We Tried This Year’s Iowa Best Burger Contest Winner. Here’s Our Verdict.

Photos by Sean Dengler

I love burgers.

Like many kids growing up, I developed my love of burgers thanks to McDonald’s, where the double cheeseburger was my go-to. Since downing many of those as a child, my taste has grown and it’s developed into a full-on passion to try unique burgers at every restaurant I visit.

So when I saw the Iowa Beef Industry Council released its 2022 Best Burger Contest winner, it was my bat signal. But instead of a bat, it was the outline of a juicy, greasy burger shining in the night sky. It was time to find out if the winner, The Flying Elbow of Marshalltown, was worthy of its championship belt.

Home of the champ.

History:

According to the Des Moines Register, The Flying Elbow started as a food truck in 2017. Unfortunately, after opening its first permanent location, the 2018 tornado that swept through Marshalltown blew it away. After this disaster, it took time to find the proper digs. Fortunately for Iowans, owner Garrett Goodman persevered. He found a new location and developed the winning patty made of chuck, brisket, short rib, and Wagyu beef, a combination found nowhere else.

Sean’s Take:

I wanted to try this burger at a time when the restaurant was not busy. I chose a little after 11 a.m. on a Monday. For reference, The Flying Elbow opens at 11. I chose the wrong time. Maybe it was due to the recent accolade of being named Iowa’s best burger, but The Flying Elbow was packed when I walked in the front door. All the tables were full and there was a line of at least 10 people in front of me.

They all copied my idea.

The Flying Elbow has a distinct atmosphere. Leaning into its love of wrestling, bright neon green coloring highlighted the inside of the restaurant and small wrestling action figures lined the walls. The employees wore shirts with the initials “tFe” modeled after the logo of the “nWo,” one of the most famous pro wrestling stables of all time.

For non-wrestling fans, a stable is a group of wrestlers—often villains—like the Suicide Squad or the Kardashians. 

As great as the restaurant’s wrestling aura was, I was there for the main event: The burger. I was not sure if the best burger designation meant a specific burger or just the overall way the burgers were made. After talking to the lady taking the orders, she confirmed it was the latter. She suggested the Bang Bang Burger. 

The Bang Bang Burger

This smash burger consists of pepper Jack cheese, caramelized onion, cactus steak sauce, 4 horsey sauce [another wrestling stable reference], and fried jalapeno chips. This is not my typical burger choice. I usually go for a breakfast-, peanut butter-, or barbecue-style burger, but this burger proved these previously-held convictions wrong. 

My first thought after my first bite was, “Holy S***. They were not kidding with this best burger win.” 

WOW!

This burger was so flavorful I had a hard time putting it down to write notes about it. As it melted in my mouth, the combination of the 4 horsey sauce and cactus steak sauce left a sweet and fulfilling taste. The pepper jack was flawlessly melted on the burger, but the most surprising part of the burger was the fried jalapeno chips. A few seconds after each bite, I felt the satisfying kick of the jalapenos. Like every role player, the caramelized onion did its job. 

Another riveting part of this burger was the lack of overwhelming size. Other restaurants overcompensate with quantity over the quality of the burger, making burger-eaters wish for double-jointed jaws to eat the whole thing. The amount of quality packed into The Flying Elbow’s burger’s size makes up for this difference. It also did not leave me with a lasting stomach ache from overeating.

It is clear why The Flying Elbow won the 2022 Best Burger Contest. Anyone interested in having a delicious burger should visit The Flying Elbow as soon as possible.

Address: 229 N. 13th St.., Marshalltown

If you’re in Marshalltown, look for this building!

 

by Sean Dengler
05/19/22

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