The mouth-watering aroma of burgers on the grill wafted over us at the Irish Shanti in Gunder, Iowa. Kurt and I were pretty darn hungry. We had chowed down a hearty breakfast at my son’s place near Milwaukee that morning. But after touring the Harley museum and riding all day, we were past ready to eat.
We had walked in tired and thirsty a little before dark. “We’re just getting ready to close!” the bartender said smilingly. My heart dropped. Gunder is situated between Elkader and Monona on “Gunder Road.” We crossed the bridge at Prairie du Chien to Marquette and rode in circles a while before actually finding the Shanti. Gunder boasts a population of 28; I felt confident we would not find a McDonald’s anywhere nearby.
“Do you have anything cold to eat or could we just get a drink?” Kurt asked. A lovely blonde lady strolled over. “We can make you something, no problem. We’ll just lock the door so no one else shows up.” Greater words were never spoken.
We quickly ordered "world-famous" Gunderburgers and talked with the owners and staff. I mentioned my upcoming birthday, which had been the reason for a weekend ride. It seems people are always friendly to bikers; they want to know where you’re from or where you’re going. Meeting people on the road makes the ride even better.
“Ask her if she wants to try the Irish burger tonight!” the cook yelled out. Of course, I felt up for it. By that point, I could have eaten road-kill possum if fried up nicely.
Gunderburgers consist of ONE POUND of hamburger on a huge homemade bun. As hungry as I was, I knew finishing it in one sitting would be impossible. My brother Kurt, however, was up for the challenge. I asked what the Irish burger involved. Before anyone could answer, that beautiful burger was placed on the bar in front of me.
Piled on top of the pound hamburger patty was I don’t know how much corned beef, a melting slice of white cheese, and sizzling onions. The first bite, so tender, so savory, so incredibly fattening (Who cares?!), made me think I had died and gone to Irish Heaven. Not usually a fan of corned beef, I asked what gave it such delicious flavor.
The chef had to be a genius. He used Irish whisky in the corn beef marinade; the onions were sautéed in a Guinness sauce. Everything blended perfectly. If we were sitting in a pub in Ireland instead of a bar in Iowa, it could not have been any better.
Needless to say, half of my burger went home in my saddlebags that Sunday night. We needed to ride only about 40 miles to home, but night had fallen and the unlit roads ahead twisted and turned. Also, I was “full as a tick,” as dear old Sis used to say.
No matter where you come from or where you’re headed, the ride to Gunder is worth it!