Dan Kaercher found a northwest Iowa steakhouse established by a Russian immigrant who fled his homeland during the Bolshevik Revolution.
Most restaurants don't cut and age their own beef anymore. But at a well known northwest Iowa eatery they still do and have been for over 60 years. At Archie's Waeside in Le Mars you hear a lot of this --
Steaks are one of the main highlights on the delectable menu here, steaks that are as impressive looking as they are tasting. Seeing all the tables and booths in this place jam packed is a common occurrence, a true nod of approval to the tasty food. But experience and attention to detail have a lot to do with Archie's success too.
Bob Rand: We're third generation, we've been here for 62 years. My grandfather opened the restaurant and my mother Valerie ran the restaurant for a long time. As you can see right here there's a picture of my grandfather and I getting my first meat cutting lesson when I was a kid. My grandfather was Archie and he came over during the Bolshevik Revolution, ended up in Chicago in the yards and then subsequently in Sioux City in the yards and then in the mid to late 40's decided he wanted to get in the restaurant business.
Due to Archie's experiences in the packing houses it just seemed natural that when he opened a restaurant he himself would want to cut the beef served there, a family tradition that continues today. This 1,000 square foot cooler is where beef is stored and aged before being cut daily and cooked for admiring patrons.
Where does your beef come from here at Archie's?
Most of our beef will come from northwest Iowa and northeast Nebraska area. And Iowa is just the best place in the country to have beef. Our corn is the best, the environment is the best for raising animals so it's a wonderful combination and we've just been fortunate to be doing it for 62 years.
On average, Bob says they go through about 2,000 steaks a week. Even though the sirloin is the most popular steak on the menu, on my visit I'm going to dine on something even more decadent.
I think tonight you should have a tenderloin.
Sign me up.
This is a very well marbled, beautiful tenderloin and I think this will suit you perfect tonight. Go ahead, just start pushing away.
Oh boy, I can tell right now how tender it is.
You can see that beautiful marbling in that piece of meat.
Oh yeah, that's dinner tonight folks. Wow.
As I wait for my tenderloin to be expertly prepared, I chat with a few customers about why they are so exceptionally loyal to this Le Mars favorite.
Archie's, of all the steakhouses that I've eaten around the country is by far the single best steak that I've ever had. It is an amazing cut of meat and they cook it to perfection exactly as you like it. And it is just second to none.
Bruce Brock: Well, it's a two or three times a week night out for Teri and I. We come here two or three nights a week and have for eighteen years. My career has been auctioneering for the most part. Teri and I have been in the cattle business. We've raised cows and fed cattle and I was a fat cattle buyer for National Beef and so I travel a lot and I enjoy a good steak.
Kaercher: And what do you like best about Archie's?
You know, I like the quality of the beef. The people are just wonderfully friendly and they have been that way forever. It's a small hometown atmosphere with a big town appetite. It's awesome.
It always amazes me how many people's paths will cross Le Mars, Iowa and we meet people from all over the world but generally on a night to night basis we're drawing from three or four counties in the local area and on a typical evening we'll serve in that 200 to 300 range but that always kind of elevates during the weekend and Saturdays we'll get into that 700 plus range.
We do see a lot of folks that on a regular basis will drive fifteen to forty miles to come here and have dinner and we really are thankful for that.
Besides a selection of steaks, other popular dishes include seafood, chicken, burgers and salads. And a mouthwatering throwback is brought out at the beginning of every meal, a good old fashioned relish tray.
We chop and cut all of our own vegetables here every day so you still get a nice relish tray when you start your meal. And we're very proud of having that yet after 62 years.
I settled in at my booth almost drooling in anticipation of the dishes I'm sampling here tonight. I start with a dinner salad. Archie's salad dressings are homemade from scratch, a true house specialty. Tonight I'm trying the bleu cheese but the Russian and thousand island also top customer's most requested lists.
We'll give this bleu cheese dressing the old Kaercher once over. Lots of big chunky bleu cheese crumbles. Really tangy, tangy but it's got the smooth dressing in it too.
The parade of food appearing at my table is mind-boggling. But I guess it's all part of the job.
Can you eat these with your hands? That thing feels like it weighs five pounds right there. Fritters, we'll give this a try. Oh boy, almost like a donut hole with corn in it. I'm getting kind of full but I'm going to forge on. That's a pretty big bite but I think I can handle it.
Wow. I did such a great job of cutting this tenderloin. Oh yeah, and the cook probably had something to do with it too. Oh my gosh. I've had some tantalizing and memorable food tonight. Le Mars is lucky to have such a tasty institution in Archie's Waeside.
But there's even more flavor to be savored in Le Mars. I'm talking about ice cream. Le Mars is the ice cream capital of the world and at the Wells Blue Bunny Ice Cream Parlor and Museum, visitors can find out why.
Dave Smetter: We have 6,000 square feet on each of two floors. It's an environment of a vintage ice cream parlor with a lot of flavors, a lot of ambiance and just to relax and enjoy Blue Bunny ice cream.
Smetter: On the second floor we have a museum that has a lot of our memorabilia of Blue Bunny and Wells Enterprises of how we started in the ice cream business and the evolution over the years. We have a gift shop with a lot of Blue Bunny type articles and clothing that you can buy. We have a long ice cream bar and in the ice cream cases we have 38 flavors.
Say no more, it's ice cream time. They really know how to build terrific frozen treats. The portion sizes are, well, is that all?
Oh, maybe I'll get another one.
All kidding aside, this ice cream is smooth and so flavorful. What a sweet way to end my tasting tour of Le Mars.