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Hamburg Celebrates 65th Anniversary

IOWA CITY, IA (CBS2/FOX28) -- The sights and sounds of hamburgers and hotdogs on the grill were enough to get folks on Linn Street to stop and eat on Tuesday afternoon, as staff at the Hamburg Inn No. 2 handed out free food in celebration of the restaurant's 65th anniversary.

Those sensations are something Dave Panther knows very well -- he grew up in the apartment above the restaurant.

"Hearing the conversation come up through the floor, people opening and shutting the door, the trucks going down the alley. I say I was probably genetically engineer to run this business," Panther said.

Panther's parents opened Iowa City's second -- and now only -- Hamburg Inn in 1948. Dave bought it in 1979.

"Dad said if he had owned a farm, you'd be working the farm -- this was his farm," Panther said.

And Panther brought other people to the farm -- like former employee Gary Sanders. He worked at the Hamburg from 1979 to 1981.

"It was crucial to my life, if I can be serious for a minute," Sanders said. "You can have people from all walks of life. From a mechanic to a college professor to anything. They all come to the Hamburg and I got to meet all of them and be friends with all of them."

That includes people like Presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Thanks in part to the restaurant's Coffee Bean Caucus -- a mini version of the Iowa Caucus -- the Hamburg has become a national political hot spot for candidates coming through Iowa.

"It means if you want to run for President of the United States, you need to come to the Hamburg Inn," said Rep. Dave Loebsack (D - Iowa).

Those candidates come for the people, the conversation, and obviously, the food. The Hamburg has been grinding the meat for its burgers every day since the 50s. The people eating them say, that's why they're so good.

That's one of those little things Panther said his parents started doing when they opened the restaurant, and all those little things added up to one special place.

"I wish my folks could be here to see how it's turned out," he said.

In exchange for the free food, the Hamburg took 65 cent -- or more -- free will donations for the Crisis Center of Johnson County food bank.
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