1. Lawler Hole In the Wall, Lawler
This hole in the wall is a literal hole in the wall, at least by name! This place has a warm and welcoming atmosphere, with classic American food. They’re popular for their salad bar, amazing chicken and the all you can eat Friday night fish special.
2. Northwestern Steakhouse, Mason City
A local favorite that’s been around forever, this unique steakhouse offers delicious Greek-style steaks and salads, among many other options. The steaks are cooked with olive oil and a blend of Greek seasonings to create steak so tender you can cut it with a fork. The walls are decorated with posters of old movies and the atmosphere is cozy and relaxing.
3. The Lost Cuban, Cedar Rapids
This place is small on space but big on flavor. It was opened by a man who moved to Cedar Rapids and missed the Cuban favorites he grew up on. You can enjoy a traditional Cuban sandwich on Cuban bread or slow roasted pulled pork with rice and beans, among many other mouth-watering dishes.
4. Baxa’s Sutliff Store and Tavern, Sutliff
Situated next to the scenic Sutliff bridge on the Cedar River, this tavern is a fun place with many tavern-style favorites, like tasty burgers and giant pork tenderloins. You can tack a dollar bill to the ceiling to mark that you were there, and there’s plenty to learn about the bridge and look at in the attached store.
5. Canteen Lunch in the Alley, Ottumwa
A local fixture known for its loose-meat sandwiches and homemade pies, The Canteen Lunch in the Alley originally opened in 1927. It moved in 1936 and has 16 stools situated on a horseshoe-shaped counter. The iconic loose-meat sandwich with cheese sauce paired with a malt and piece of pie will definitely make your stomach and taste buds happy.
6. Taylor’s Maid-Rite, Marshalltown
While Maid-Rite is a franchise, Taylor’s is an iconic and long-time favorite in Marshalltown. They’ve perfected their tasty loose-meat sandwich and have been selling it for over 80 years. The menu is limited (this is the only sandwich option available) but you won’t want anything else anyway. They also have amazing shakes. The meat is ground fresh every day, and it’s 100% Iowa beef.
7. Mac’s Tavern, Davenport
This classic Irish Pub is clean and simple with friendly bartenders serving up super cheap drinks and tasty, greasy bar food like nachos, pizza and burgers and fries and tacos that people swear by.
8. The Mill, Iowa City
The Mill has been an Iowa City landmark for many years. Not only do they serve great pizza and sandwiches, they’re a local venue for musicians and other artists. They also have an impressive selection of beer on tap.
9. The Arbor Bar, Fairfield
This cozy bar is big on atmosphere, with warm red walls and eclectic decor. They offer a large selection of local and regional beers and wine, as well as unique and interesting cocktails. If you visit, you can enjoy an amazing veggie burrito or coconut tofu and a killer cocktail against a backdrop of live music.
10. Lighthouse Inn Supper Club, Cedar Rapids
The Lighthouse Inn has been around since 1912, and families have loyally eaten at this classic supper club for generations. It has a rich and interesting history as a common stop for Chicago mobsters during prohibition. Both Al Capone and John Dillinger ate there, and there was even a bullet hole in the wall where Dillinger’s gun went off. Although the hole is no longer there, it remains part of the restaurant’s history. One of their most popular items is their “fall off the bone” ribs, but they also offer a large selection of sandwiches, chicken, pasta, seafood and more.
11. Diamond Thai, Sioux City
It’s hard to find amazing Thai food in an Iowa town, and that’s what’s so great about this hidden gem. This small, authentic Thai restaurant serves up excellent spring rolls, curries, pad Thai and other traditional Thai dishes.