Find out how a little tavern in a tiny northeast Iowa town became home to a really, really big hamburger!
Hosted by Dan Kaercher, Iowa's Simple Pleasures is a new series produced by Iowa Public Television that highlights fun things for Iowans to do, see, and taste, right here at home. Below are excerpts from Dan's journal of his travels in the state.
… You have to be flexible filming a project like this, and today is a good example. Our planned visit to Spook Cave near McGregor is a washout in terms of getting any video (it’s raining buckets). We’ll revisit this scenic campground with its unique water-filled cave you enter via boat another day. So we head straight for another one-of-a-kind northeast Iowa attraction: tiny Gunder’s Irish Shanti tavern and restaurant, home of the locally famous Gunderburger (more about that later)…..
…I’m told Gunder has about 30 residents, give or take a few. Inside, I encounter a friendly mix of locals and a lot of travelers (including a few Boy Scouts headed home from a campout). They’ve gone a few miles out of their way to stop here and brag back home that they tried the house specialty....
... Kevin and Elsie Walsh are the proprieters, and their son, Hans, is the cook. Kevin’s the gregarious Irishman with a New England brogue in this Norwegian community (he’s from Boston, Elsie’s a Gunder native who returned here with Kevin, who says he loves his adopted hometown)….
… I sit at my table practically drooling until the “perfect” Gunderburger arrives from Hans’ big kitchen. Yes, at over 1 lb., my monster Gunderburger, smothered with cheese, onions, mushrooms and jalapenos, lives up to its reputation. It’s actually very juicy and tender! Kevin tells me that locals introduced the gargantuan burger back in the 1970s to put tiny Gunder on the map, which it certainly did. Eat a whole one, and you’re entitled to wear the huge Gunderburger hat Kevin keeps behind the bar. I’m just as wowed by my slice of homemade blueberry pie (I only wolf down half of my burger to save room, but I’m still stuffed)….
… The atmosphere and conviviality of the hosts and fellow patrons at the Irish Shanti certainly are as much a part of the experience as the great food (believe it or not, Kevin’s a hospice nurse when he’s not tending bar). On the way back to central Iowa, we curve around and over those rolling northeast Iowa hills and well-kept towns that seem to huddle around soaring church steeples….