It's that time of year once again for the Iowa's Best Burger contest. For the last six years, Iowans have nominated their favorite burger joints to take the title of best burger in Iowa. For the last three years, those of us from the Creston area have had the honor of having our own local restaurant, the Elm's Club, make the Top Ten.
This year, nominations came from towns of 1,000 to metropolitan areas of over half a million. From February 11 to March 10, Iowans made over 4,000 nomination votes for 286 restaurants. Earlier this week, the Iowa Cattlemen's Association and Iowa Beef Industry Council announced the Top Ten.
The Top Ten are:
• Ankeny Diner, Ankeny
• Big City Burgers & Greens, Des Moines
• Down Right Delicious, Clarinda
• Elm's Club, Creston
• First Street Grille, Keosauqua
• Ride's Bar & Grill, Fort Dodge
• Saucy Focaccia, Cedar Rapids
• The Cider House, Fairfield
• The Ritz, Arnold's Park
• Zombie Burger, Des Moines
Saucy Focaccia and The Cider House joined 102 other new restaurants in being nominated. Those two, along with Down Right Delicious, made the Top Ten for the first time. "The addition of new restaurants shows that Iowa restaurants know that burgers will always be a popular item on their menus," says Roger Brummett, Bedford cattle producer and chairman of the Iowa Beef Industry Council. "Restaurants love to make burgers and their customers love to eat them."
Brummett adds the contest is a testament that despite higher beef prices, demand remains strong. "The nation's cow herd has been as low as it's been in 60 some years for a number of reasons," he says. "Price has increased because of supply factors, but the demand has been extremely strong, not just domestically but also in our foreign markets."
An American classic
The contest serves as a way of promoting not only beef, but also the individual businesses in the Top Ten. "We're really happy to promote Iowa restaurants who do a great job of serving beef," says ICA President Phil Reemtsma, D.V.M., of DeWitt. "We have a lot in common. Cattle producers and local restaurants are both small business owners who have a great passion for food – either producing it or preparing it. And, both local restaurants and farmers are important to the economic well-being of hundreds of communities around the state."
The winner will be announced on May 4, and between now and then, a clandestine committee of judges will visit the Top Ten and evaluate burgers based on taste, appearance, and proper serving temperature (160 degrees). "Although we won't announce Iowa's Best Burger until May 4, we encourage everyone to stop at one of the Top Ten restaurants for a burger," Brummett says. "This year we have a good representation across the state, which shows Iowans have a very special place in their heart for burgers. The burger is the all–American classic served in almost every restaurant from the local café to the finest white tablecloth establishment."
Last year, Brick City Grill of Ames took home the final prize. Winners in previous years are: 2013 – 61 Chop House Grille, Mediapolis; 2012 – Coon Bowl III in Coon Rapids; 2011 – Rusty Duck in Dexter; and 2010 – Sac County Cattle Company of Sac City.
Rising to new heights
Being in the Midwest, Brummett adds it's no surprise that beef is usually the main entrée for the Top Ten. However, the hamburger has recently risen to new heights. "I think the Best Burger contest has added to that mystique because of the unique things the winners are doing to the burger," he says. For some, it's the seasoning. For some, it's how the bacon on the burger is cooked. For some, it's a unique bun. "Some create a unique taste, and they don't always divulge what the ingredient is. That adds a little mystery to the dining experience. The burger has been elevated in class. It can be a pretty classy meal."