Along the far western edge of Iowa, nearly on the banks of the Big Sioux River, you'll find the community of Akron and a restaurant that has built up quite the following since it opened in 2000.
Akron Jo's Cafe is a quintessential American success story. At the age of 16, Jose Arreola, the owner, immigrated from Mexico to Los Angeles where he started busing tables at different restaurants.
After a couple of years and many different jobs, he was hired at a restaurant in Beverly Hills. He started low on the totem pole but quickly proved his skills and was promoted to head cook. In 2000, he moved to Akron with his wife and three children.
The original location of the business down the street only had a seating capacity of about 45. Soon, however, the opportunity arose to move to a better location.
With the move, Akron Jo's expanded their kitchen and added a party room. All of that doubled their seating capacity to about 120.
Jose and his family are actively involved in the day-to-day operation of the business and their menu reflects a deep appreciation for the kinds of home-style classics that you would expect in a small-town family friendly establishment.
It's a sizable menu with fantastic looking breakfast offerings. I will have to come back to have breakfast sometime.
However, there are numerous sandwich, burger, dinner, and chicken offerings too. In fact, I saw on Facebook that there is a grassroots campaign to get Akron Jo's into the running for Iowa Beef Industry's Best Burger award for 2019.
On the Saturday that I popped in, they were offering a couple of specials. Unless the place is known for something very specific, like a pork tenderloin, I'm one to usually give one of those advertised specials a try.
I was very tempted to have the pork chop but my server strongly suggested the Chicken Fried Steak. For $10.95, it came with the entree, a choice of potato, a soup or salad, green beans, a role, and a drink (I had coffee). It was probably more food than I needed, but it was very flavorful, filling, and delicious.
The country gravy on top of the meat was incredible.
I also highly recommend the home fries. Wow.
It was more than enough food to power me through the rest of my day of adventures, which included stops in Chatsworth and Gitchie Manitou, among others.
The place may be known for their outstanding food, but the environment is also unique and full of character. From the checkerboard flooring to the critters on the wall (including a peacock!), there's a lot to look at and appreciate.
If you are wanting to know what's going on in Akron, you come into Akron Jo's. I can always tell if a place is going to be a good hometown hangout if there are lots of fliers and announcements by the front door.
They are sure proud of the Akron-Westfield Westerners.
Near the cash register is a wall full of awards and other publicity. It's a place that has more than earned it's stellar reputation. In fact, when I was enjoying my lunch, I was remembering back to the summer of 2005 when I was free-lancing for the Le Mars Daily Sentinel and wrote one of my first ever newspaper articles about this very same restaurant. I cringe at some of the hokey things I used to write when I was younger.
If you find yourself on the western edge of Iowa, do yourself a favor and stop on the Main Street of Akron to enjoy this great diner. I don't think you can go wrong with anything on their menu and you will be supporting a great family run business that is now deeply sewn into the fabric of the community.