When's the last time you drove almost 400 miles for a fish dinner?
Never? Come on, you must have done it once.
Last Thursday night, that's just what I did. Yep, I loaded up the car
and headed to the annual fish fry at St. Peter's Lutheran Church in
Toeterville, a tiny, tiny town in extreme north central Iowa.
Every year around about now, they break out the secret beer-batter
recipe and cook up a whole lotta fish - 500 pounds this year, to be
exact, which is enough to feed about 800 people. For a town with no more
than a couple of dozen residents, that's not a bad day's work.
The crew makes up a pretty basic, but wonderfully done, coleslaw that
sits in big bowls on every table so you can get a scoop that's as big
you need. The homemade tartar sauce is outta sight. (You can buy this
stuff by the jug to take home, if you want.) Toss in a baked tater and
some white bread slices, and there is your menu.
This is not your ordinary run-of-the-mill fish dinner, folks. This is
unlike anything you've ever had.
Folks come from miles and miles around; the church sanctuary starts
filling up around 3 p.m.; and once the all-you-can-eat serving starts at
3:30, it is non-stop until the last visitor swaggers out of the door.
Mark your calendars for the second Thursday in February, and this time
next year you can tell your friends you drove almost 400 miles for a
Lotta bigol breakfast fun
Speaking of fun: As you should know by now, no one loves fun more than
the Fatboy does. A week ago Friday, during my continuing hunt for the
best breakfast spot in Iowa, I found a place that was a whole lotta fun.
I ended up at Boomer's Grand Grill at 1105 Grand Ave., where Boomer
seems to have his share of fun, too. One of the specials penciled on the
menu board was Big Ass Ham, 2 eggs, hash browns and toast. I don't make
this stuff up, folks - that's what it said.
It was big, too, and not bad at that. Ham is not one of my first
breakfast choices by any means, but this was way too tempting to pass
How was the breakfast, you ask? Let me just say this: You'll hear more
about Boomer and his Big Ass Ham breakfast at a later date.
And chew on this one. While I ate, I overheard a conversation with a
customer that went something like this:
Customer comes in and orders some chow. Food comes. Customer wonders
where the rest of his silverware is. Boomer Rude (the guy who runs the
place) hollers out of the kitchen that the customer has all the
silverware he needs. Why, asks the customer, is it that I won't get a
fork, knife and spoon? Boomer shouts back he is tired of doing dishes
all the time, that's why! The customer started eating without any
Those are the kinds of things I love in a restaurant. Here we have an
owner that cooks, cleans, cooks some more, buses tables, keeps customers
on their toes (there won't be any nodding off in this place, I can tell
ya), cooks some more, probably shovels snow when necessary, and is there
to make sure the cash box doesn't come up short at the end of the day.
Beats a friendly smile
While we're on the subject of spots where the owner takes pride in
running his place, check this out.
One day last week, son John and I were cruising the aisles of Tait's
Foods, 4100 University Ave. We were carting our goods around when Bob
Tait, the guy who still owns this store, popped out around the corner.
After some discussion, he took my son and our pineapple clear across the
store to have Vinnie, one of the best produce men around, core it.
Bob said, "They are much easier to deal with when you get them home if
they are cored." (And he's right! That thought just hadn't crossed our
minds.) He then delivered both son and pineapple safely back to my cart.
When was the last time Mr. Hy-Vee showed up at one of his stores for
Keep cards, letters coming
I can't thank you all enough for the wonderful response to the
Fatboy's best breakfast hunt and my continual call for Mom and Pop
shops. I hope to have results ready by my next column in two weeks. As
promised, I will have been to every offering sent my way, and that has
been a bigol list.
Once the breakfast hunt is complete, I'll be needing your help for
future columns. I know there are many, many, many great little eateries
out there that serve a whole lotta bigol meals. Send them in via e-mail
to slijearthlink.net or via fax (286-2504) or letter to the Fatboy at
The Des Moines Register, 715 Locust St., Des Moines, Ia. 50309.