If you say "supersize" me, you better mean it, as Dan Kaercher learned when he ordered a grilled entrée at Bogie's Steak House in Albia.
Hosted by Dan Kaercher, Iowa's Simple Pleasures features Iowa travel destinations, restaurants, events, parks, recreation and more. Produced by Iowa Public Television, the series 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..
It never takes much convincing to get me into a steakhouse. Whether it's a T-bone, New York strip, sirloin or ribeye—I'm a true carnivore and I love them all (medium-rare, if you please). Today's assignment takes our road crew to Albia in south-central Iowa. We drive past the spiffy square and Monroe County courthouse on Highway 5, keeping our eyes peeled for our destination. Just past the intersection with Highway 34, we spot a modest-looking dining establishment.
Inside, there's no mistaking that this place is favored by the many hunters who frequent the Albia area every autumn. Handsome wildlife prints by an Ankeny artist adorn the walls, but the real star is front-and-center as you walk in: a mounted replica of an amazing 38-point (you heard right!) buck downed by an area teen in 2003. The Albia area is teeming with big deer, thanks to all the interspersed woods and fields. The land is a perfect combination of cover and food. And this buck made the world record books. The original can be found in the huge Bass Pro outdoors store in Springfield, Missouri.
Our congenial hosts are owners Kevin and Toni Walter, who in 1990 opened Bogie's -- named for their dear, departed English bulldog. The Walters tell me they‘d burned out on their 24/7 cable television business back in the 1980s and decided to try something less demanding. Nice try. Kevin says that even though Bogie's is open only Wednesday through Saturday evenings, it‘s still a 50-plus-hours a week job, but one he and Toni love. The Walters had the right approach: Since they love to travel (by motorcycle and private plane), they visited lots of steakhouses before opening Bogie's.
All the research paid off. Bogie's serves great fish, pork and chicken, but the real star is their succulent beef. Kevin is the grill master while Toni keeps things running smoothly in the dining room. He cuts each steak himself but won't tell me where the beef comes from because he doesn‘t want any competition. Soon I'm watching him fire up the huge, brick grill just off the dining room.
Kevin insists on a charcoal fire. It‘s not long before he's preparing me a perfect 20-ounce ribeye (I only got halfway through that masterpiece), which I enjoy along with the simple salad bar and a baked potato (I never need anything else when I have a steak). He also sends over a slab of prime rib to sample. Help! It's equally juicy and perfectly prepared. As usual on these Simple Pleasures shoots, I'm the lucky guy who gets the first tantalizing bites on camera. Then our producer and videographer sample theirs after that part of the taping is completed. What torture for them! What pleasure for me!
As the place fills up, I notice more hunters dribbling in after sunset. (Many fishermen know Bogie‘s, too, as a stopping point to or from nearby Rathbun Lake). Over at the freestanding grill, Kevin and his assistant are expertly probing and turning about 20 steaks and other entrees at a time. They serve about 400 steaks here on a busy night! At one table, a group from central Michigan tells me Iowa deer-hunting is the best (and I thought northern Michigan was famous for its deer camps!). Other guests are a mix of locals, diners from nearby communities, and visitors from as far as Virginia and Arkansas.
Whether you're a hunter or not, you'll love the simple atmosphere and great food at Bogie's in Albia. As we pack up our camera gear and head out to spend the night at the Fairfield Inn in Ottumwa, I notice several newly arrived hunters staring in disbelief at the rack on that incredible 38-point buck.