The US dubs Iowa State “America’s heartland” because it is home to dozens of restaurants in the real Midwest. Tourists and locals have the opportunity to devour the tastiest meals in Iowa’s biggest cities like Iowa City, Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, and Davenport. Iowa City, in particular, is regarded as UNESCO’s world’s first city of literature. So, you have plenty of reasons to learn about the state’s history while enjoying local and culture-specific cuisines. Below are the 20 best restaurants in the state.
20. Iowa River Power Restaurant (501 1st Coralville, IA)
If you went kayaking or boating on the Iowa River, how about heading to Iowa River Power Restaurant for dinner or Sunday brunch? Even if you didn’t engage in any of those activities, this restaurant has large windows creating the best view of the river. There are fine dining and bar sections, making it an all-in-one restaurant with a refined ambiance. There’s a patio over the meandering Iowa River if you don’t feel like staying indoors.
19. Basta Pizzeria Ristorante (121 Iowa Avenue, Iowa City, IA)
Have you ever tasted Italian-style pizzas? If not, you don’t know what you’re missing. It’s about time you drive to Iowa Avenue in Iowa City for delicious pizza. James Adrian and Jack Piper own the restaurant. It primarily prepares pizza with gourmet toppings through fire brick ovens. Basta also has a full-service bar with the finest wines, crafted beers, and brews.
18. Joseph’s Steakhouse (212 Clinton St, Iowa City, IA)
Another place boasting freshly grilled steak is Joseph Steakhouse in Iowa City. The steakhouse in Clinton Street serves in-house butchered cuts, free-range pork and chicken, and fresh seafood. According to Vacation Idea, Joseph’s caters to vegan dieters, and it has a bar section stocking the finest wines native to different countries. Whether you enjoy handcrafted beers, imported wines, or house-made cocktails, Joseph’s Steakhouse will find a drink of your choice to wash down the meals.
17. Iowa Chop House (223 E Washington St, Iowa City, IA)
Sometimes, escaping the ever-noisy restaurants is all you need to feel appreciated after a long day. Iowa Chop House in Iowa City is one of those places fitting this description. The country-chic chop house has a classic taproom where you can devour steak and locally crafted beers. Another thing worth noting is the dark wood and leather tones with moderate lighting to make your dining and wining experience worthwhile. The menu serves steaks, free-range pork and chicken, and seafood. It’s open daily for lunch and dinner. All you need to do is show up.
16. Chez Grace (89 2nd St #3, Coralville, IA)
If you love your meals prepared French style, Chez Grace should be the restaurant to head to right now. The vintage restaurant has classical French fare and wines in an ambient setting, making it a perfect romantic place to dine in. Almost all meals on the menu have French names like Magrets De Canard à l’orange and ‘a la Poêlée à la Poire. If you find the French terms challenging to decipher, the staff is happy to translate what it means and indulge you in its history. From handcrafted beers and in-house cocktails to Chez’s luxury spirits, all you need to do is select what you want, and the staff will provide it.
15. Blackstone (503 Westbury Dr #1, Iowa City)
Have you tried the Asian and Mediterranean cuisines without leaving America? If not, you should consider devouring your meals at Blackstone in Iowa City. It’s spacious, making it a family-friendly or large group restaurant. The interior décor is worth savoring, thanks to the modern furnishings with warm hues. There’s also a full-service bar with beers, 175 bottles of whiskey brands, and wines to wash down the meals you’ve enjoyed. Blackstone’s meals are locally sourced and organic, so you don’t have to worry about getting served with GMOs. The place is open from 11:00 am to 9:00 pm daily.
14. Baroncini Ristorante Italiano (104 South Linn Street, Iowa City)
South Linn is home to Baroncini Ristorante Italiano, a charming little Italian restaurant owned by Chef Gianluca Baroncini. The restaurant is family-friendly and bursting with modern and traditional Italian cuisines. Whether you want charcuterie, cheeses, fresh seafood, or desserts, the chefs in this restaurant will prepare the food as per your preference. Also, you have Italian wine to pair up your meal after desserts, such as tortino di cioccolato gianduia.
13. Aposto (644 18th St, Des Moines, IA)
According to OpenTable, Aposto was founded by Tony Lemmo, an award-winning restaurateur. It is a unique restaurant known for modern classical cuisine inside an 1880 Victorian mansion. The menu mainly consists of Italian-inspired dishes like homemade pasta and Lou Ann’s Wedding Cake. It’s the best place for a retreat with co-workers, lovers, and college friends.
12. B&B Grocery, Meat & Deli (2001 SE Sixth St, Des Moines, IA)
According to Des Moines Register, B&B is one of the best restaurants preparing breaded pork tenderloin in Iowa. Located in Des Moines, the restaurant has participated in many competitions but has never won an award. The Belmond Drive-in in Belmond, Iowa, won, instead. It’s a family-owned business known for creating the Killossal, comprising pork tenderloin, deli meat, and burger patties.
11. The Hamburg Inn No.2 (214 N Linn St, Iowa City)
According to The Culture Trip, The Hamburg Inn No. 2 is a restaurant in Iowa City, famous for winning an award. The owners pride themselves on preparing exotic dishes like omelets. It is no surprise that the former US presidents, Bill Clinton, and Ronald Reagan, dined there. Number 2 represents the two booths named after the politicians. Another exciting part about this Iowan City’s restaurant is a greasy spoon where people can play fictional political events. Famous television shows like “The West Wing” also chose it for some of their plays. From the traditional charm to hearty plates, it sounds like your go-to place if you’re in Iowa City.
10. Backpocket Brewing (903 Quarry Road, Coralville, IA)
Another place known for fresh flatbreads is Backpocket Brewing in Coralville, IA. Its founders were inspired by German hand brewers, making it a favorite spot for beer lovers. The restaurant also offers a comprehensive menu for Iowan restaurants. While there, you can order the finest soups, flatbreads, brick oven-made pizzas, grills, pies, and salads. There’s also a patio with an outdoor fire pit where you can watch chefs preparing grilled meat and pizzas. It’s an excellent resting place to enjoy the best-handcrafted beer. Take a walk behind the building to see the brewery that hosts weekly tours.
9. Canteen Lunch in the Alley (112 2nd St E, Ottumwa, IA)
The Canteen Lunch in the Alley was first opened in a different place until its founders moved it to Ottumwa, IA, in 1936. The restaurant is known for meaty sandwiches and homemade pies, making it a popular lunchtime place for Ottumwa locals. Though small, it can host several people thanks to the stools and horseshoe-shaped countertop. Another thing to note about this restaurant is the pop culture status it’s attained over the years. Some people dubbed it the “Lanford Lunch Box” restaurant because of its interior décor and the tradition it’s carried over the years.
8. Lucky Pig Pub & Grill (113 Walnut St, Ogden, IA)
Are you touring Ogden, IA, and want to taste the freshest breaded mushrooms for the first time? How about heading to Walnut Street to see what Lucky Pig Pub & Grill offers? The restaurant and bar section was launched in 2011 and is family-owned. As the name suggests, you will see “lucky” pigs drawn on its walls and pool table at the back, making it fun to be in place for pool gaming lovers. The pub section is also uniquely designed with wooden furnishing for your comfort. It’s one of the best places for lovers because of the ambient atmosphere.
7. Orchard Green Restaurant and Lounge (521 South Gilbert Street, Iowa City, IA)
Now that GMO-based foods are bad for your health, you’d want to eat something fresh without preservatives. The Orchard Green Restaurant and Lounge is the restaurant supporting this fact. The restaurant serves exotic dishes, including the New York Steak, filet mignon, swordfish, bouillabaisse, and seared sea scallops. You also have handpicked wines and cocktails at your disposal if you love downing your meals with alcoholic drinks. Don’t forget; that the restaurant has state-of-the-art décor items like chandeliers, cathedral ceilings, and wooden seats and tables.
6. Red’s Alehouse
As the name suggests, Red’s Alehouse is the best pitstop place to explore fine wine and whiskey after a heavy meal. According to The Culture Trip, the Alehouse won “Best Restaurant in Iowa City” twice (in 2011 and 2013). It won the award because it sells locally made beers and the most refined dishes. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a vegan or meat enthusiast. Red’s Alehouse will still prepare something that won’t escape your memory. Top of the menu are seafoods, flatbreads, sandwiches, grilled meat, and even salads. There’s also a patio for beer lovers who love basking in the sun.
5. Tyler & Downings Eatery (122 E Main St, Anamosa, IA)
Tyler & Downings Eatery will serve you to your fill, if you’re a fan of barbecue steaks, sweet corn syrup, cream buns, honey buns, or even chicken bites, Tyler & Downings Eatery will serve you to your fill. Located in Anamosa, T&D has been in the eatery business for more than a century. Entering and dining in that place almost feels like traveling back in time. The historic building has a vintage design with stained glass windows and exposed brick walls. Surprisingly, its owners remodeled it with modern furnishings, adding to its charm. The eatery has received positive reviews over the year, making it the best place to dine with your family if you’re staying or visiting Anamosa.
4. Zombie Burger (330 East Grand Avenue, Des Moines, IA)
Sometimes, all you need to make your tastebuds and stomach happy is to eat a well-prepared burger. Zombie Burger is the ultimate burger go-to place if you’re in Des Moines. The restaurant also has fries, hot dogs, and other options for vegan dieters. The best part is a bar section serving alcoholic cocktails so that you can unwind your day in style. If you also want delicious shakes and concoctions, Zombie Burger will ensure you get the experience of a lifetime.
3. Proof (1301 Locust Street, Suite C, Des Moines, IA)
Whether you want to taste North African dishes for the first time or need to experiment with Mediterranean cuisines without traveling all the way, Proof in Iowa’s capital city will give you that experience. Still, the restaurant serves Des Moines dishes by sourcing local ingredients. You want to be in a place with a chef who knows how to prepare the Mediterranean, which the current chef is well-versed with. Plus, it’s the go-to place for eating competitions, meaning you can tag along a friend to devour the complex molecular dishes. With charcuterie samplings and fine cheeses, what more can tease your tastebuds unless you go to Proof?
2. Clinton Street Social Club (18 ½ S Clinton ST, Iowa City)
If you crave seafood, meats, or sandwiches, Iowa City’s Clinton Street Social Club should be on your bucket list of places to visit while in Iowa. The most exciting part about this restaurant is they have stated exciting facts about where they source their ingredients and cooking processes. The street lights come from chicken feeders, which have been repurposed. Also, its interior décor is more traditional. There’s also a bar section where you can drink cocktails as you get panoramic views of Pentacrest in Iowa City.
1. Breitbach’s Country Dining (563 Baytown Rd, Sherill, IA)
According to The Culture Trip, Breitbach’s Country Dining has existed since the mid-19th century and is family-owned. It survived two fires in 2007 and 2008, but that didn’t write off its legacy. The diner opened up in 2009, attracting local and bordering tourists in support of Iowa. Top on the menu is traditional American breakfast and other dishes your tastebuds will love. Enjoy the meals while savoring the Mississippi river valleys and fields.