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Bob's Drive-Inn

Highway 75 South, Le Mars, IA - (712) 546-5445
Posted By Michael Stern on 10/29/2009 3:57:00 PM
On the subject of loosemeats, people from Arizona don’t know squat. Myles Kass, proprietor of Bob’s Drive-Inn, a Le Mars, Iowa, restaurant started by his father in 1949, tells about some Phoenicians who came through town a while ago to visit The Blue Bunny Ice Cream Factory and asked him for hamburgers. He was irate. “Can you imagine? I tried to convince them that if you come to this part of Iowa, you don’t want a hamburger; you want loosemeats. I honestly believe there isn’t anyone in town who hand-patties a burger any more.”

In case you are from Arizona or any one of the other 48 states where loosemeats is unheard of, know this: a loosemeats is a sandwich of ground beef that is cooked loose – unpattied – and served sauceless. Compared to a hamburger it has a higgledy-piggledy character, but there is nothing scattered about its satisfying taste. It is customarily dressed with pickle, mustard, and a slice of cheese; and like grits, it is a food spoken of with singular/plural ambivalence. Usually one sandwich is a loosemeats; a batch in the kitchen or a bowlful without the bun are loosemeats.

You will not find loosemeats on the menu that hangs above Bob’s order window. That is because it is listed by one of its several aliases, a tavern. At many restaurants that serve it, loosemeats is called something else: tavern, Big T, Charlie Boy, or Tastee. When Roseanne Arnold opened her Big Food Diner over in Eldon out Ottumwa way, journalists unfamiliar with Iowa cuisine made a fuss over the fact that her menu did list loosemeats, a name that to outsiders sounds vaguely taboo. According to Marcia Poole, food writer at the Sioux City Journal, folks in Siouxland were righteously angry about Roseanne calling it that. “The other side of Des Moines, it should be called a Maid-Rite,” Marcia told us, referring to the eponymous name for the similar sandwich and the Maid Rite Restaurants that serve it, mostly between Des Moines and Dubuque. “Loosemeats are ours alone.”

At Bob’s Drive-Inn, they don’t even offer a hamburger. If you want beef, you get loosemeats. Bob’s loosemeats are definitive. Browned, strained of fat, then pressure-cooked with sauce and spice, then drained again, this meat is moist, full-flavored and deeply satisfying. Each sandwich is made on a good-quality roll that Myles Kass secures from Le Mars’ own Vander Meer Bakery.

If you don’t want loosemeats, or if like us, need to sample every good hot dog that exists, you must get a couple of franks at this fine place. The hot dogs are ravishing natural-casing beauties with a real snap to their skin. They are made by Wimmer's, a vintage-1934 sausage maker in West Point, Nebraska, and they are some of America's greatest.

Root beer is house-made; and fruit shakes are made from real summer fruit.

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Scorecard

5 - Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
loosemeats
Tavern sandwich
hot dog
milk shake
Bob Dog
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Reviewers Photos [Upload Your Photos]

Bob's calls its loosemeats a tavern. It is the quintessential northwest Iowa roadfood sandwich.
"Bob's calls its loosemeats a tavern. It is the quintessential northwest Iowa roadfood sandwich."
Michael Stern





Although taverns are the #1 hit on Bob's menu, the hot dogs are superb -- locally-made Wimmer's brand. This is a Bob Dog, which is one of those fine franks topped with loosemeats. Proprietor Myles Kass gets a real kick from the fact that the end of each Wimmer's dog resembles a thumb.
"Although taverns are the #1 hit on Bob's menu, the hot dogs are superb -- locally-made Wimmer's brand. This is a Bob Dog, which is one of those fine franks topped with loosemeats. Proprietor Myles Kass gets a real kick from the fact that the end of each Wimmer's dog resembles a thumb."
Michael Stern


Bob's makes excellent thick shakes, like this cherry one.
"Bob's makes excellent thick shakes, like this cherry one."
Cliff Strutz


A perfect summertime supper: a tavern sandwich accompanied by a basket of cheese curds.
"A perfect summertime supper: a tavern sandwich accompanied by a basket of cheese curds."
Chris & Amy Ayers


Another Roadfood axiom is that restaurants that claim to be 'Home of.....' something are usually going to be Roadfood worthy.
"Another Roadfood axiom is that restaurants that claim to be 'Home of.....' something are usually going to be Roadfood worthy."
Cliff Strutz


<U>Sioux City Journal</U> writer Marcia Poole snapped this picture of us looking very happy ... after a meal at Bob's.
"Sioux City Journal writer Marcia Poole snapped this picture of us looking very happy ... after a meal at Bob's."
Michael Stern


Bob Kass opened this drive-in in 1949. His son Myles expects his kids to take over one day.
"Bob Kass opened this drive-in in 1949. His son Myles expects his kids to take over one day."
Michael Stern



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