, it was a good burger. Not a great burger and probably not what I would call a Top 25 burger in the Midwest. I could name 25 burgers off the top of my head from around the Midwest that would beat out a Christy Creme burger. But Christy Creme is quaint part of Midwestern Americana and I'm certain the editors at Midwest Living took that into consideration when they came up with their list. Christy Creme would be worth the stop for just the unique nature of the business. But I can tell you of three other places I'd rather get a burger in the Omaha/Council Bluffs area.