Love at first bite
Farm News staff writer
COON RAPIDS – While the Coon Bowl III in Coon Rapids has long been known for serving the best burgers in Carroll County, the accolades have now spread statewide.
“One Saturday night after we won the Best Burger in Iowa contest, we had so many customers that you couldn’t have stuck a shoe in here,” said Cindy Heydon, co-manager of the Coon Bowl III.
In fact, the Coon Bowl III’s burgers have become so popular that people come all the way from Michigan just to have a taste.
“The burgers are big and juicy, and you get them for a fair price,” said Dwight Olson, of Reading, Mich., who grew up on a farm southwest of Coon Rapids and was back in the area recently to visit family. “They’ve always had good food here.”
Olson, who used to set pins at the Coon Rapids bowling alley for a penny a piece when he was a boy, is glad that Coon Rapids still has a bowling alley and diner. “It’s good to see these little towns do well.”
Increasing restaurant business is one goal of Iowa’s Best Burger contest, said Michelle Baumhover, who coordinates the contest through the Iowa Beef Industry Council and the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association. “The burger is the allAmerican classic served in almost every restaurant, from the local cafe to the finest white tablecloth establishment.”
Strong local support
Coon Bowl III offers a unique setting to serve up not only Iowa’s best burger, but a slice of small-town Americana, too.
The bowling alley, which has been in Coon Rapids for nearly 70 years, is housed in a former farm implement dealership. For the past 17 years, the diner/bowling alley has been owned by four locals, including three from Coon Rapids – Dave Halbur, Mike Deeth and Aaron Kenyon – and one from Bayard, Darwin Halterman.
Local farmers are some of the most loyal customers, said Heydon, who has worked at Coon Bowl III since 2003. “We get a lot of carry-outs, especially at planting and harvest.”
Ever since Coon Bowl III made the 2011 Top 10 list of the Best Burger in Iowa, people have been coming from across Iowa, as well as more than 30 states and five countries, to get a taste. “The contest has really helped our sales,” said Heydon, who noted that diner’s meat orders increased 30 percent following the contest announcement.
The diner’s famous burgers are made with an 80/20 blend of ground chuck supplied by the Arcadia Locker, another Carroll County business.
Dan George, who has handled much of the grilling at Coon Bowl III for the past 16 years, doesn’t add any seasoning unless the customer requests it. It takes about 15 minutes to grill each half-pound burger, George said, whose mother ran Arlene’s, a Coon Rapids’ restaurant, for 11 years.
Customers are in charge of asking for any extras, whether that’s “running the burger through a garden” with lettuce, pickles, onions and tomatoes, or requesting cheese or bacon.
“I’m kind of surprised by all the attention our burgers have gotten,” George said, adding Coon Bowl III sold more than 200 burgers in one day recently.
On the day the eatery was featured on a statewide radio program, two men from Des Moines who heard the program at 12:20 p.m. were enjoying the best burgers in Iowa shortly after 2 p.m., Heydon said.
‘Worth the trip’
Coon Bowl III was selected as a Top 10 entry this year based on customer support. “Our customers were really involved in submitting nominations,” said Heydon. He said road work crews, employees from a nearby ethanol plant and farmers who stopped in for a meal all filled out nomination forms that were sitting on the counter. In addition, Heydon’s daughter used social media to promote the contest through her Facebook page.
Other Top 10 finishers this year include the Ankeny Diner, in Ankeny; Drake Diner, in Des Moines; Farmer’s Kitchen, in Atlantic; Ferg’s Lounge & My Tighe’s Restaurant, both in Grand Junction; PerXactly’s Bar and Grill, in Maquoketa; Rosco’s, in Norwalk; Rube’s Steakhouse, in Montour; Sac City Bowling Center, in Sac City; and The Ritz, in Arnold’s Park.
Darlyne Jorgensen, of Guthrie Center, said she and her husband, Al, decided to head over to the Coon Bowl III after they heard about the Best Burger in Iowa. “The burgers here are darn good, and they’re worth the trip.”
You can contact Darcy Dougherty Maulsby by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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