Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
FAIRFIELD — Fishback & Stephenson Cider House in Fairfield has been honored for producing one of the best burgers in Iowa.
The Iowa Beef Industry Council and Iowa Cattlemen's Association announced the list of the Top 10 restaurants in the state in their quest to find the best burger Iowa has to offer. Fishback & Stephenson Cider House, located just north of town on Pleasant Plain road, was nominated for its 'smokehouse burger.' according to Annalisa Thompson, one of the business's co-founders.
The burger is made from cattle raised by Adrian Family Farms in Jefferson County.
The burger is topped with smoky blue cheese sauce and house pickled jalapenos. Chef Skylar Messer designed the burger a few years ago after the company's owners gave him a book called 'The Flavor Bible.' The book inspired Messer to experiment with this combination of blue cheese and jalapenos that has proved to be wildly successful, turning the smokehouse burger into one of the business's top sellers.
'The blue cheese sauce kills the heat from the jalapeno,' Messer said. 'Those two flavors together create a new flavor.'
Messer said he wanted to give customers the impression they were eating a dry-aged steak.
'I wanted to bring a classy experience to [burgers], something that is not necessarily regarded as fine dining,' Messer said.
Now that the beef council and cattlemen have their Top 10 list of restaurants, representatives from those organizations will visit every restaurant to judge the burger's taste, appearance and temperature. The judges will be undercover, so the restaurants won't know if they're serving a judge or not.
Thompson said Cider House will learn in early May whether it has won the contest. If so, it would be the business's second victory. Cider House won the best burger award in 2015 just eight months after opening its restaurant, back when it was located on Second Street in downtown Fairfield.
The rules of the contest state that restaurants cannot win multiple times. However, Cider House moved in 2018 to its current location on Pleasant Plain road. At that time, the business shifted toward focusing on producing cider and hosting events in its brand-new building.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 arrived last spring and spelled doom for event halls around the country and the world. With all its events canceled, Cider House pivoted back to food service in a matter of days, offering takeout and curbside pickup. Over the summer, the business opened its doors to in-person dining.
Thompson said things are now finally starting to return to normal.
'It's starting to feel more lively here,' she said.
The business has scheduled a few events for the year, with a stand-up comedy show in the works and a blues festival on May 28.