We believe that any meal is best served with a side of history. Whether you want to visit the oldest restaurant in Iowa, or a restaurant that’s served Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama, these 10 restaurants are so loaded with history, they will leave your brain (as well as your belly) feeling full.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life. While we continue to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, please take proper precautions or add them to your bucket list to see at a later date. If you know of a local business that could use some extra support during these times, please nominate them here:
1. Ladora Bank Bistro, Ladora
Tucked away in the tiny town of Ladora is a true hidden gem - The Ladora Bank Bistro. The Bistro offers delicious and contemporary food in a unique and historic environment. The bistro is located inside of the old Ladora Bank, a beautiful 1920s-era building which is on the National Register of Historic Places.
2. General Store Pub, Anamosa
Built in 1897 and immortalized in famous artist Grant Wood's painting titled "Stone City, Iowa," the General Store Pub is a truly unique eatery that everyone in Iowa must experience at least once in their life. Nestled along the banks of the Wapsipinicon River in the old quarry town of Stone City, the General Store Pub is (as you guessed) a general store turned restaurant.
3. Bonaparte Retreat, Bonaparte
Tucked away in the Villages of Van Buren, the Bonaparte Retreat is a homestyle restaurant set up in a historic mill along the Des Moines River. The first mill was built on this site in 1836 by William Meek. The mill burnt down in 1841 and the present building was constructed in 1878, alongside the Bonaparte dam. Though the mill is no longer operational, the restaurant keeps the spirit and history of the place alive.
4. Breitbach's Country Dining, Balltown
As the oldest restaurant in the state, Breitbach's is a must visit for a taste of local history. Breitbach's has been handed down through the generations, but they've kept all the traditions and dishes that made them great. Delicious homemade soups, salads, and pies are prepared fresh daily by the owners and the staff, and their famous lunch and dinner buffet is a favorite. Breitbach’s has even received the “American Classics” award, which is the highest award a restaurant can receive.
5. Duncan's Cafe, Council Bluffs
Nestled in a historic part of Council Bluffs is Duncan's - a cozy, family-run cafe that serves up some of the best breakfast in town. Plus, the place is decorated with lots of fun old memorabilia that gives you a taste of local history.
6. Fong's Pizza, Des Moines
Fong's occupies the building that once housed King Ying Low, the oldest Chinese restaurant in Des Moines, which opened in 1907. The legend goes that when the owners of Fong's bought it, they didn't want to change the decor, and so Fong's Pizza was born. Fong's has become wildly popular for their fun, Asian-inspired theme, delicious pizza, sandwiches, salads and desserts.
7. Hamburg Inn No. 2, Iowa City
A hot spot for presidential candidates visiting Iowa, Hamburg Inn has been visited by everyone from Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton to Barack Obama. Want to know why they keep coming back? Well, if we had to guess, we would say it's the food. Particularly their mouth-watering, decadent pie shakes - which Hamburg Inn is famous for.
8. Hickory Park, Ames
For the people of Ames, Hickory Park is a tradition just as much as VEISHEA was a tradition, or as campaniling is a tradition. Hickory Park was established over 45 years ago, and they've grown into a huge part of the local history. When it's time to celebrate, it's Hickory Park. They have unbeatable homestyle food, delicious ice cream, and the kid favorite candy shop up front.
9. Ox Yoke Inn, Amana
The Ox Yoke Inn is an old favorite of those who visit the German villages of the Amana Colonies. The Ox Yoke serves traditional German family-style meals, with delicious dishes such as: schnitzel, sauerbraten, bratwurst, and even flammkuchen, a German-style pizza. Plus, their entire restaurant makes you feel like you’re sitting in your German grandma’s dining room - and it’s amazing.
9. Rube's Steakhouse, Montour
In 1973, Rube's was the first of its kind - a grill your own steakhouse in the tiny little town of Montour. Since then, Rube's has become a favorite through generations, known always for their award winning steaks and unique atmosphere. This is a great place to go to get a taste of local history.
10. Taylor's Maid Rite, Marshalltown
Maid Rite was born in Muscatine in 1926, and in 1928, Cliff Taylor and his family started Taylor's Maid-Rite Hamburger Shop in Marshalltown. They haven't changed very much in the last 70 years. They still grind 100% choice beef daily, they still make ice cream from their original recipe, and they continue to serve fresh baked pies. Handed down through the family, Taylor's offers a bite of local history, as well as a delicious Maid Rite to anyone who stops by.
What are some more restaurants in Iowa that serve up a side of local history? Share them with us in the comments section below!