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Black Iron Grill – Rock Port, Mo

Just off Interstate 29 in far Northeast Missouri you will find some darn good deep-fried appetizers and a decent steak. Like most small towns in rural Missouri, Rock Port doesn’t have too many restaurants. But what it does have is BIG.

I’m talking about Black Iron Grill (BIG) – the sizeable steakhouse and cafe that’s likely one of the best places to eat for an hour in any direction. In fact, if you exit the interstate here at Highway 136, your only other food options are McDonald’s, Subway, and a convenience store (and  it’s not even a Casey’s with the yummy taco pizza).

After you walk across the dusty, sparsely gravelled parking lot, you step inside what resembles a Longhorn or Texas Roadhouse without the corporate “shine” and fancy decor. Wood walls decorated with old signs and funny sayings, peanuts in buckets and some t-shirts for sale displayed behind the cashier/hostess stand.

One shirt is telling of the kind of people you can expect to encounter at Black Iron Grill. It says “Drove my Chevy to the Levee but the Corps of Engineers washed it away!”. These are the people that fought the Missouri River flood last summer. It wasn’t just the farmers and town-people sandbagging just a few miles West of this restaurant. It was every business-owner, employee and resident of the entire region fighting for months to keep their businesses going as the water crept over the interstate shutting it down for weeks and cutting off routes, not only, to supplies but customers.

This time last year, Black Iron Grill was at the far Northeast corner of what roads were still operational. You couldn’t take I-29 North from here cause that’s where MoDOT shut it down. And you couldn’t head West from the restaurant on 136 because it would be like driving directly into a lake covering the road just a quarter mile down the street.

It really was an unbelievable sight. And life didn’t just go back to normal after the water receeded a few months later. Nearby roads had large sections missing. Not just blacktop, but 20-foot drop-offs, 15 yards wide where the river current cut through.

BIG is just one of the local businesses that fought to survive. And today they’re here to tell about it (and sell t-shirts knocking the Corps of Engineers).

After a meal at BIG, it’s easy to see why people would drive miles to eat here. They have a huge menu with some very tempting deep-fried appetizers, house-made monster hamburgers, sandwiches, pastas and steaks that come from cattle raised a couple miles down the road and never frozen.

We had a large group that weekend and I still considered it to be the “holiday” and free from dieting, so we started off with a plethora of fried food. I loved the fried green beans! They were long string beans and still had a fresh and crisp mouth feel. They came served with a special dipping sauce that seemed a cross between sour cream and Thousand Island dressing. I would definitely order them again. The fried pickles were great too.

The star of the show was definitely the onion rings. Now these puppies were done right!! Thick-cut and hand-breaded, the basket full of dark, smooth battered rings came out piping hot. One bite and I was hooked! The “beer batter” must use a strong dark ale cause the flavor is intensely savory. These onion rings had more depth than most. Flavors of sweet onion, rich batter, seasonings and beer were the perfect surroundings to the crunchy onion.

BIG has some hefty burgers which my friends said were pretty good. They even serve a “Bird Dog” sandwich made from chicken tenders, cheese and topped with honey mustard.

I opted for one of their steaks. Hard to resist when they can point to the field where the cow was raised. My ribeye was pretty good. Cooked just how I like and served with a gigantic baked potato.

BIG even has a decent salad bar that can serve as one of your side dish  choices.

 It was a great meal for a small-town place and some of the best onion rings I’ve tasted. I will be eating there again next time I’m in the area.

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