In business since 1946, Jerry's Main Lunch in Burlington is "Home of the Original Hot Mess"

It's true that you shouldn't believe everything you read or see on the Internet.


However, if you open up Google and type in "Best breakfast in Burlington Iowa", the top result is Jerry's Main Lunch with 4.7 out of 5 stars based on the opinion of literally hundreds of patrons.


That's an impressive track record.


Since Iowa Adventurer was in Southeast Iowa (after enjoying a fantastic stay at the historic Kingsley Inn in Fort Madison) and hungry, I set my sights on checking out this local favorite.

Jerry's is not far from the Mississippi River and quite near several sets of train tracks. This area of Burlington employs a lot of blue collar workers. Since it has been open since 1946, they have undoubtedly fed generations of workers who would appreciate the kind of no-nonsense fill-you-up meal that is cooked and served by friendly faces.

The diner is in a small white building. I almost drove by it as I was looking for something with more of a presence. However, the small building is what helps give the place a nice cozy and comfortable feel.

Inside, the only seating you find is at the counter. There are 14 stools and so you better not come in with a big party expecting to find a table or a booth. This is the kind of place you stop in by yourself or with one or two other people. The best you and do is hope to find an open stool or two next to each other if you come in with more than just yourself.

On this particular morning, there were a few other diners at the time I visited. I think a few of them were regulars based on their comments and interactions. I spotted a few Burlington Hawk Eye newspapers laying around.

There is a regular menu that you can look at above the griddle.

They also have regular specials - at least at lunch time.

I saw one of the diners get a heaping pile of delicious looking biscuits and gravy. I saw a different person get a fluffy omelette.


However, the menu offering that has made Jerry's famous is "The Hot Mess".


If you go on their website, they proudly proclaim in large font letters that they are home of "The Original Hot Mess". After learning a little about what this actually entailed, I, without hesitation, made the decision that I needed to try that. When I go to a new restaurant or diner, I'm one that likes to either try the daily special or whatever is on their menu that has put the place on the map.


So what's the "Mess"?

Well, they start with fresh hash browns and mix in some peppers and onions and put it on a hot griddle.

Then, a couple of fresh cracked eggs are beaten and then poured into the mix to help bind it all together. Not long later, a choice of meat is cooked, cut up, and added in. I went with sausage.

Lastly, a couple slice of cheese are added on top.

The whole thing is served with a couple of slices of hot buttered toast. I went with rye.


A few other folks got the "regular" sized mess like I did and one or two patrons got the larger mess. It was very very good. I'm one that likes to eat this sort of breakfast assortment with ketchup. Hot sauce was also offered, but I declined.


I don't have an "after" photo, but simply picture a totally clean plate. Let's just say, this was a "Hot Mess" that you want to find in front of you.

There's not a lot of space, but probably just enough for the two employees to work their magic.

Both of the women working that morning were wearing branded t-shirts. You can buy one for yourself and if you wear your t-shirt to the restaurant, they'll give you a free drink.

All in all, this was a quick stop. I was maybe there a half hour. It's not meant to be a place where long brunches or lingering coffee drinking happens. It's a place where you want to get down to business by eating a satisfying meal.


I would definitely come back to check out more of the menu. I'm always a sucker for good biscuits and gravy. Not to mention, I'm sure they have some great lunch specials too. I would encourage you to be sure to check out their website for more photos, hours, and services. They also have a regularly updated Facebook page.


After paying a visit to this nearly 75 year old establishment, I can tell you that the Internet reviews are not wrong - it's very good and very unique. Of course, there are lots of other restaurants and spots to visit in Burlington and greater Des Moines County. That said, I can tell you that Jerry's is very good. Whether it's the best breakfast....well that would require me to also experience the competition. Personally, I know that Jerry's will be stiff competition. However, I'm definitely already looking forward to seeing who else can give them a run for their money.


As always, I welcome your suggestions of places to visit and profile whether in Des Moines County or any of the other 98 counties in Iowa. If you have a good idea or would like to host the Iowa Adventurer, please drop me a note through this website.

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