Iowa, dubbed “America’s Heartland,” delivers a true sense of the Midwest. Des Moines, Davenport, Cedar Rapids, and Iowa City, the state’s largest cities, draw considerable visitors each year, with Iowa City serving as the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature. Iowan restaurants frequently appear on TV shows such as Man v. Food and Bizarre Foods America, demonstrating the state’s culinary solid culture. Our top ten restaurants in the state are listed below.
1. Backpocket Brewing
Backpocket Brewing is a microbrewery and restaurant specializing in handcrafted German beer in Iowa. The restaurant is located at the front of the building and offers a simple but extensive menu that includes soups, pies, salads, grills, flatbreads, and brick oven pizzas. All of the beer on tap is produced on the premises, and the experienced staff is happy to make beer recommendations to go with your meal. You may also go outside for some patio chairs and sit by the outdoor fire pit. The brewery, which provides busy tours all week, is located at the rear of the building.
2. Breitbach’s Country Dining
Breitbach’s Country Dining is Iowa’s oldest restaurant and bar, starting in 1852. The present owner’s great, great grandpa purchased the restaurant in 1862, and it has been in the family since then. Breitbach’s reopened in 2009 to great acclaim after recovering from fires in 2007 and 2008. Diners came from all around Iowa to support this Iowa icon. All meals are created from scratch on the premises, and the restaurant serves traditional American breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Outside, the Mississippi River, farmland, and river valleys provide one of the best dining vantage points in the state.
3. Canteen Lunch in the Alley
Canteen Lunch On The Alley, an authentic slice of Americana, specializes in loose meat sandwiches and homemade pies and is a local favorite for lunch. The original restaurant debuted in 1927 and was relocated to its current location in 1936. It’s a small restaurant, with only 16 chairs for diners encircling a horseshoe-shaped counter, but the food is excellent, usually packed at noon. The eatery was also famous as the inspiration for the ‘Lanford Lunch Box’ restaurant in Roseanne’s comedy.
4. Clinton Street Social Club
Clinton Street Social Club, Iowa City’s first genuine gastropub and speakeasy, serves outstanding, regionally inspired cuisine, including a large selection of sandwiches, meats, and shellfish. On the back of the menu, they proudly display all of their food suppliers and important tidbits about their culinary procedures and the sourcing of some of the restaurants’ interior components. The lights are constructed from repurposed chicken feeders if you didn’t know. The interior decor is reminiscent of a typical speakeasy and a well-regarded range of booze and cocktails. Outside, you’ll find some of the most incredible views of the Pentacrest in the city.
5. Lucky Pig Pub & Grill
The Lucky Pig Pub & Grill has built a name among families and business people alike since it originally opened in 2011. With simple, fantastic home food, a relaxing ambiance, and friendly service, the family-run restaurant is Iowan. The décor is modest but cheery, with a variety of Americana memorabilia covering the walls, booths to the side of the main eating area, a pool table in the back, and a few ‘lucky’ pigs strewn about, all of which contribute to a comfortable, friendly atmosphere. Locals enjoy the pub area, which hosts regular events and themed nights.
6. Orchard Green Restaurant and Lounge
The top fine dining location in Iowa City is Orchard Green Restaurant and Lounge. Bouillabaisse, seared sea scallops, swordfish, filet mignon, ‘cowboy’ ribeye, and New York steak are popular menu items, with Executive Chef Bryan Herzic routinely changing the menu to reflect the availability of fresh and seasonal ingredients. Hand-selected wines and specially created specialty beverages are the ideal complements to meals or unwinding at the bar. The upstairs dining room, with its beautiful cathedral ceilings and chandeliers, and the more informal downstairs lounge are their two primary seating areas. The hardwood furnishings, white tablecloths, and scattered flowers give Orchard Green a high-end feel, complemented by the food.
Proof, a Mediterranean and North African restaurant in Iowa’s capital city, proves that Iowan cuisine is more than just Americana and eating contests. It does, however, respect its Des Moines roots by employing local ingredients in all of its recipes. Executive chef Sean Wilson draws inspiration from his South Carolina heritage for his Mediterranean recipes. The menu varies seasonally, as it does at all restaurants where fresh ingredients are the star. Proof has an impressive menu in terms of both the range of food on offer and the methods that go into its preparation, from excellent cheeses and charcuterie samplings to complicated molecular delicacies. The decor is simple, open, and bright, creating a relaxing ambiance that allows the food to take center stage.
8. Red’s Alehouse
Red’s Alehouse is the ideal visit for beer enthusiasts and aficionados, with possibly the best beer variety in Iowa City. Red’s began in 2009 with roughly 18 tap beers and has since evolved and matured into an alehouse with a good collection of specialty, non-commercial beers. It’s also a well-regarded eatery, having received Best Restaurant in Iowa City in 2011 and 2013. Salads, meat and seafood meals, sandwiches, and flatbreads are among the menu’s offerings for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. The interior is decorated in a typical alehouse style, and there is an ample patio space outside with a well-kept garden, ideal for a beer in the sun.
9. Tyler & Downings Eatery
Tyler & Downings Eatery is a casual dining establishment that prides itself on being Anamosa’s best place to dine. It is owned and operated by the fourth generation of the Downings family, who have owned and operated numerous businesses in Anamosa for over 100 years. While there are exposed brick walls, stained glass windows, and vintage bric a brac throughout the inside, the furnishings and freshly colored walls give the restaurant a fresh, modern image without sacrificing its unique look. The menu is extensive and includes classic American home cooking and monthly unique entrées inspired by foreign cuisine, as one could expect from a family-run business.
10. Zombie Burger
Zombie Burger is a lively restaurant and cocktail bar that seriously takes its burgers and alcoholic concoctions. Inside, guests will find canteen-style and bar seating, zombie murals on the walls, and staff known for dressing up. As you might expect, the menu features an incredible assortment of burgers, fries, and hot dogs, and unlike many burger joints, there are also vegan and vegetarian alternatives. There are tasty shakes, cocktails, and bottles for the thirsty masses.