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Food Dude

Food Dude: The Café at the Meadows has the Ultimate Burger


Each fall, Cityview holds a contest to let readers select the ultimate local version of a popular food. Sandwich lovers picked B&B Grocery Meat & Deli’s pork tenderloin as the ultimate sandwich. Steakhouse fans went with Chicago Speakeasy, noodle lovers chose Noodle Zoo, and barbecue aficionados selected Woody’s. Twice we held pizza runoffs with Gusto yielding its title last year to Taste of New York. In this, the most contentious of political years, we decided it was time to let you pick the ultimate burger in town.img_4222

We began in September with 64 specific burgers from different restaurants, all nominated by readers. Only a few resembled what was known as a hamburger a few decades ago — ground beef patty on a bun with pickle, mustard, ketchup and onion. Zombie Burger, which has 27 different burgers on its menu, was represented by The Walking Ched, which has a breaded and deep fried macaroni & cheese bun, plus a beef patty, macaroni & cheese, caramelized and red onions, bacon and mayonnaise. Saints nominated its Juicy Lucy, a Minneapolis invention in which cheese melts in the middle of the beef patty instead of on top. The Ankeny Diner was represented by its “Maytag burger” despite the fact that the government has kept Maytag from producing its famous blue cheese for months. We salute that grand gesture of protest.

One person’s idea of an ultimate burger could scare another person. Alba’s fried green tomato burger represented that much honored restaurant, but how many people in Iowa eat fried green tomatoes? Many places featured a burger with one specific, off the beaten path ingredient. The Spot’s pastor burger; Dino’s candy bacon cheeseburger; Guru BBQ’s brisket burger; popper burgers from Draught House 50 and The Beerhouse; and rarebit burgers from Gilroy’s, Maxie’s and Spectators Sports Bar & Grill all fit that description. Americana’s tiki burger includes something from every food group, plus an umbrella.

When we tabulated the top 16 vote getters, we found that most readers prefer simpler burgers. B-Bop’s, Bennigan’s, BW’s, Café at the Meadows, Club Car, Dino’s, G Mig’s, Granite City, Kelly’s Little Nipper, Local Yocals, Noah’s, The Other Place, Trophy’s, Vivian’s and Zombie made the cut, mostly with versions of cheeseburgers with nothing much stranger than bacon and or ham added. Zombie was the exception. Local Yocals made the cut with a superb lamb burger.

The top three vote getters pretty much defined what central Iowans like best on their burgers. Bronze medalist G Mig’s “George’s prime rib burger” concentrates on high quality beef, with a wild mushroom blend, caramelized onions and jack cheese on a ciabatta bun. Silver medalist Trophy’s Trophy burger tops their beef patty with ham and cheese.

Prep Iowa - Pride Month

The winner — The Café at the Meadows — offered a similar burger, grilled with two kinds of cheese, two slices of ham, two rashers of bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and mayonnaise on a homemade bun. The Café is a top spot for breakfast, which is served all day and night. I would love to have its recipe for pancake and waffle batter. Its lunch and dinner service deserves to poach a few customers though, from the super-popular Triple Crown buffet in the same complex.

Situated on the main floor of Prairie Meadows hotel, the Café is more accessible than the casino’s other restaurants. It’s easier to find parking near the door. Decorated in a comforting combination of teal, tan, burnt orange and yellow, its 60 seats include both booths and tables. TVs are tuned to news and sports without volume. Light rock plays quietly.


Nick’s won the Iowa Pork Producers annual best tenderloin designation. It’s about time… Iowa moved up to ninth in percentage of obese people. Mississippi was No. 1 as usual.



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