1. The Crane & Pelican Cafe, Le Claire
The Crane & Pelican Cafe is situated in the riverside town of LeClaire, Iowa, and it is the epitome of charming, both inside and out. The eatery is in a historic brick Italianate-style house built in 1851, and it affords amazing views of the Mississippi River. The restaurant’s interior maintains the incredible architectural details of the house, from weathered wood floors to chandeliers. They serve lunch and dinner, with a great array of sandwiches, salads, and mouthwatering entrees like filet of beef tenderloin with grilled asparagus, seared salmon with Béarnaise sauce, and much more. 127 S. 2nd St., Le Claire, IA.
2. Red Vespa, Solon
Hidden in the small town of Solon, Iowa, Red Vespa is a great place to get amazing Neapolitan style wood-fired pizza. This restaurant serves up incredible classics, like the Margherita, with fresh basil and housemade mozzarella, and more unexpected creations, like the Bee Sting, with spicy dry salami, Calabrian chilies, honey and chili oil. Yum! These delectable pies are served in a charming historic building on Main Street, complete with exposed brick and tin tiled ceilings. 208 E. Main St., Solon, IA.
3. Cafe Dodici, Washington
Cafe Dodici serves up delicious Italian cuisine with a focus on high quality, wholesome ingredients. With mouthwatering pasta dishes like lobster ravioli and tortellini in pesto cream sauce, you’ll be very happy. To top it all off, Lorraine, the owner of Cafe Dodici, actually consulted a Feng Shui Master in China in order to create the most pleasing and harmonious dining experience possible for guests, complete with handmade Italian chandeliers and paintings from India, China, Italy and Washington, Iowa. 122 S. Iowa Ave., Washington, IA.
4. Prairie Canary, Grinnell
The Prairie Canary is a restaurant and bar that serves delectable comfort food in a historic building. Here, you’ll dine in an open, airy space on inventive and flavorful salads, sandwiches, burgers, soups and more. 924 Main St., Grinnell, IA.
5. Bonaparte Retreat, Bonaparte
The Villages of Van Buren are charming in and of themselves, and the Bonaparte Retreat fits right in. It’s actually in a historic grist mill that was built in 1878. At the Bonaparte, you’ll experience an ambiance like no other, with plenty of the architectural details of the grist mill intact. Add homestyle entrees like hand-cut steak and pork chops, and you’ll never want to leave. 713 1st St., Bonaparte, IA.
6. Ladora Bank Bistro, Ladora
The Ladora Bank Bistro is truly one of a kind. The Bistro serves up amazing contemporary small plates in a beautifully renovated 1920s-era bank, complete with teller windows and old vaults. 811 Pacific St., Ladora, IA.
7. Tuscan Moon Grill, Kalona
The Tuscan Moon Grill is located in the charming village of Kalona in an old hotel with a great outdoor patio. The charming ambiance includes exposed brick, original wood floors and tall ceilings, and the Italian menu features truly to die for dishes like pasta carbonara with tomatoes, creamy bacon and onion sauce, spicy Tuscan chicken, and more. 203 5th St., Kalona, IA.
8. La Rana, Decorah
Located in the charming town of Decorah, Iowa, La Rana is a true hidden gem. This small restaurant serves unforgettable seasonal dishes with a Mediterranean flair, like tapas, duck, pizza and delectable homemade desserts. The atmosphere is cozy and intimate, with warm colored walls and interesting artwork. Located at 120 Washington St., Decorah, IA.
9. Bombfire Pizza, Sabula
This quirky and unique pizza place is a true feast for all of the senses. Inside and out, the restaurant is bursting with personality, from the large peace sign painted on the window to the hand-painted piano inside to the plethora of unique collectors items and memorabilia in every nook and cranny. Add incredible wood-fired pizza with fresh, local ingredients to the mix, and you have a winning combination. 516 Pearl St., Sabula, IA.
10. Flatted Fifth Blues & BBQ, Bellevue
Flatted Fifth Blues & BBQ is located in the oldest building in the state, a 170-year-old grist mill in Bellevue, Iowa. Not only is it located right along the Mississippi River, the inside is as warm and charming as it gets, with rustic wooden furniture, lots of hanging plants, and Christmas lights to set the mood. Flatted Fifths is known for its incredible southern style barbecue and live blues music. 300 Potter Dr., Bellevue, IA.
11. 1910 Grille, Mason City
The 1910 Grille is located in an actual Frank Lloyd Wright designed hotel, complete with original architectural details that are like no other restaurant. Pair that unforgettable atmosphere with unique and flavorful dishes inspired by cuisines around the world, and you’ll be totally wowed. 7 W. State St., Mason City, IA.