I’m happy to have Tio Wally (long-time Me So Hungry reader) aboard to send in his eating adventures from across America. Here he is in Los Cherokee, Iowa.
Greetings from Cherokee, Iowa!
N 42° 45.903 W 095° 33.090’ Elev. 1309 ft.
If you’ve never been to Cherokee (and I bet you haven’t), it’s located in the center of north-western Iowa and could be fairly characterized as one of the Great American Geographic Centers of Nowhere. (You know, due north of Holstein, northeast of Correctionville ….)
Although it has some pretty cool parks along the Little Sioux River and, keeping with its rural nature, boasts a roping arena in the one nearest to downtown, there really isn’t a lot here. And this is the “big town” hereabouts!
At this time of year, it’s all brown, rolling hills of fallow cornfields and bare trees, if there are any. But the folks are nice and warm, unlike the wind that’s colder than a witch’s … well, you know.
I’m here picking up at the evil corporate chicken plucker/packer. I was hoping to finally hit Tammy’s today, a little hole-in-the-wall (literally) lunch place located inside the Shell station at the south end of town. Unfortunately, I was too late (again) and so didn’t get to try the day’s special, Beef Stew on Mashed Potatoes. Sounded good on a cold day.
Thankfully, the last time I was here the security guard lady had tipped me off to the local Hy-Vee, a supermarket chain throughout the Midwest. I don’t know if they all have them, but this one has a service deli inside, featuring hot food you can eat in or take out.
Today’s special was Meat Loaf with two sides, a roll and a 10 oz. drink for $5 tax included; it’s regularly $5.99. The last time I was here I got it with baked beans and German potato salad and it was really great. They didn’t have the baked beans or German potato salad today, so I got Calico beans (red, pinto, white and garbanzo — those are chickpeas, fella! — beans), with onion and big chunks of ground beef) and stuffing/dressing with turkey gravy.
They don’t mess around portion-wise here. The slab of meat loaf must’ve weighed at least a half-pound, and the stuffing was piled up so high it barely fit under the cover of the container. Like last time, it was easily enough for a couple of meals.
And once again, the meat loaf was really good. It wasn’t too dry and, with the addition of just a half-dash of salt, easily hit the mark. The beans were really, really good, and sort of sweet. They were so outstanding, in fact, that I was tempted to go back and get a quart! The dressing was actually kind of bland. But it was very moist, with the texture of wet bread pudding, with big pieces of celery. Better yet, it wasn’t sage-y; a lot of places go overboard with sage, which is one of my least favorite herbs. (Actually, I don’t consider sage a legitimate herb. I think of it only as “that semi-noxious smell you get all over your clothes when you ride your Sting Ray bicycle off the trail through the canyons of Southern California.”) The turkey gravy, however, really put the dressing over the top. Heck, had I known the gravy was going to be so good I would’ve had her put it on the meat loaf, too.
This place was a hell of deal and made for a great, satisfying grab-and-dash meal, especially considering the only quick alternatives were the usual fast-food suspects.
While I was wandering in the store I ran across these bizarre little things in the Deli case, but I can’t remember what they were calling them locally. I was so fascinated by these weird looking things that I sought out a local to explain to me what they hell they were. It turned out they were dried beef that had been spread with cream cheese and then wrapped around a dill pickle, which was then cut into bite-sized *medallions. The lady I talked to said they were actually pretty good, and that she also made them with gherkins, sometimes using pastrami as the meat-wrap. I didn’t try them as I thought they were a little overpriced. They sure looked interesting though. (I have got to remember to carry the camera in with me!)
*Turns out there are a zillion recipes for these things on the InterTubes.
And so we roll.
Hy-Vee, 1300 North 2nd St., Cherokee, Iowa
Tio Wally pilots the 75-foot, 40-ton(max) land yacht SS Me So Hungry. He reports on road food from around the country whenever parking and InterTube connections permit.