Sam's nominated as one of top 10 burger joints
Family-owned restaurant plans to showcase signature Michael's Melt in Beef Council contest
March 26, 2013
Michael’s Melt, an original menu item at Sam’s Sodas and Sandwiches, has been nominated as one of Iowa’s Top 10 Best Burgers for 2013. The sandwich is named after Sam and Marilyn Barta’s son, Michael, who always ate one before playing a high school baseball game. Barta eventually placed it on the menu as the sandwich’s popularity soared.
A Carroll restaurant with a rich history as a family owned downtown eatery can now boast it has one of the best burgers in Iowa.
Sam's Sodas & Sandwiches, 127 W. Fifth St., was nominated as one of the top 10 places for burgers in the state by the Iowa Beef Industry Council.
It is the first time the restaurant has been nominated.
"We appreciate all the complimentary nominations because it really made us feel good," said Marilyn (Steffes) Barta, who co-owns the restaurant with her husband, Sam Barta.
The Bartas didn't know they were nominated for the best burger until early March. They had only about two weeks to get people voting.
Marilyn, a fifth-grade teacher in Kuemper Catholic Schools, said another teacher pushed her to get as many votes as they could.
The Bartas began leaving voting slips on tables for people to fill out and encouraged customers to text their vote via cellphone to the Beef Council.
Judging will take place this weekend. Restaurants that are nominated will not know who the judges are or when they are coming in to try a burger.
The judges are supposed to ask for the best burger the place has to offer. Sam Barta said he thinks he's going to submit a burger called Michael's Melt.
The melt is a burger served with Swiss and American cheese and is on two pieces of Texas toast and pickles on the side.
The burger is named after the Barta's son, Michael.
They said Michael used to come in before Kuemper baseball games and order one as a good-luck charm.
Eventually, he had the whole team coming in for burgers before games began.
Michael graduated from Kuemper in 2003 and is now a teacher and head baseball coach at Johnston High School in the Des Moines suburbs. The Johnston baseball team was one game away from the state tournament last year.
Mike isn't the only child the Bartas have named a burger after.
The Megan Melt, named after the Bartas' daughter, is the same burger as the Michael Melt - only smaller.
Although melts are usually served with onions, the Bartas decided to leave them off because it's how their kids ordered them.
Megan, who is also a Kuemper graduate, has one more year of school left at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., before she'll graduate as a pharmacist.
There are also burgers named after Sam and Marilyn, which they both say are their favorite sandwiches in the place.
The Marilyn Melt is a grilled chicken sandwich with cheese, and the Sam Melt is a double-quarter-pounder with cheese and bacon.
The Bartas also recommend trying their french dip and hot beef sandwiches.
They said part of what makes the restaurant successful is ordering fresh beef, ham and turkey from Mike's Meats in Carroll.
Sam's Sodas and Sandwiches has been open since 1998 - when the Bartas took over the former Pokey's location.
The Bartas used to live in Lincoln, Neb., and Sam worked at a uniform factory before coming back to Carroll with his wife in 1998.
The restaurant was inspired by Sam's love for cooking. He said he used to grill all the time at baseball games and realized he loved to cook.
Sam said the compliment he hears the most is how juicy and fresh his burgers are.
"Every day I still learn tricks to make them better," Sam said.
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