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Jul 2, 2007 06:39 PM

Iowa Great Lakes Report

Stayed on the West side of W. Okoboji for a few days. Village West to be specific.
Stopped in Spencer for a quick lunch at Pizza Ranch. It is a chain, I don't know how big, I just remembered eating at one 20 years or so ago, and thought the fried chicken was good. It is. Pizza isn't much to shout about, but I still like the chicken.
Village West has a place on the lake called the Boat House Coffee Shop. Fresh brewed coffee and home made caramel, or cinnamon, rolls every morning. Caramel rolls are great. Coffee could pack a little more punch. Run by a nice couple that recommended a meal at the Dry Dock lakeside bar and grill. Specifically the Pastrami sandwich. They said they recommend it to everyone, and nobody's ever been disappointed. While not something I would normally order, I was intriqued.
It was great. Lots of top quality Pastrami, a real good smoky bacon, and swiss cheese on grilled marble rye. Great sandwich. GF had the breaded Pork Tenderloin. Good, but I would stick to the Pastrami. Not a big beer variety, but the 2 sandwiches with 2- 16 oz draws each was under 20.00. This was the best meal, and value, of the trip. We did it again the night before we left. Dry Dock is on W. Boji just South of the bridge where E. and W. connect. Nice outside deck over the lake.
Lunch at Bob's in Arnolds Park. The Bob Dog has been written up in Gourmet Magazine. A natural casing Wimmer dog, with a loose meat "sauce" on it. Interesting. Normally a Best Kosher guy, I was pleased with the flavor and snap of the Wimmer dog. At 2.50, it's worth a try.
Dinner at the Main Event. Village West's Bar and Grill. I'm trying to remember what we had, but I know niether finished what was truly a mediocre meal.
Smokin Jakes in Arnold's Park claims the best ribs around. Must not be many ribs around.
They say slow smoked, but they had no discernable smoke flavor. No pink ring on the meat. Very tender, meaty ribs, it would be nice to see what someone that can really smoke could do with these. I asked the waitress what type of smoker they used. She said it was a big one. OK. Beans were overpowered with BBQ sauce. Not a place I would return to.
Grabbed a Pizza from Rio Pizzeria. New York style brick oven baked. Best pizza in Northern Iowa or Southern Minnesota, or your money back.
I don't know. It might be. I have nothing to compare it to. I will say Angelo's or Paglia's, here blows it away.
Not a lot to recommend, but lot's of places untried.
Driving through West Bend on the return trip, I passed a place called Skoglunds Smokehouse Meats.
This would require a turn around.
Inside I'm met with a Beef and Pork paradise. Steaks, Chops, Sliced meats, Beef sticks, everything. Guy that runs it is great. He'll tell you more than you need to know about every item in the place. I loaded the cooler. So far I can tell you the Prime Tri Tip was fantastic. The smoked, sliced beef and ham are also killer.He uses ands sells Traeger smokers, and I would kill to own one, but is a bit cost prohibitive right now. But if I enjoy everything else as much as the steaks and smoked meats I've tried, I may break down and do it.
Oh, and the prices are similar to the grocery store.
That's about it. It was sad to see that Okoboji has gone mostly private. The yellow pages listed 2 resorts. Everyplace I stayed when I was a kid is now Condo's or private homes.

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  1. Thank you very much for the report back Bob. The state of Okoboji sadly mirrors most of the region from what I've found so far. I'm headed in that direction again today and will definitely check out Skoglunds. My DH will be very interested in the pastrami sandwhich too. At least there are a few bright spots to check out!

    1 Reply
    1. re: ExercisetoEat

      Good report, Bob. I just got back from Okoboj today and share your frustrations about the privatization of the lakes. I also think the strip malls are killing the ambiance. Ate a lousy meal at Minerva's. Had some good chicken, broasted potatoes and slaw from Cluckers. Besides that, ate mostly at the cabin.

    2. We were there last week as well. Minerva's wasn't bad for us, but Yesterdays (which had been recommended) was terrible. The less said the better.

      We had a wonderful meal at Newman's Lobster and Seafood house (I know I'm getting the name mangled -- but it's Newman's something-or-other) north a bit on the highway. Fantastic food and great wines at good prices. That'll be the first place we go next time we're in town.

      1. Mike's grandson and I went up to the lakes on Monday. We had lunch in Spirit Lake at a little place downtown called the Family Diner. Yes, it was just basic diner food, but it was really good, and really inexpensive. I got out of there for well under $20 after we both ate more than was good for us. It was clean, and friendly, and the kitchen is open so you can see what they're doing and how clean it is. There's a big window out to the dining room and a big open doorway and another window opening onto the hallway back to the restrooms.