Tour the state to see which is the best burger in Iowa
A new study shows the way someone eats their burger can show key traits of their personalities. Alyse Barker (@IamAlyseBarker) has the story.
There's no shortage of great hamburgers in Iowa. But which is the best?
A team of judges from the Iowa Beef Industry Council and Iowa Cattlemen's Association determined exactly that, anonymously taste-testing burgers at the 10 finalist restaurants in the annual Iowa's Best Burger contest.
The winner was Café Beaudelaire in Ames, Iowa, announced on May 1 to kick off May Beef Month.
Those of us who were not lucky enough to be a judge can still name an unofficial winner for ourselves. Pack an appetite and use this guide to try each of the 10 top burgers, with a few interesting stops along the route.
2018 Iowa's Best Burgers
3980 Center Point Road NE, Cedar Rapids
Ali and Omar Igram started BurgerFiend four years ago, moving from two other locations to its current location at Center Point Road. Black Angus chuck is ground in-house at a 75 to 80 percent meat-to-fat ratio. The 6-ounce patties are cooked on a chrome flattop grill that sears the meat and locks in the juices.
All burgers are served on a soft white bun with a variety of topping choices like cheese, fried egg, and avocado. For bacon fans, try the bacon burger, with bacon ground right into the patty. Burgers range from $4.99 for a single burger to a bacon double burger basket for $11.50.
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
2504 Lincoln Way, Ames
For 28 years, Claudio Gianello has been bringing a touch of Brazil to the Ames food scene with dishes like bauru (sandwiches) and feijoada (a Portuguese black bean and rice stew). But the burgers have been a big hit. Café Beaudelaire was recognized as having the Best Burger in the state in 2018. Kitchen manager Tom Otting said burgers here are made from an 80/20 in-house grind from 100 percent Angus and cooked on a flattop. They're layered onto cornmeal-dusted buns and served with romaine lettuce, tomato, onion and mayo. Cheese, bacon, gyro meat and egg can be added for a fee. Burgers start at $9.50.
Hours: Monday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. (kitchen closes at 9 p.m.)
The IowaStater Restaurant
Gateway Hotel and Conference Center
2100 Green Hills Drive, Ames
This restaurant located inside the Gateway Hotel and Conference Center in Ames has featured local favorites on its menu for eight years, including tenderloin sandwiches and Iowa corn chowder with spicy andouille sausage. Its flame-broiled burger — made from Niman Ranch ground beef topped with IowaStater's house-glazed bacon and Milton Creamery Prairie Breeze white cheddar — gets some of the best reviews, said food and beverage director Zach Case. It's served on a soft white bun with lettuce, tomato, onion and a side of fries ($13).
Hours: Monday through Sunday, 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
While you're there: Catch a game or just walk the beautiful campus at Iowa State University or take the kids to Furman Aquatic Center. If art is your thing, check out Brunnier Art Museum and Octagon Center for the Arts.
1220 W. 18th St. S, Newton
Moo's BBQ in Newton seems to be having a stellar year. Not only has its burgers been nominated to the top 10 list, but its pulled pork sandwich was recently named the best in Iowa. Jeremy and Nicole Biondi have been smoking meat for four years and moved Moo's from two other locations to its current one. Only Black Angus Iowa premium beef is used in the grind here for its third-pound burgers served on split-top brioche buns with cheese, pickles and onions. Look for daily special burgers made with a variety of ingredients like onion rings, brisket, pulled pork and bacon ($5.99-$13.99).
Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; closed Sundays.
While you're there: For another local foodie adventure, check out Maytag Dairy Farm. Car racing fans can head to Iowa Speedway. Or discover Jasper County Historical Museum and the Newton Arboretum & Botanical Gardens.
Morgan’s Corner Bar & Grill
436 Second St. W, Ottumwa
For more than 100 years, the space Morgan's Corner Bar & Grill occupies was solely a bar. That changed when Brian and Beth Morgan bought the restaurant about six years ago and expanded its kitchen. The menu has been a hit — especially its 8-ounce all-beef burgers. They're cooked on a flattop and served on a cornmeal-dusted kaiser roll with a choice of sides like fries, onion rings and cheese balls. Have your burger customized with cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato and jalapenos. Brian recommends kicking it up with some Amish-style Dutchman's habanero cheddar ($6.50).
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.; closed Sunday.
Contact: 641-684-0851; Facebook
While you're there: Pose for a picture in front of the American Gothic House in Eldon or check out some aerial history at the Airpower Museum's Antique Airfield. Go shopping at the Market on Main or go camping and hiking at Pioneer Ridge Nature Area.
Rides Bar & Grill
723 S. 31st St., Fort Dodge
This is Corey Lombard's fourth time seeing his restaurant listed as serving one of the state's 10 best burgers in the nine years he's owned Ride's in Fort Dodge. In that time, over 20 burger variations have been added to the menu — made with fresh 6-ounce Iowa beef patties — a special grind provided by a local locker. Burgers are cooked on an old cast iron flattop and range from $4.75 for the Softail single burger on a toasted bun with a choice of American or pepper jack cheese served with chips to $11.95 for the Dump Truck burger, a monster made with three patties, six slices of bacon, lots of cheese and a fried egg all layered between four slices of buttered and griddled Texas toast.
Hours: Monday through Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Thursday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Robin’s Nest Cafe and Bakery
(Formerly Vaughn's Cafe and Bakery)
112 E. Washington St., Clarinda
Robin Larson's first job in high school was at Vaughn's. She worked there for five years before leaving to become a culinary coordinator at two long-term care facilities. But in March 2015, she came back. She not only bought the place, but she added a bakery and changed the name. The Wrap It Up Burger is a one-third-pound seasoned patty with four strips of bacon, sauteed onions and green peppers, taco meat and two slices of provolone, all wrapped in a 12-inch flour tortilla. It's deep-fried and served with a choice of side ($6.85-$8.50). Robin's Nest also features 19 kinds of pancakes. Vaughn's was a Best Burger finalist in 2017, as well.
Hours:Monday through Sunday, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Contact: 712-542-3323; Facebook
5100 Fountains Dr. No. 100, Cedar Rapids
In 2013, Saucy Focaccia began as a food truck. It found a spot in NewBo City Market in Cedar Rapids in 2014 and then opened a new location in The Fountains shopping center in May 2016. The signature burger, the Triple Double, has three kinds of cheese and two quarter-pound beef patties. "We started building the concept around the bun," said Paul Andreason, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Alycia. He created the bun from a recipe for focaccia, and the burger is made from 80/20 Iowa beef and cooked on a flattop grill. All of the gourmet burgers come with ketchup, mayo, lettuce, tomato and onion ($4.99-$8.49). Saucy Foccacia made the Best Burger top 10 in 2017, too.
Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Twisted Tail Steakhouse & Saloon
2849 335th St., Logan (Beebeetown)
Ed and Ruth Spencer, along with their children, Luke Spencer and Hannah Johnson, have for years been attracting people to The Twisted Tail for its always-fresh chopped Angus burgers cooked on an outdoor grill ($6,75-$10.50), as well as its popular steaks and barbecue. Luke Spencer recently won Best Overall in the Independence Fire & Ice BBQ competition in Independence, Missouri. Try the B Town Burger with bacon, jalapenos, pepper jack cheese and barbecue sauce, topped with a crispy beer-battered onion ring.
Hours: Wednesday through Monday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Tuesday, 4 to 9 p.m.
While you're there: Take a stroll through the Loess Hills Lavender Farm or visit the Harrison County Historical Village & Iowa Welcome Center. If you like transportation history, check out Watson Station & Steamtrain and the Missouri Valley Antique Mall and Classic Cars.
Wrangling Grace Cafe
109 W. Ramsey St., Bancroft
Elaine Noll Edwardson knows that without the help of her team, MaKayla Heetland and Mary Skarpoho, her dream of owning Wrangling Grace Cafe would never have come to be. This eclectic spot in Bancroft has about a dozen burger varieties ($8.49-$9.89). It uses a special fresh grind from a local company for its 6-ounce burgers served on toasted brioche buns with a choice of one side. Try its classic namesake burger topped with sautéed onion, a fried egg, shredded cheddar, applewood smoked bacon and homemade jalapeno jelly.
Hours: Monday and Tuesday, 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Wednesday, 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 8 p.m.; Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 12 a.m.; closed Saturday and Sunday (catering only).
Contact: 515-885-2752; Facebook