- 325 N. Highway 28, Martensdale, IA, 50160
- Overall User Rating:
- (1 rating)
- 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday.
This time of year always finds me on the hunt for a nearby rural eatery — somewhere just far enough from Des Moines to inspire a short yet immersing drive through autumn colors. This year’s find is the Roadside Inn, in Martensdale.
Who/What? According to the menu, Roadside’s history dates to 1936, and the restaurant has been in the Brown family for more than 30 years. A generational changeover took place in 2006, with Mike and Montessa Brown now managing the restaurant. Mike learned the ropes from his parents, Dick and Donna Brown.
Ambience: Any nostalgic remnants of decades gone by were likely finished off by a fire in 2004 and the subsequent new construction in 2006. With blond wood booths, vinyl tablecloths and ’80s/’90s rock music on the sound system, the super-tidy place exudes a modern rural roadhouse appeal. The décor consists mostly of college sports pennants and flags (the Hawkeyes are favored here).
Menu: Find an extensive menu of steakhouse and bar-grill favorites, including steaks, chops, ribs, pasta, main-dish salads, burgers and sandwiches.
Best bites: Broasting — that pressure-cooked, deep-fried rural America cooking technique — does amazing things to the moist, killer-good catfish, a whole, hand-battered fish with a wonderfully crisp and flaky golden-brown coating. The broasted chicken also pleased, as did the super-saucy and nicely tender slow-cooked baby-back ribs.
For a side dish, someone in your party must try the house specialty, the “French Baked Potato.” Less about France than about French-frying, the potato is baked, quartered, then lightly crumbed and fried. This specialty, created by Donna Brown, is one of those signature “you can only get it here” big-food blowouts.
Also-rans: Salads are predictable, but fresh; go for the homemade ranch and parmesan peppercorn dressings. Served Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, the good-for-the-price prime rib ($17.95 for 12 ounces) brought plenty of juicy marbling and a good, herby rub, but not the beefy-rich distinction of the highest-end cuts (you get what you pay for).
Surprisingly, though touted on the menu as a specialty, the “Roadside Famous Giant Loin” sandwich disappointed. While admirably hand-breaded, it did not taste all that porky and brought unappetizingly brittle and tough edges. The baked beans may have been better had they been served hotter; same went for the fries.
Bottom line: A casual but committed spot with good value and a good vibe.