Iowa's Best Burger in 2024 is Crowned!

Wednesday on The Big Show, the champion of the 2024 Best Burger in Iowa Contest was announced. The winner is JJ’s Tavern + Grill in Ankeny, Iowa!

According to a press release from the Iowa Beef Industry Council and the Iowa Cattlemen's Association, who put on the annual contest, owners Rick and Lilia Romero and Michael Roberts, also the general manager, and Liberty Van Genderen, say JJ’s Tavern + Grill is about family. Roberts Michael even said they’d like it to have the television show Cheers, “everyone knows your name” feel.

“To me, a lot of restaurants are the same, just with a different name,” said Roberts. “One of our goals with JJ’s was to be totally different. We wanted to focus on the quality of food, the atmosphere, and customer service at a reasonable price point.”

JJ’s recently opened in late November 2023. They have recently added a patio for an outdoor dining experience and additional seating. Rick Romero shared that thanks to the contest they may consider moving up plans for a second location. He also said their smaller venue promotes their freshness standards because they have limited storage so they get regular food deliveries.

According to the press release, since being named a Top 10 Finalist in March, JJ's Tavern + Grill has nearly tripled daily sales of its burgers. JJ’s Tavern + Grill offers a wide selection of elevated bar food offerings. The menu currently features eight smash burger selections. Rick and Michael highlight the JJ’s Smash Burger, the Brock Curdy Burger, and the Jalapeno Cheddar.

Wednesday's announcement is the kickoff to Iowa's May Beef Month. This was the 15th year for the annual Iowa’s Best Burger Contest and was the first to allow previous winners to be nominated again. Three previous winners were nominated, Flight Bar + Grille in Huxley (2023), The Flying Elbow in Marshalltown (2022), and Chuckwagon Restaurant in Adair (2016). The other 2024 finalists, as announced on The Big Show in March were Big Head Burger in Waterloo, Houston's On Main in Milo, Lucile's at The Continental Hotel in Centerville, The Market at the Tap in Monticello, Wilder at Graduate Hotel in Iowa City, and Williamson Tavern in Williamson.

Past winners in the Iowa's Best Burger Contest are Bambino's in Ossian (2021), Twisted Tail Steakhouse & Saloon in BeeBeeTown (2020), Wood Iron Grille in Oskaloosa (2019), Cafe Beaudelaire in Ames (2018), Smokin' Hereford BBQ in Storm Lake (2017), The Cider House in Fairfield (2015), Brick City Grill in Ames (2014), 61 Chop House Grille in Mediapolis (2013), Coon Bowl III in Coon Rapids (2012), Rusty Duck in Dexter (2011), and Sac County Cattle Company in Sac City (2010).

“We’re now sealed with some of the great restaurants in Iowa,” said Rick Romero. “So for the next five to 20 years, our name is going to have the star next to it. I’ve said for a long time, that there hasn’t been an award-winning burger in Ankeny, well now there is.”

Because JJ's Tavern + Grill is a smaller venue, the Iowa Beef Industry Council and Iowa Cattlemen’s Association remind customers new and old to please be patient and courteous of restaurant staff as many former winners if the contest have reported sharp increases in sales after being crowned champion. They say it is, of course, worth the wait!

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