Iowa Machine Shed is part of a larger complex including Living History Farms. Later, when we found out more about that, we were sorry we didn’t take the time to include this extensive attraction. The big barn-like restaurant is surrounded by farm tools and implements on display. Above the Machine Shed entrance, a sign announces "Farming is Everyone’s Bread and Butter." Beneath, festive fall pumpkins, dried cornstalks, and mums surround a big plaster black-and-white Iowa porker and a taller-than-a-man wood-carved cob of corn. Inside we found numerous farm-style decorated dining rooms, saloon, and a large gift shop.
Mona and I ordered the special: roasted Iowa chops stuffed with apple-pecan dressing and glazed with apple-whiskey sauce. Accompanying it, green beans cooked just right and mashed sweet potatoes, a tasty alternative to plain mashed spuds. On the side we had fresh-baked bread, a bountiful bowl of delicious coleslaw, and baked beans. Jerry ordered plowman’s meatloaf with grilled French bread under grilled onions, mashed potatoes, and gravy, all topped with crispy onion strings. Bob got the 13-ounce haybaler top sirloin, grain-fed and cut fresh daily in Machine Shed’s butcher shop.
Some words of caution: these meals are HUGE, of the size eaten when you’ve been burning calories out on the farm from sunup to sundown. They do make wonderful leftovers to take home. Most Machine Shed offerings are supremely delicious, but heavy-duty, artery-clogging foods. Finally, be alert for extra charges: Bob agreed to have his sirloin topped with sautéed button mushrooms and onions and parmesan butter crust, thinking it came with dinner. Wrong - $4 was added. Yet, overall, meal prices are excellent for the quality, quantity, and variety of choice. "Light chore" dinners (the meatloaf was one) are all under $10, and all but the more expensive dinners ($22 for a 20-ounce Porterhouse) were under $15. Full lunches average $7, breakfasts $6. Our pitcher of beer was a steal at $4.
Though the Machine Shed isn’t for calorie counters, there are a few vegetarian meals in the sandwiches and soups. But for the carnivores among us, this place simply can’t be beat. Visit the Machine Shed for a BIG yummy taste of Iowa; come famished.
Rodeo, New Mexico
January 30, 2005
From journal Iowa Interlude: Fringes of Des Moines and the Amanas