A LOVE LETTER TO NORTHWESTERN STEAKHOUSE

1985.

Microsoft Windows 1.0 was released. Lionel Richie topped the Billboard Hot 100 with “Say You, Say Me”. Margaret Atwood’s “A Handmaid’s Tale” was climbing the NYT Bestseller list while “Back to the Future” reigned at the box office. “New Coke” debuted and crashed and burned three months later. The Space Shuttle Challenger took off with 8 astronauts onboard, landing to break the record of largest crew flown on a single mission. One year later, it would make the news in a very different and tragic way.

Meanwhile, in the small north-central Iowa town of Mason City, my future wife and I were just stepping into a restaurant we’d both had recommended by friends at work. They all said the same thing. “It doesn’t look like much on the outside, and the inside is a bit dated, but the food is out of this world!”.

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The waiter stopped by to get our drink orders. On the wall above the entrance to the kitchen was a small sign that simply said, “Good Food Takes Time.” As it turned out, it was definitely time well spent. We both ordered ribeye and (as we were encouraged) a side of “Greek” spaghetti and a side salad.

I don’t recall if the menu back then mentioned the history of the eatery, but in looking online, I see a great summary of the origins of this northern Iowa culinary treasure, courtesy of northwesternsteakhouse.com:

Image Credit: Northwestern Steakhouse

Our entrees soon arrived, and you know how people often say, “the food was soooo good, it melted in my mouth”? That’s exactly what the ribeye did from the first to the last bite. The tenderness of the cut was incredible, only surpassed by the intense flavor of the meat.

During college, we went back numerous times, and the greatness and consistency of the food and service was always top notch. After college, we moved several hours south to Des Moines and would travel the half hour drive to sister-restaurant Cafe Northwest in Ames to relive those wonderful 80’s meals. Although it was close in comparison, the Ames location just wasn’t quite the same when it came to the atmosphere and authenticity of the original.

2022.

Last evening, my wife and I were discussing what to order or make for dinner, when I was inspired to mention our days of enjoying a good steak from Northwestern Steakhouse. I can grill a pretty fine ribeye myself (thanks to my digital thermometer), but it’s hard to duplicate the buttery wonder that is Greek Spaghetti. Several years earlier, we’d found online a copycat recipe for Northwestern Steakhouse Ribeye and Greek Spaghetti, and although it’s not quite the same as the real thing, it definitely is in the ballpark. Last night’s dinner did not disappoint.

Interested in trying the recipe yourself? I’m happy to include it here, but if you’re in the Iowa area, seriously stop and experience the real thing!

NORTHWESTERN STEAKHOUSE COPYCAT RIBEYE & GREEK SPAGHETTI RECIPE:

Ingredients:

  • 2 Large or 4 Small Cuts of Steak
  • 1 Stick of Butter (go big or go home)
  • 1 Tsp. Greek Seasoning
  • 1 Tsp. Garlic Powder
  • 1 Tsp. Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
  • 1 Tsp. Chicken Bouillon Granules (1 cube)

Directions:

  • Spray a baking dish with Cooking Spray (or coat with a thin layer of butter)
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Mix last 4 ingredients together in a small saucepan until butter is melted and ingredients are combined well.
  • Place steaks in the pre-greased baking dish.
  • Pour sauce over the steaks and place in oven for 25 minutes or longer depending upon the level of doneness you prefer (turning at appropriate times). See the temperature chart below for reference.
  • Midway through the process, cook your spaghetti according to the directions on the box.
  • When steaks are finished, place them on a plate and to the side for the moment.
  • Pour the juices from the baking dish over the drained spaghetti, stirring to completely coat it, and then add a serving to the steak plate, topping the pasta with parmesan cheese.
  • By the way, this goes great with asparagus as a side dish.
  • Enjoy!
Image Credit: Steak School of Stanbroke

Two years after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the steakhouse to close for a short time, it’s as if nothing has changed in 2022. Yes, the business originally founded by Pete Maduras and Tony Papouchis as “Pete’s Place” in 1920 is now run by Tony’s son and his wife, and has added curbside service to its delivery options, but essentially the quality and magic that is Northwestern Steakhouse is served up every day as it has been for more than 100 years.

If you find yourself famished one day in northern Iowa, stop by and bring your appetite for something special. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Featured image credit: Northwestern Steakhouse.

For more information on Northwestern Steakhouse (or to make a reservation), navigate to www.northwesternsteakhouse.com

HISTORICAL EVENTS THAT HAPPENED TODAY

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