As I stepped into Lachele’s Fine Foods, it felt like a blast from the past. With black and white tile flooring, salmon-colored walls and turquoise seating, this hole-in-the-wall diner mixes mid-century modern with a contemporary touch.
According to Executive Chef Jake Cole, this is on purpose. He and owner Cory Wendel wanted to give a tip of the hat to old-school diners when they opened in February 2021. In this they were successful; a chill vibe exudes from the walls to the food to the staff. It felt like all the employees and patrons were meant to be in this retro, upscale diner at this moment, and I felt happy to be there as well.
Like the décor, the burgers have a classic feel with a modern flair. Wendel and Chef Jake use their classical training to provide a distinctive take on this American classic. Lachele’s burger even landed on the Iowa Beef Industry Council’s 2022 Best Burger Top 10 list.
As sublime jazz music played in the background, I knew what I was going to order. In the past, I had eaten the namesake burger, the Lachele, and I highly recommend it to newcomers. This time, before arriving, I asked Cory what I should try, and I may never go back to the Lachele after eating his suggestion, the Big Gym.
I dove into the smashburger while someone constructed miniature airplanes on the television. Covered in bacon, spicy giardiniera, Duke’s mayo, arugula and provolone on a potato roll, the Big Gym was very flavorful. The crunch of the bacon provides a nice contrast to the chewiness of the burger. Next, I am hit by the ooze of the mayo and melted provolone. At this point I thought, This is an exceptional burger, then bam! The spicy giardiniera, an Italian relish of pickled vegetables, hit my mouth with spice and flavor, putting this burger over the top. In terms of taste and texture, I experienced a whole lot of greatness in each bite of this mouthwatering burger.
The patty tasted good, but the bun and fixings were the real stars. The arugula was a nice subtle touch of flavor, and like every other part of this burger, tasted fresh.
I could have stopped at the Big Gym, but I wanted more. I have eaten plenty of Lachele’s fries in the past, and they are top-tier restaurant fries. I wanted to try something new, and the host suggested the Chili Mac. It hit the spot.
The thick and creamy cheese perfectly complemented the crispy and juicy burger. The cheese and chili flakes coated the elbow noodles, making for a filling and tasty side. I did not need more after this delectable burger.
Some restaurants, unfortunately, dry out their mac and cheese, but at Lachele’s this was not the case. Even more impressive, I talked to Chef Jake for 10 minutes after the Chili Mac came out, and the noodles never became soggy nor lost their moisture or quality.
While I highly suggest this combination, you cannot go wrong ordering any menu item or the daily special. If you’re a burger lover who hasn’t tried Lachele’s Fine Foods, you are missing out.
This article was originally published in Little Village Central Iowa issue 004.