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An Udderly fabulous dining excursion

Fat Boy
With bigol slabs of meat and a loaded salad bar, the Fatboy got warm and fuzzy and plenty full.

Those of us who live to eat as we're cruising down the highway of life seldom get the chance to experience anything that compares to what we stumbled upon last Saturday night along a stretch of road just a few miles north of Knoxville.

There, at the crest of the hill, was the sign: Udders Steaks and Spirits. As we pulled off the highway, there was a guy standing in the parking lot directing traffic. No kidding! He was standing there telling folks where to park so that they could get as many cars in the lot as possible.

That was the first sign I had found yet another gem of a restaurant. People aren't likely to be filling up a parking lot this size unless there is something special going on.

Big on charm

There was a real charm to the place. Classic, antique-type signs lined the walls of the main room, which was the smokers' room. We were led off to the no-smokers' room where we were greeted by a room full of Terry Redlin prints and the biggest waiter the Fatboy has ever seen. Doug Van Wyk was this young man's name, and he would be heading to Ellsworth College this fall to anchor whatever part of the football team he wanted!

As we checked out the menu, my eyes lit up. Top of Iowa Sirloin, 28 ounces, was the first thing my eyes stopped on. Gulp! 32-ounce Hickory Smoked Ham. Burp!

The 26-ounce T-Bone is where my eyes landed and where the ordering began. Now, I know there are places that probably serve bigger hunks of dead critter, but these three items are definitely for real, folks. As you approach the meat case to pick out your slab, you can tell these fall under a completely different set of rules from your ordinary steakhouse options. A piece of dead cow (or hog) that big will take you down on the ground and pound on you, make you sweat, breathe hard and gasp, because the items I sampled (and there were a lotta them) were sooo good I didn't dare leave a drop.

They had a few other items of lesser girth on the menu, but nothing fell below one pound. Even the salmon steak ran 16-ounces!

I quickly saw why they would hire a waiter that runs 6-foot plus and had to be pushing 275 pounds. Figure you have a table of four, five or six steaks -no normal person could carry a tray full of plates loaded with cuts of meat that ran this big! I hope the Ellsworth football food budget can afford a young man who is used to handling 20-plus-ounce steaks on a daily basis.

A stop at Udders usually finds you cooking your own steak or paying an extra two bucks to have it cooked for you. But the night we were there, they were cooking for you at no extra charge. That was enough of an enticement for our group to sit and visit and watch, but there were still many, many folks who were having one heckuva good time cooking their own. There are two bigol grills full of hot coals. Owner Dave McKinney tells me it takes one ton of charcoal to sear in the juices of the half ton of meat they sell each week. One ton of coals, half ton of meat. Kind of makes the Fatboy feel all warm and fuzzy.

Superior salad bar

The menu says all Udders steaks include a trip to the salad bar ... unlimited grilled garlic bread ... baked potato ... American fries ... baked beans ... green beans ... and sauteed mushrooms. Now, I'm no rocket scientist, but I do know that after ordering a 20-plus-ounce hunk of cow, you had better go plenty easy at the salad bar. That wasn't as simple as it sounds, because the salad bar items were all real good. I had a plate that was one-quarter American fries, one-third sauteed mushrooms, a baked 'tato and a whole lotta baked beans. The beans were fantastic, I loaded up on those.

I had to try the shrimp skillet full of jumbo prawns after I watched one go by our table. They needed some extra garlic added to them once they hit the table, but other than that they were right on the money.

As I waddled away from the table, I found myself totally in love with Udders. Owners Kathi and Doug McKinney run a great, bigol restaurant. General do-it-all worker Allie Day took great care of our table. Mr. Van Wyk took care of the heavy lifting and Allie kept the odds and ends coming all night long. I guarantee you this: The Fatboy will be back at Udders sooner than later. I hope you find the time to hop in your Ford truck and cruise it up and down the highway to Udders.

Oh, by the way, when we left the parking lot was full of cars. They were from all over central Iowa, according to the license plate survey I conducted.

Udders is just off Highway 14, 35 miles from Des Moines. The phone number is (515) 828-7821.

I always encourage feedback, complaints and bellyaching.Weather you agree or disagree, I want to hear about it. And most importantly, if you have someplace you think I should visit please get in touch with me. You can reach me 24/7 at (515) 770-1869 (cell phone), e-mail at Leave feedback or your own rant on my web