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Perfect cut: Archie's Waeside ranked one of top U.S. steakhouses

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

(Sentinel photo by Magdalene Landegent) Bob Rand, third generation owner of Archie's Waeside plans to celebrate rising to the top ranks in a magazine contest for America's best steakhouse by keeping the massive tender steaks coming.
San Francisco.



Le Mars.

Archie's' Waeside, a three-generation Le Mars steakhouse, earned the community of 9,000 berth among those metropolises.

Out of 200 steakhouses nominated by reviewers and travelers, celebrity chef Rachel Ray's magazine staff picked 64 steakhouses across the nation to compete in what they dubbed "The search for the great American steakhouse." for their March issue.

Archie's' made that bracket.

Or, more accurately, two near-perfect steaming porterhouse steaks, matched with a side of Archie's' famous corned beef and the trademark relish tray, earned the Le Mars steakhouse that rank.

Archie's' owner Bob Rand, who's grandfather first opened the kitchen, said he later found out two food writers slipped in to taste Archie's wares -- unbeknownst to him or the steakhouse staff.

They both ordered the porterhouse.

And they loved it.

For a restaurant cutting about 2,000 steaks each week, Rand said he and his staff can't leave excellence up to chance.

They carry on the traditions passed on for 60 years now -- like steaks dry aged in-house and homemade salad dressings.

Dry aged steaks are high-grade beef hung to dry in a cooler for some time, making the meat tender and evaporating moisture from the muscle to intensify the flavor.

Archie's pairs those steaks with a carefully chosen wine selection and friendly waiters.

"Still, maybe it was better I didn't know they were here," Rand says of the critics, clasping his hands together.

Archie's' rose to the top 16, then earned berth among the final four with El Raigon of San Francisco, Grill 23 of Boston and Bern's Steak House of Tampa, Fla.

The food writer for the article flew to each of the final four, Rand said. Archie's was his third stop.

According to the article he wrote, Archie's was the winner for a few moments.

"He said, 'I think I just had the best steak of my life' more or less," Rand said.

Then Bern's Steak House in Tampa, an unusual joint, took king of the hill.

"Just to be mentioned with these 63 other restaurants is a big deal to us," Rand said. "Most of these are almost iconic in my eyes as classic American steakhouses, some which have been open since the late 1800s."

He hopes to see the owners of the other restaurants in Napa later this month when he heads there for a wine buying event -- a unique and varied selection of good wines is part of the core of Archie's Waeside along with steaks.

And maybe Rand will even meet Rachel Ray -- he hasn't yet.

Will the notoriety of being featured in the article change things for the steakhouse nestled into a quiet corner of Le Mars?

Rachel Ray's magazine is read by about 3 million people each month.

That's a lot of exposure for a steakhouse that doesn't even have a roadside sign. An out-of-towner might not even realize he drove by the place.

But people from South Dakota, Nebraska and beyond are already making their way to Archie's.

"Steak aficionados and food junkies -- they'll find their way here because they read about it," Rand said. "And we've had probably 500 emails and phone calls in the last two or three days."

All this for a restaurant that will celebrate its 60th anniversary in March.

"We've got 40 years left to get to 100," Rand laughed. "I think we're just kind of getting started."

Today Archie's' employs about 42 people.

"The key to the success of the restaurant are the people who've worked here and made it happen," Rand said. "We probably have 10 people who've been here over 25 years."

Rand started at Archie's when he was 14 years old, cutting meat.

Now he's having fun running the place.

"I can't wait for the door to open every night and see what's going to happen," Rand said.

The Le Mars steakhouse bears the name of Rand's grandfather Archie Jackson who emigrated from Russia to work in the stockyards -- a hub of life in that day. Archie even earned early fame in the stockyards ring as a fighter.

Then, 60 years ago, Archie made the leap and opened his own steakhouse.

"The ideas that Archie had, they were great ideas because we've been through this steak boom in the last 15-20 years and a lot of the ideas he used in the '50s are exactly what these models are built after," Rand said.

Rand's mother, Valerie Rand, ran Archie's' Waeside from 1973-94. Then Rand purchased the steakhouse

"The core items haven't changed," Rand said. "We still make all of our salad dressings from scratch from his recipes. We hand cut every steak, age every steak the same way he did."

Even some of the traditions Archie started live on.

It's not on the menu, but if you say you want the "Benny Weiker" you'll be served a delicious, specific tenderloin cut, dry aged.

Here's the story.

In the '50s and '60s, Archie knew a beef salesman from the stockyards named Benny Weiker. Weiker thought the beef in northwest Iowa was the greatest in the world. The claim was that all the beef Weiker bought went to posh restaurants in New York and the like.

"He was legendary in the yards," Rand said. "You talk to anybody in the old yards and you say 'Benny,' they'll say 'Weiker' before you can even say it.'"

Archie decided to name a steak after the man.

Rand, who remembers getting out of school Monday afternoons to go with his grandpa to the stockyards to pick meat, agrees with Weiker's philosophy.

"The greatest beef in the world is raised right here in northwest Iowa and northeast Nebraska," Rand said. "We are fortunate enough to be able to buy that every day and dry age it and sell it. That's our secret."

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And why isn't there a "roadside sign"?

-- Posted by justanoutsider on Tue, Feb 17, 2009, at 12:36 PM

I agree that Archie's has the best steaks to be found anywhere. But the food does not make up for the long wait that they force you to go through to earn the steak. I have been there many times and had to wait an hour for a table, and when you get to the dining area only half or less of the tables are filled. Its just not worth the wait, even if the steak is great.

-- Posted by SteveInLemars on Tue, Feb 17, 2009, at 1:05 PM

Maybe Archies should put in a drive through for people like Steve that are too impatient to wait for GREAT FOOD!

-- Posted by nommag on Tue, Feb 17, 2009, at 1:40 PM

My family travels to LeMars from Virginia once or twice a year. We had our rehearsel dinner at Archie's 14 years ago when my wife and I ate our first Chateaubriand. Without any doubts Archie's has the best steak this east coast boy has ever eaten. A trip to LeMars is incomplete without a dinner at Archie's. Thanks Bob - here's to another 60 years!

-- Posted by wcallahan on Tue, Feb 17, 2009, at 1:47 PM

I use to work for Archies when I was in High School. I went on to Culinary School and have worked and lived in many places. Archies is the best steakhouse I have ever went to. When I come back to LeMars I always stop in. I tell everyone I have come across about how great the food is at Archies. I am glad Bob finally got mentioned for such an great steakhouse. I think he should get a spot on one of the shows on the Food Network. Congrats Archies Waeside!

-- Posted by carlias on Wed, Feb 18, 2009, at 10:33 AM

Why do you only print one person in favor of this fine eating place and lots of people who are unhappy about petty things? This city should be really proud of Archies instead of picking the place apart. There is no better steak house in this area.

-- Posted by one4theroad on Wed, Feb 18, 2009, at 6:29 PM

To "amazed-again": There are just way more negative people than positive people. Kudos to Bob and the whole crew at Archies!

-- Posted by FoodForThought on Wed, Feb 18, 2009, at 8:02 PM

I love a good steak and Archie's are average at best. The poor service, dingy atmosphere and long waits put Archies's way down my list of favorite places. There are far better options for a good steak, or any other meal, within a short distance of LeMars.

-- Posted by Farmer Aaron on Thu, Feb 19, 2009, at 8:31 AM

I think it's wonderful when places in LeMars get recognized! Archie's, Bob's, 4 Brothers...all are great testaments to locally owned establishments.

I think there are highs and lows to all business adventures. And there are better nights to go and eat out than others. And I concur that there are people that like "other" places better. I can't say that I am any different.

We should be thankful that we have some great places to choose from. And support as you see fit these establishments going and help them stay in LeMars!

-- Posted by CoolMom on Thu, Feb 19, 2009, at 10:30 AM

well, i for one think it's very, very cool that archie's is getting recognition. congratulations to all who make the place run!

reading this article made me realize how many happy memories i have of archie's. so along with the congratulations, thanks for the good memories, too!

-- Posted by rickherbst on Thu, Feb 19, 2009, at 12:20 PM

As a former resident of LeMars (1955-1969) I recall my Father telling me a story about Archie and how he caught a customer putting catsup on one of his prized steaks. Apparently to Archie this was an insult and he asked the customer to leave. Since leaving Iowa I have resided in Wa. state and I can attest that there is no better beef on the planet nor is there any steakhouse to compare to Archies. I applaud your continued high standards and dedication to tradition which are traits seldom found to exist in todays market. Keep up the good work.

-- Posted by 4ormerresident on Fri, Feb 20, 2009, at 9:13 AM

I love how people go to a steak house on a Saturday night at 6pm and expect to get a table without waiting. WOW

I believe everyone has there own taste of a good steak. Archies is my favorite place to eat. Not only are there steaks fantastic but there salads and cheese trays are and extra bonus.

I don't think the wait there has ever been longer than what I wait at Outback or Texas Road House. I think you people just want to start some argument. Well we will tell you how good it is and obviously since they are getting NATIONAL attention they must be doing something right.

Congratulations to Archies.. I look forward to eating their AWESOME TENDERLOIN this weekend.

-- Posted by Huskerfan on Fri, Feb 20, 2009, at 4:11 PM

The story got me drooling. When you're 10,000miles away from a place like Archies, you really miss a good aged steak. So much so that if I want to create the tastes of LeMars, I have to do it myself (which, luckily I'm a dab hand at), but please......to the negative ones, tastes in food (like wine, beer, cola, candy) is very subjective, I'm a renowned food snob and frankly some of the local delicacies you have.....I wouldn't feed to a cat, but then you'd think a custom of ours of BBQ'ing lambs tails a few seconds after they snipped right off their butts or digging grubs out of rotten wood and frying them is pretty gross, but each to their own.

When it comes to reviewing Steakhouses around the USA and certainly when reviewing Archies,personally, I'd take the word of a food critic paid to travel the country and taste food, over someone who wants to sit in a brightly lit McDonalds type place and served in under 60 seconds.

Fine dining is an experience, the USA is one of the few countries into turning tables half a dozen times a night. In the rest of the world and certainly in my own cafe, a table reserved is reserved for the night!!!

Fast food belongs in the franchise stores, not Archies.

-- Posted by Don_Roberts on Fri, Feb 20, 2009, at 9:07 PM

While Archie's makes one of the best steaks that I have had, what disappoints me when I go there is that you just get a steak on a plate. I understand that the steak is the focal point of the meal, I just always feel a little disappointed while looking at a beautiful piece of meat sitting alone on a fine piece of china, and a plain baked potato sitting in a bowl next to it. To me this is what keeps Archie's from being the Peter Luger of the Midwest, if don't know what I am talking about the google it. Not excluding the great steaks that you can get there one of the last times that I was at Archie's I got the grilled shrimp and scallops. What I was expecting was the shrimp and scallops and at the very least a drizzle of some kind of sauce, be it a lemon butter or some kind of vinegar and something, but what I got was very good shrimp and scallops. If you want to wait, I think that the Texas Roadhouse makes a equally good steak, what Archie's needs to do is step up their plate and make a better dinning experience.

-- Posted by longraodahead on Sat, Feb 21, 2009, at 5:01 AM

I agree with Farmer Aaron... I would much prefer a drive a bit South of us... and there you will fine a great steak, great atmosphere and not the long long wait...

Congrats to you... I guess some mid westerns aren't that hard to please...

-- Posted by angels2011 on Mon, Feb 23, 2009, at 11:39 AM

I haven't been to Archie's in ten years. The reason..... the insufferable waiting in a jammed packed waiting area and NO PRIME RIB. They need to expand a little. It's been the same thing year after year.

-- Posted by Sammysmom on Tue, Feb 24, 2009, at 8:47 AM


Congratulations Archies!

-- Posted by ClearThinker on Fri, Feb 27, 2009, at 8:45 AM

I love Archie's. Half the fun to me is the wait. Have a cocktail or two, visit with friends, then have a great meal. Keep up the good work, I can't wait to come back.

-- Posted by Jeff in Orange City on Mon, Mar 2, 2009, at 10:11 AM

I have eaten at the finest steakhouses in the USA over the last 40 years as I sold Ice Cream to restaurants and grocery retailers all over the USA. I can honestly say that I have NEVER had a better steak than right here in Le Mars. I have been telling friends and acquaintences for years how we are blessed to have the finest steak house in the country in Le Mars Iowa. I have always told people that the QUALITY is the best there is, but when you factor in the PRICE you pay for what you get, Archies stands in a league of its own. Most of the restaurants that Archies competed against in this competition charge 50% to 100% more for a comparable steak. No one has mentioned that yet that I can see. Yes you can criticize for the atmosphere and the sauces...but when it comes to value and quality of the meal, I know from real experience WHERE'S THE BEEF....ITS AT ARCHIES!!

-- Posted by GMW on Wed, Mar 4, 2009, at 9:35 AM

My parents took my brothers and sister & I to Archies many times when we were young,Of course we had chicken or hamburger then, but it was very good,As we grew older we graduated to steaks.

And I must say, they have the BEST steaks In the midwest by far, SOOOO juicy and tender,not only are the steaks fantastic, you get a great appetizer plate before your meal,they have the best salad dressing i have ever tasted.

In my opinon the wait is well worth it,and if you want to make a great first impretition with someone take them to Archie's Waeside.

Oh, and the STAFF is GREAT.

-- Posted by Hawkeye1961 on Tue, Mar 8, 2011, at 2:44 PM

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