1. Mount Vernon - Palisades Cafe
Palisades Cafe sits in the heart of the lovely downtown Mount Vernon. With charming exposed brick walls decked out with exhibits from local artists, a welcoming atmosphere and friendly service, you’ll definitely enjoy your visit and return again and again. Their food is also something really special. They have incredible tenderloins and burgers, as well as unique monthly specials made from local, in-season ingredients. Address: 117 1st St. W, Mt Vernon, IA.
2. Ladora - Ladora Bank Bistro
The tiny town of Ladora is home to a stunning restaurant that is a true hidden gem. The Ladora Bank Bistro is located inside of the beautiful and historic old Ladora Bank, a 1920s-era structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The food is as delicious as the building is beautiful. They serve a variety of shared plates, with mouth-watering options like seared bacon-wrapped scallops, duck flatbread, pork belly tacos and much more. Address: 811 Pacific St., Ladora, IA.
3. Thompson - The Branding Iron
This steakhouse is an established local favorite. With their comfortable, friendly atmosphere, mouth-watering steaks and a variety of other tasty menu options, like chicken, fish, shrimp and more, it’s easy to see why locals and visitors love it. Address: 135 Jackson St., Thompson, IA.
4. Humeston - Grass Roots Gallery & Cafe
This cafe and art gallery is a charming place to stop and have lunch. The cafe is serving up daily specials, like chicken pot pie and beef brisket sandwiches, as well as a wide variety of sandwiches, soups, salads, and delectable baked goods. After your meal, make sure to look at the artwork, including sculptures, pottery, quilts, jewelry, paintings and more. Address: 121 Broad St., Humeston, IA.
5. Marshalltown - Taylor’s Maid-Rite
In 1928, Cliff Taylor and his family opened Taylor's Maid-Rite in Marshalltown. In the last 70 years, they have become a local fixture and favorite. Their maid-rites are made from hand-ground 100% Iowa beef, they make their ice-cream from their original recipe and they serve fresh, homemade pies. It really can’t get any better than that. Address: 106 S 3rd Ave., Marshalltown, IA.
6. Donnellson - Mt. Hamill Tap
This tiny town is home to one of the best places around to get chicken. Their fried chicken is absolutely mouth-watering, crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside. Address: 1467 155th Ave., Donnellson, IA.
7. Humboldt - Pasquale’s
This regionally famous pizza place in the small town of Humboldt serves incredible thin crust pizza that is always worth the wait. Address: 607 13th St. N, Humboldt, IA.
8. Spencer - Gary’s on the River
Gary’s On The River is in a beautifully renovated sanctuary and offers amazing views of the Little Sioux River. Gary’s serves up tasty BBQ, steak, burgers and more. Address: 24 W Park St., Spencer, IA.
9. Decorah - Mabe’s Pizza
This beloved family-run restaurant is a Decorah mainstay with a comfortable, old-school atmosphere. They serve up incredible thin-crust pizza to die for, drawing locals, students and visitors who make a point of stopping in every time they’re in the area. Address: 110 E Water St., Decorah, IA.
10. Saint Donatus - Kalmes Restaurant & Catering
This small town, family owned restaurant has been in business for over 100 years, and it’s currently run by its fourth generation of family members. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, and specialize in prime rib. Address: 100 Main St., St. Donatus, IA.
11. Solon - Salt Fork Kitchen
Salt Fork Kitchen is in the small town of Solon, and they’re serving up some of the best locally sourced dishes in the area. They emphasize fresh and local ingredients in their unique dishes, and they offer a large breakfast menu, sandwiches, burgers, salads and more. Address: 112 E Main St., Solon, IA.
12. Avoca - Old Main Street Grille
Old Main Street Grille is a true hidden gem. Situated in a beautiful, historic hotel, they serve a variety of American food, like delicious burgers, sandwiches, homemade onion rings and more. Address: 133 N Elm St., Avoca, IA.