When you’re trying to decide where to grab a bite to eat this weekend, skip the boring chain restaurant and check out one of these 10 uniquely themed restaurants in Iowa instead – you’ll thank us later.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Galleria De Paco, Waterloo
Editor's Note: Galleria De Paco is permanently closed.
If you've always wanted to visit the Sistine Chapel, but just don't have the kind of money for a costly trip to Europe, we have your solution. A graffiti artist named Paco Rosic bought a building in Waterloo and recreated Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling. Then he turned the place into a restaurant, which also serves amazing food.
2. Teddy's Barn & Grill, Anamosa
Editor's Note: Teddy's Barn & Grill will reopen on September 25, 2020.
Head over to Teddy’s to grab a bite of Midwestern soul food while dining in the beautifully renovated hayloft of an old barn - it doesn’t get more Iowan than this. If you have room for dessert, order one of their cow pies. We promise they’re better than the ones you find out in the field.
3. Fong's Pizza, Ankeny
Do you ever just want pizza, but at the same time want to enjoy the ambiance of your favorite Chinese restaurant? Well, Fong’s is the place for you. The legend goes that the restaurant used to serve Chinese food, but when the new owners 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.
4. Frida Kahlo Mexican Restaurant, Solon
Yes, this Mexican restaurant in Solon is Frida Kahlo-themed and it’s seriously awesome. They serve all your usual Mexican restaurant food, but they also have a bakery that serves up delicious, fresh sweets daily. As you would expect, the place is decked out in Frida Kahlo art, and has a really cool atmosphere going on.
5. Zombie Burger, Des Moines
This zombie-themed burger joint is a hit with both the living and the dead. The restaurant itself is filled with zombie-themed decor, and their food is to die for - no pun intended. Their whole menu is loaded with insane, amazing, taste-bud-exploding choices like this one.
6. 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.
7. Dotzy's Restaurant and Saloon, Elgin
Walking into Dotzy’s in Elgin feels like walking into a saloon in the Wild West. This Western-themed eatery is covered in rustic wood for the true country feel, and their food is just as authentic. (Their adult grilled cheese with BBQ rib meat is to die for.) Grab your gang and pony up for a bite to eat at this spot - you won’t regret it.
8. Drake Diner, Des Moines
Drake Diner in Des Moines has that retro diner theme down - if you walk in there, it's like stepping back into 1950. This place is perfectly old-school, and they serve up all the tried-and-true classics.
9. Hessen Haus, Des Moines
On your visit to Hessen Haus (especially after a few swigs from Das Boot), you may just forget that you’re in Iowa, and not some old-world German Bier Hall. With 50 imported German biers on tap, and a menu full of items ending in “schnitzel,” you know this place is authentic.
10. The Filling Station, Davenport
Next time you need to fill up quick, check out the Filling Station in Davenport. This lively, gas station-themed bar and grill is filled with old memorabilia, and they even have some vintage pumps out front. They serve all your favorite American food, plus plenty of draft beers to refuel you.
We promise you won’t miss the chain restaurants after you try one of these spots. Know of any more fun, themed restaurants here in Iowa? Let us know in the comments section!