The Rusty Duck restaurant in Dexter, a town located about 30 miles west of Des Moines, is the home of Iowa's Best Burger in 2011. What started as a field of 275 nominated Iowa restaurants was whittled down to a Top Ten round. A secret panel of judges selected the Rusty Duck as the top location to get a hamburger.
Owner Brad Waldron is also the cook at this 90-seat bar and grille. About 80% of his cooking time is spent preparing beef at the restaurant. The winner in this year's contest was announced May 2.
The secret to his great burgers, Waldron says, is the beef. Well, it's a little more detailed than that. "It's fresh-ground, hand-pattied beef." Waldron buys choice boxed beef and cuts his own steaks. The trim from the top loin and sirloin goes into the grinder and becomes the ground beef for his burgers. Then he hand-patties the grind into two sizes of burger, 14 ounces and 8 ounces.
Judges look for best tasting beef when selecting the best burger
The attention to beef was not lost on the judges. "We cared about the burgers as we did the judging, plain and simple. Some nominees had creative garnishing, ranging from fried eggs to hot peppers to onion strings, but in the final determination, it was the quality and taste of the beef which held our attention," the judges wrote in their comments.
"The burger is the all–American classic served in almost every restaurant from the local café to the finest white tablecloth establishment," says Dan Cook, a New Providence cattle farmer who is chair of the Iowa Beef Industry Council. IBIC and the Iowa Cattlemen's Association sponsor the annual contest.
Other Top Ten restaurants (in alphabetical order) are: Bancroft Drive Inn, Bancroft; Coon Bowl III, Coon Rapids; Dublin's Food & Spirits, Emmetsburg; and The Dugout in Ute. Also, Farmer's Kitchen, Atlantic; Grinnell Steakhouse, Grinnell; The Irish Shanti, Gunder; Rube's Steakhouse, Montour; and 61 Chop House in Mediapolis.
The Rusty Duck received a plaque and a media package prize that included an on-site live radio announcement. This is the second year IBIC and ICA have sponsored the contest. Last year's winner was the Sac County Cattle Company of Sac City.
Editor's Note: The Rusty Duck is located at 723 Marshall St. in Dexter. Phone 515-789-4519. Its hours of operation are 5-9 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday, and 5-10 p.m., Friday and Saturday.
About the Iowa Cattlemen's Association: The Iowa Cattlemen's Association represents 9,600 beef-producing families and associated companies dedicated to the future of Iowa's beef industry. ICA's mission is "Grow Iowa's beef business through advocacy, leadership and education."
About the Iowa Beef Industry Council: The Iowa Beef Industry Council is funded by the $1-per-head beef checkoff. Checkoff dollars are invested in beef promotion, consumer information, research, industry information and foreign market development, all with the purpose of strengthening beef demand.