Serving up conversations and fries, local cafe wins statewide aw - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Serving up conversations and fries, local cafe wins statewide award

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An order of burgers ready to be delivered to guests at Emma Rae's Cafe in Merrill, Iowa. An order of burgers ready to be delivered to guests at Emma Rae's Cafe in Merrill, Iowa.
MERRILL, Iowa (KTIV) -

The hot social networking tool in one northwestern Iowa town isn't an app, but a cafe.  And that restaurant has been featured in this month's, "Our Iowa Magazine..." as one of the best mom and pop restaurants in the state.

Pete Luschen was born to cook.

"It's the lords work, he just said, you're my servant, and you're going to serve food, and that's what it's going to do," Luschen said.

Cooking, however wasn't his calling until later in life. He's worked in construction, in maintenance, and other lines of work over the last ten years. Then, in 2009, Luschen's dad suggested he open a sit-down restaurant, since Merrill had none in town.

"We had no idea what we were doing," Luschen said.

Now he's the head chef, the boss, and a pretty popular guy around town. The cafe is his office, and it's staffed by very close friends and family, like Luschen's sister.

"A lot of people always say that it would be bad to work with family, but I feel, it's the opposite for me, we get along really well, everything is really laid back, you have a lot of pride in it," Neil said.

Luschen's sister, Angie runs the counter, while he cooks in the kitchen. They know almost everyone in town, but if you want to know what's happening, you come around breakfast or noon to hang out with the locals.

"We usually fill up this table every morning, sometimes it's two deep around the table," Fred Rush, a customer said.

"We expect to see each other at noon hour when we do come down here, so it's nice cause it's like you're coming back to family," Laurie Scheitler another customer said.

Some have even brought in photographs and memorabilia to help accentuate the restaurant.

"So when they come in, they feel like it's their place, because you know, their picture is hanging on the wall," Luschen said.

While the joy of cooking is something Pete discovered late, patrons say it's something they can taste in their food.

"I love his buffalo chicken salad, it's the best salad," Scheitler said.

"Flavorful," Rush said.

Emma Rae's is known for its comfort food flair, menu items include meatloaf, burgers, and sandwiches, and a host of fresh baked pies.

"We do everything here home made, we mash our own potatoes everyday, we make our own pancake batter which was my grandmother's recipe," Luschen said.

But at Emma Rae's it's the atmosphere that's the most inviting.

"You know we want this to be suited for all ages, we want people to feel comfortable here and wanna come back and just you know come hang out with us," Neil said.

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