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That Place puts a smile on his face (Conrad, Iowa)

Outside Conrad you'll find amazing steaks and eye-opening pie.
STEVE POPE / Street Smart Fatboy
  This story is for any of the thousands of Dowling and Madrid fans heading to state football championship weekend in Cedar Falls. Or for any of the tens of thousands of travelers who make the trip each year between Des Moines and Cedar Falls-Waterloo. Or for anyone in search of a fun little roadside steakhouse and a piece of "Prize Winning Pie." Getting out of school, out of work and out of town may be no easy chore come Friday, but I can offer up a few dandy eateries along the way to ease the pain.

  It would be time and money well spent to head on down the road and not stop to eat until you get to Albion, off Hwy. 330 northwest of Marshalltown. Albion is the home of Pork N' More Cafe and The Wagon Wheel, small-town offerings that over the years have done me right. The Wagon Wheel used to be called the Chicken House or some such thing when I was last there.

  A discovery

  Just a little farther up the road is a spot I have driven by for more than 20 years and never had the pleasure of visiting until last Saturday night. Just outside Conrad along Hwy. 14 sits a steakhouse called That Place. I have always wanted to stop but it seems as though I have never had the time. Well, after finally stopping Saturday about 5, my jaw hit the floor.

  "Sorry, can't get you in until around 8:30," co-owner Colene Masker told me, explaining that the place gets booked solid almost every Saturday night.

  As I was fuming to myself I was also thinking what a good sign that was. The natives know something.

  After several attempts at pleading, begging and groveling with Masker, she came back from the kitchen to tell us that if we could get in and out in 40 minutes we could have part of the table set for 19 that was coming in. We all agreed that if they could produce the chow, we would be out of the way in time.

  The meal begins

  After I was handed a menu, I found Steak N' Shrimp (8-ounce top plus shrimp) for $12.55 right at the top. Seemed like as good a meal as any. Ordered medium, the steak arrived nearly perfect. A bonus was the seafood salad, served with some sort of spicy ranch dressing. Add the baked tater, and the Fatboy had a big ol' plate of fun. Seemed like Colene's husband and co-owner, Bernie Masker, who was running the grill and cutting the steaks, had a pretty firm handle on the art of searing chunks of dead critter -to the tune of 300-400 pounds per week, I am told (on Tuesdays he serves up about 200 pounds of barbecued pork ribs!).

  Second on the menu, filet mignon ($12.55) caught the eye of my wife, Lori. Although she normally isn't a big steak eater, she had mentioned earlier in the day that she was hungry for steak and baked potato. I told her she was in luck because we were heading for a steakhouse in the country!

  My friend Nancy ordered two pieces of broasted chicken for $4.95. Always sampling everything served, like I usually do, I give this three thumbs up. Very crisp, very moist and way good. Her beef noodle dish (with homemade noodles) was also right on the mark. Keeping with the broasted theme, my buddy Bob tried the broasted chop. He added some cottage fries and a nice-looking tossed salad and was pretty content. Well worth the $8.35.

  Perhaps the best compliment of all came from my youngest son, John, who announced afterwards in the car that he was so full that he couldn't bend over to tie his shoes!

  Everything that hit the table was gone in just over 40 minutes. We had kept our word and were ready to waddle out the door when someone mentioned "Prize Winning Pie"! I don't know what prize it won, but it deserved it. It consisted of graham cracker and peanut butter crust topped with tin roof ice cream, chocolate mousse, whipped cream, chocolate sauce and caramel sauce. Chilled and served to a group that was experiencing culinary nirvana, it was immensely enjoyed.

  Seems like you football fans have two options: Either stop at That Place for dinner on the way to Cedar Falls (and call ahead!) or stop on the way back for pie!

  Holy helpings

  My call for turkey and trimmings brought no takers, but I did hear back from a church group or two about their dinners. Miller United Methodist Church, 3016 E. 13th St. in Des Moines, will have its annual fall dinner from 5:30 to 7 tonight.

What: That Place
Where: Off Highway 14 outside Conrad, about 10 miles north of Marshalltown
Hours: 5 to 11 p.m. Tuesdays to Saturdays; closed Sundays and Mondays.
Busiest hours are 6 to 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, so call several hours in advance for reservations if you wish to dine during that time.
Phone: (515) 366-2911

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