There are a half-dozen Machine Shed restaurants in the heartland. The Urbandale branch on the outskirts of Des Moines adjoins Living History Farms, a celebration of rural life in the form of restored log cabins, Native-American crafts displays, and a whole small town built to look like it did in 1875. The location is significant because the Machine Shed is a culinary ode to the old-fashioned American farmer.
“Farming is everyone’s bread and butter,” announces a sign on the way into the big, sprawling restaurant. Dining room walls are crowded with turn-of-the-century farm implements, seed bags, and vintage advertisements for country-style products. The staff dresses in clean farm-hand attire (although a diamond earring on one guy made it a bit difficult to suspend disbelief). The menu has something for everyone; its highlights are meat-and-potatoes meals big enough to fuel an honest day’s work.
Breakfast is impressive, featuring fruit-filled sweet rolls scooped from the pan dripping with frosting and cinnamon rolls as big as a bread box. There is a vast selection of sausage, bacon, ham, and pork chops to accompany eggs; and the flapjacks are Frisbee-sized.
Hamburgers are a half-pound each; and the chicken pot pie is a beauty; but the one meat to eat in this place is pork: crisp-fried tenderloins made into sandwiches, stuffed loin of pork, and best of all, the Iowa pork chop. Iowans make an issue of pork chops, differentiating between ordinary pork chops and Iowa chops, the latter cut so thick that the meat takes on the character of a roast. At the Machine Shed, we ate the thickest pork chop we have ever seen … and topped it off with mighty hunks of pie and cake.