Temperatures Aside, These Burgers Are Well-Done

By Lindsey Foss, Iowa Food & Family Project

The ballots were cast, audiences were won over and the time has finally come; we have a winner.

More than 6,200 nominations were submitted for 311 Iowa restaurants as contenders for Iowa’s Best Burger in the seventh annual contest by the Iowa Beef Industry Council and Iowa Cattlemen’s Association. In the ultimate quest for the best, the field was narrowed down to the Top 10 restaurants across the state and from there, were anonymously scored by a panel of judges who evaluated the burgers based on taste, appearance and proper cooking temperatures.

File this one under: “Tough job, but someone has to do it.”

“We are happy to announce the Chuckwagon restaurant from Adair as our 2016 Iowa’s Best Burger,” says Brooke German, Director of Marketing for the Iowa Beef Industry Council. “Our judges found their burgers to be full of flavor, and served to perfection which won them this year’s title.”

At just 22 years old, owner Kim Reha purchased the restaurant in 2008 and transformed it into Chuckwagon Restaurant two years ago. With a menu of both classic and unique items, the community keeps coming back for more and now, with the recent Iowa’s Best Burger Contest, Chuckwagon is drawing a crowd from far beyond the local community.

“Business has certainly increased and we’ve welcomed people from around the state to come check us out,” said Kim Reha, owner of Chuckwagon Restaurant. 

We sat down with Reha over the Jesse James Burger, a mile-high double 1/3 lb. bacon cheeseburger, topped with all the fixings, BBQ sauce and mayo, sandwiched between lightly toasted buns and served with a side of home-style fries. 

Prepared with a secret recipe of seasonings, the burger is a legend in its own right, but the history behind it adds even more. In 1873, Adair was the site of the world’s first robbery of a moving train by the notorious Jesse James. Along with his gang of outlaws, James made out with approximately $3,000 from the robbery. The historic event lead to the annual Jesse James Chuck Wagon Days, held in July each summer. 

Reha hopes that the attention gleaned from the Iowa’s Best Burger competition carries well-beyond the contest and allows people to experience the Adair community, not to mention the good food that can be found, just a short detour off the interstate. 

“We use certified Angus beef that’s full of flavor and has great texture,” added Reha. “We serve good, classic burgers and I think that’s what people like about Chuckwagon. I encourage people to stop by, check us out and give our burgers a try for themselves!”

To qualify for the contest, restaurants must serve a 100-percent beef patty on a bun or bread and the meat must reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees for optimal doneness. The contest is a nod to both Iowa cattle farmers and the restaurant industry for their contributions in serving up the best burgers the state has to offer. 

“This contest is a great way to not only salute the restaurants for the great job they do preparing and serving burgers for their customers, but also a great way to recognize Iowa’s beef farmers who are dedicated to raising safe and wholesome beef,” adds German.

For more information on the contest and a complete list of previous winners, visit www.iabeef.org