The Town Pump in Clear Lake, IA was the first burger joint that I wrote about on my blog. At one time, the Town Pump had some of the best burgers in the Midwest.
There were sold in 2004 to another person ("Dad", I'm presuming) and I've been back a couple times. Both times, I just didn't feel the burgers were as good as when the old owners had the place. They looked like they were pre-formed and frozen, and the buns - which I thought really made the Town Pump burger what it was - weren't quite as fresh as when I first started going there years ago. The burgers were no where close as juicy as they've been in the past.
On my way back from Minnesota recently, I thought I'd stop in for one last try for the Town Pump. Immediately, I'd seen that they cleaned the place up. It had a lot of new woodwork around the bar, the bar stools were all new, and there were a lot of Coca-Cola signs and lights around the bar. It was also a lot more bright in there than I remember.
I ordered a cheeseburger with wet fries (french fries with gravy) and had a bottle of beer. The burger came out and it was slightly overcooked, the fries were thin and lifeless. Even the gravy, which used to be great tasting and probably homemade, tasted like it came out of a can. I was highly disappointed.
I also noticed that the place didn't seem to have the same "hop" to it when I went in. There were always a couple of cooks in the back by the grill. They place was nearly empty, actually, and it was 1:00 in the afternoon. I was the only one seated at the bar. Sometimes in the past, I would have to work my way into getting a seat at the bar if I got there during the noon hour or soon thereafter.
When I left the place, I sort of looked around at the building, thinking that would be the last time I'd be going to the Town Pump. I saw a sign in the window of the building next door to the Town Pump in "Dad's Family Dining" - a restaurant that I'd never noticed being there before. (In fact, I think it was a retail store the last time I was there a year or so ago.) It was a "For Sale" sign. I looked into the family dining restaurant, but didn't see anyone sitting in there and it looked like it was closed.
I got all the info off the sign and looked up the listing on the internet. I found the realtor selling the building and saw that both the Town Pump and Dad's Family Restaurant were for sale for $425,000. Well, I hope that whoever buys the Town Pump restores the burgers to the way they were before. Too many times I see people come in and buy restaurants and they either change the menu or change the way they make the signature items. It usually spells doom for that new owner.
I won't be back up that way for awhile, but I will try to check the Town Pump again in about a year, hoping they got the place sold and hoping the new owner brings back the glory days of the Town Pump I once knew.