November 25

What The Hell Happened to The Machine Shed?

My husband took us out to one of his favorite restaurants Saturday night, The Machine Shed. It’s located just outside of Living History Farms on the edge of Des Moines, and it’s always been a celebration of farm life and hearty cooking.

What we expected to see at The Machine Shed.
What we expected to see at The Machine Shed.

The walls were rough wood reminiscent of the inside of a barn, covered with old signs and artifacts from generations of farming. The food is meat-heavy and plentiful, served family style on wooden tables. Having grown up on an Iowa farm Jason loves it.

When we approached the doors we noticed they were new, streamlined…but when we walked in it was a shock. The shop in the lobby has been remodeled from a country store into a Crate and Barrel (really, that’s what our server told us they were going for.) It’s all modern and shiny and…well, bland.

Behind the host station it reads "Machine Shed: A tribute to the American Farmer." Does this say farm to you?
Behind the host station it reads “Machine Shed: A tribute to the American Farmer.” Does this say farm to you?
What a surprise this makeover was!

Our kids usually enjoy the toys and books and tractors when we have to wait for a table, but that seems to be gone. The new shop is full of knickknacks and household décor with tasteful lighting. Worst of all are the televisions. I so hate going to a “family restaurant” and having to tear my kids away from the flashing t.v. screens that surround us. They are in both the lobby shop and the dining room now, and the place was noticeably quieter as people craned their necks instead of talking to their companions.

Before the remodel it looked like this:

Before the remodel…

And after the remodel this John Deere sign behind our table was pretty much the only remnant of the old character of the place.

and after. This sign was pretty much the only remnant of the past we saw.
After the remodel. This sign was pretty much the only remnant of the past we saw.

When we were seated we were so disappointed to see that the antiques and old signs that decorated the walls of the dining room were gone. The walls have been painted a soft grey, and there was shiny modern lighting. I heard another diner behind us exclaim “They ruined it!” and I agree.

Does something look odd in this picture? Maybe the server in bib overalls?
Does something look odd in this picture? Maybe the server in bib overalls?

The wait staff is still dressed in checkered shirts and denim overalls that matched the farm theme but now they clash, an afterthought in the new streamlined look. I foresee a uniform change in the near future, which is also sad.

We asked our server if people liked the new look of the place, and she seemed nervous, saying reactions have been mixed. She encouraged us to let the company know what we thought, but even if everyone who came through the door hated it the money is spent and the damage is done. I can’t imagine they’ll ever return it to the way it was.

The remodel of The Machine Shed is an attempt to be more trendy and cool, but that’s not why people come here. They come for the warmth, the familiarity and the character of the place. The reminders of old times on the farm. With the remodel it’s lost its uniqueness in favor of conforming to design trend that won’t last. So far the food is the same, but how long until they start lightening up on the portions and adding in gourmet options? And it just doesn’t taste the same with so much disappointment in the surroundings.

I really hate television in family restaurants.

So heads up to all of you who love Iowa farm traditions, The Machine Shed has fallen victim to modernizing. It’s a real shame, and we won’t be going back again.


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Posted November 25, 2014 by amelia @ theeverydayjourney.com in category "Iowa", "Uncategorized

About the Author

Amelia Lynch is an RN turned Travel Writer who opted for a simpler life in a bigger world. In July 2015 she and her family moved to Mexico to start exploring with no plan to stop. Hoping to inspire others to take the leap and follow their dreams, this blog will share the ups and downs of being a traveling family. Come along for the ride!

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