Norma Jean’s Bar & Grill 120 Main St
Panama, Iowa (712) 489-2108 Kitchen Hours: Wed-Sat 4:00-9:30 In 1984 DLR sang about Panama, and I was always intrigued by this, as just across the county, was the town of Panama, Iowa. I am pretty sure that the song was not at all about this town, but when we had the opportunity to go check out Norma Jean’s in Panama, we had to Jump at the chance. I had wanted to do a review on this place, but figured I’ll Wait until the time was right. As you would guess, the place is themed with Marilyn Monroe artwork, as well as Coca-Cola items. I am guessing the owners are fans of the bubbly beverage, as well as the Girl Gone Bad with Drop Dead Legs. This girl lived in a House of Pain and her life was cut short, but is still iconic in the world of what beauty should be. She taught women all over the world many things such as how to speak up for themselves, and I for one am certainly Hot for Teacher. There are no mentions of her Top Jimmy on the walls, but you know that is a part of the mystery of Marilyn. As you walk into the place, the extra tall ceilings make room for plenty of Marilyn artwork. The décor is rustic and inviting. The staff greets people as they come in and seat them and immediately start to work on the drink orders. The menu is like many small town steak and burger joints, with prices very competitive for the area. The Friday evening that we went, it was a trip with the kiddos and the in-laws. Mike and Pat go almost every Friday night and thought it noteworthy, so we made a family trip of it. The place is kid friendly for sure in atmosphere and menu, but small town inviting to all that folks that walk in the door. We had a group of seven, and larger groups could be accommodated, but calling ahead would be in order. For a town of around 200 people, it seems strange to need reservations, but it is a good idea during prime meal times.
34 - TRMI MARCH 2015
The food order for the evening was a mixed bag of sandwiches and full meals. A couple of burgers at the table were thick and juicy, with the proper amount of seasoning. Sometimes it is difficult to find a burger that is actually cooked well, and seasoned to taste like something more than fast food. Norma Jean’s hits the nail on the head here, and the accompanying French fries and tots were a bit of crispy fried goodness. No soggy taters here. Mike had the hand breaded tenderloin that was strangely not on any fancy pants lists anywhere, but sure should be. Crispy, juicy, and cooked to perfection, it was the perfect combination of Iowa pork, seasoning, and breading. He had the hash browned potatoes with cheese and onion. These are also some of my favorite, and they are done well. Crispy edges, onions cooked through without being burnt, and cheese melted onto the top of a steamy pile of browns. A little salt and pepper later and you have the perfect side for any meal. Pat had the special of the night which was the brisket. Tender and juicy, for not being a barbeque place, their evening special fit the bill. Her sweet potato fries were a delicious side that went well with the smoky goodness. Sabin thought the steak sandwich sounded good, and was pleasantly surprised when the plate was delivered with a nice size over inch thick sirloin, served with some Texas toast. Quite a treat considering he was anticipating a thin slice of steak on a bun. I had the rib eye steak and was not let down at all. I like my steaks just barely warm, and many times are at least medium rare or even medium, but that was not the case whatsoever. The steak was nicely seared on the outside, tender, juicy, and full of flavor. The steak was prepared perfectly rare, and was the envy of the table. With some toasted garlic bread, a side salad, and an order of the hash browns with cheese and onion, it was a meal fit for any biker. Norma Jean’s is a nice place in western Iowa to grab anything from a burger to an awesome steak. Venture to Panama and enjoy the small town friendly place with a nice bit of Marilyn flair. Thanks Craig for letting some of the rest of us venture out to some places around the great state! Vernon Until next month, ride safe and eat hearty! Craig Little firstname.lastname@example.org PS If you have someplace you think we should check out in your neck of the woods, shoot me an email.
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