Steakhouse preserves memory of historic hotel

The booming Fort Dodge economy is good news for many Fort Dodge businesses. It is one of the factors that led to the opening Oct. 1 of a new restaurant at the Budget Host Inn, near the junction of U.S. Highway 169 and Kenyon Road, according to Joe McMahon. He owns the hotel and is one of the proprietors of the Eilers Steakhouse.

“I think the Fort Dodge economy is doing real good right now with everything that is going on,” McMahon said. “It’s pretty tough to beat with Cargill and CJ Bio America and all that’s going on. … The hotel has been extremely busy this year.”

With that in mind, McMahon, wife Tammy McMahon and three additional partners – Gregg Harris, Ernie Hiracheta and Jim Nicola – have launched the Eilers Steakhouse.

The Eilers name recalls the Eilers Hotel, as do historic photos that are part of the dining room decor.

That establishment, situated in downtown Fort Dodge on City Square, was a prominent part of the town’s history in the 19th and 20th centuries. McMahon and his father, also named Joe McMahon, purchased the Eilers Hotel in 1990 and were its last owners.

It was destroyed by fire in 1994.

The McMahons remained in the hotel business, purchasing the Budget Host Inn not long after the Eilers was destroyed. The younger Joe McMahon continues to own that property.

He said a portion of the Budget Host Inn has long been the site of a restaurant. For many years that component of the hotel complex was operated on a lease basis.

Now McMahon and his colleagues have renovated the space and are running it directly.

McMahon said a top-to-bottom revamp of the restaurant took place over the summer.

Local contractors were used to handle the extensive refit of the restaurant.

“We remodeled and added more TVs for a total of 10,” he said, reflecting on the massive retooling of the space. “We put a new bar-top on, new bar, ceiling, carpet, tables, chairs, booths, wallpaper, paint, lighting fixtures. Pretty much everything is new. All the kitchen equipment is new. All the bar equipment.”

A patio has been added that will be available for outside dining in good weather.

Food, of course, is critical to the success of any restaurant.

“Food is the key,” McMahon said. “Good service and good food.”

The Eilers Steakhouse, has an extensive menu.

“Everything from steaks, seafood, good sandwiches,” McMahon said. “A full menu. Prime rib is featured on Fridays and Saturdays.”

He said that all the steaks are hand-cut and said many of the selections are more akin to high-quality, home-made cuisine than typical restaurant fare.

Three of the owners have a long history as chefs in Fort Dodge and will personally be part of the kitchen team.

McMahon said that the culinary experience of his associates is a major strength of the restaurant.

Harris has been a chef for more than 40 years, Nicola for 26 years and Hiracheta for more than a decade.

Harris and Nicola actually cooked for the restaurant in the Eilers Hotel, so they have a personal link to that historic predecessor to the current venture.

About Eilers Steakhouse

The restaurant can seat 150 in the main dining room.

The patio can serve 24. There are two event rooms.

The larger can accommodate 125 patrons, the smaller about 40.

McMahon said his team can address whatever catering needs clients who book those venues may require.

The Eilers Steakhouse features a large, fully stocked bar.

The lounge will open at 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Food service will commence at 4 p.m.

The kitchen closes at 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

It will remain open until 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The restaurant is closed on Sundays.

Samantha McMahon, Joe McMahon’s daughter, is the general manager of the restaurant.

Melissa Wilson is the bar manager.

Joe McMahon said the Eilers Steakhouse has a work force of 20, which is a mix of full- and part-time employees.

McMahon said the Eilers Steakhouse has a straightforward game plan for success.

“Good food, good atmosphere, reasonable prices,” he said.