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