Whether you’re wondering if you should try out these famous Iowa eateries or you’re just in need of a little inspiration for where to go for your next meal, these 13 restaurants definitely deserve your attention. Some are old-school classics, others are wildly eclectic culinary treats, but every one of these awesome spots offer a unique taste of all that Iowa has to offer!
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. Fong's Pizza
This isn’t your average pizza joint. Fong’s opened up shop in 2009, but you would never guess that from the interior. It was modeled after a historic Chinese restaurant that once stood in their Des Moines location, so the style is reminiscent of the traditional decor of past eras. Fong’s unique Asian-inspired pizzas, sandwiches, and desserts are definitely one-of-a-kind and there are tons of gluten-free and vegan options on the menu. The Crab Rangoon Pizza is definitely a favorite (but the Garlic Alfredo is a close second!)
Their Ankeny location opened up in 2015 - much to the delight of Fong’s fans (a.k.a. Fongolians) everywhere - and shows of a much more modern design, but the tasty food is just as good as the original location and there are a whopping 88 beers on tap to accompany your meal! It may be a modern spin on traditional pizzas, but Fong’s might just become your new all-time favorite spot to grab a slice.
There are two Fong’s locations: 223 4th St. in Des Moines and at 1450 SW Vintage Pkwy. Ste. 120 in Ankeny.
Their motto says it all: devastatingly good tacos. Tacopocalypse isn’t your average taco shop; they combine Mexican, Korean, and Vietnamese flavors to create some out-of-this-world dishes that you truly do have to taste to fully appreciate their globally-inspired menu. Their prices are incredibly reasonable, especially for the quality of food. You can snag two tacos for only $5 (and you can mix-and-match flavors!) They also have plenty of vegan options for non-carnivorous diners.
If you’re looking for one seriously unique brunch, Tacopocalypse serves up Korean Chicken and Waffles that will raise the bar for breakfast for the rest of your life.
Tacopocalypse is located at 407 E 5th St., Des Moines, IA.
Foodies tend to overlook Iowa when it comes to fine dining, but Proof is, well, proof that our food scene is totally underrated. Their Mediterranean-American blended cuisine is creative, fresh, and simply delicious.
The interior is simply decorated with a very modern vibe, and the unassuming exterior may look like nothing special... but it’s what is on your plate that really matters and you definitely won’t be disappointed. Honestly, we would happily sit in a dumpster so long as we had a meal from Proof in front of us. It’s that good.
Proof is located at 1301 Locust St., Des Moines, IA.
4. Zombie Burger + Drink Lab
Zombie Burger’s food is absolutely killer. There is nothing on earth quite like the Walking Ched; a delicious monstrosity that tops one of their epic burgers with a heap of creamy mac and cheese. Zombie Burger managed to Frankenstein two of our favorite foods into one glorious dish… and we love it. It’s a true no-brainer for this list.
(Nope, we’re not apologizing for any of those terribly awesome jokes.)
Zombie Burger + Drink Lab has several locations across the state:
300 E Grand Ave., Des Moines, IA
180 E. Burlington St., Iowa City, IA
1550 N. Ankeny Blvd. #100, Ankeny, IA
1451 Coral Ridge Ave., Coralville, IA
101 Jordan Creek Pkwy. # 12514, West Des Moines, IA (at the Jordan Creek Town Center)
5. Breitbach’s Country Dining
Breitbach’s Country Dining is the oldest restaurant in Iowa, and they certainly didn’t stay open this long by serving up anything less than spectacular. This historic spot opened its doors in 1852 and has remained a family business to this day. Breitbach’s was forced to close for a bit after fires damaged the structure in 2007 and 2008, but reopened in 2009, much to the delight of our taste buds. Rest assured, this awesome spot isn’t going anywhere. Whether you’re looking for a traditional breakfast, lovely lunch, or delicious made-from-scratch dinner, there’s one thing that comes with every meal: one of the most incredible views of the Mississippi River and the surrounding valley!
Breitbach’s Country Dining is located at 563 Balltown Rd., Sherrill, IA.
6. Bluff Lake Catfish Farm
We’ve featured this incredible restaurant before, but the praise is definitely worth repeating; Bluff Lake Catfish Farm is an absolute hidden gem. It’s located in rural Iowa along the Maquoketa River and nestled in between two lovely lakes, so it offers some exquisite views of Iowa’s natural beauty. Oh, and there’s a stunning 50-foot-tall waterfall just out the door.
This amazing restaurant is tiny and has become a not-so-secret destination for those who want to enjoy one of the best Fish Fry dinners in the country. Friday nights are all about the catfish; they offer an amazing all-you-can-eat special from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., so bring a hearty appetite! They whip up a mind-boggling 500 pounds of haddock every single Saturday, but if you don’t get there early, prepare to wait for a while (we’re talking one to two hours), but we promise you will be pleased once you have a delicious plate in front of you!
Even if you’re waiting a while for your table, it’s pretty hard to complain when this is the view you get to enjoy!
Bluff Lake Catfish Farm is located at 9343 95th Ave., Maquoketa, IA.
7. Cobble Hill
Cobble Hill is the perfect spot for a special occasion or celebration, as it’s definitely one of the more expensive spots on this list, but you’re paying for more than just quality food here. They blend comfort food favorites with hyper-modern molecular gastronomy techniques in a way that makes a meal here a true experience. If possible, try to reserve a seat at the Chef’s Table - you get to see the talented cooks whip up your creative dishes right before your eyes!
Cobble Hill is located at 219 2nd St., Cedar Rapids, IA.
8. Northwestern Steakhouse
Northwestern Steakhouse is considered one of the most iconic eateries in Iowa, but they don’t serve up the traditional Midwestern comfort food that some might expect. While they do offer good ol’ American steaks, they add a truly unique spin by preparing them all Greek-style. The restaurant has been around since the 1920s and they have definitely perfected the art of making a tender, juicy steak that will leave carnivores in a glorious food coma.
Northwestern Steakhouse is located at 304 16th St. NW, Mason City, IA.
9. Canteen Lunch In The Alley
Don’t you dare judge this little hole-in-the-wall from the outside; Canteen Lunch In The Alley is an absolute Iowa icon. They have been serving up some of the best burgers and sandwiches in the state since 1927, and with only 16 bar stools in this tiny little hidden gem, lunch can get quite busy, but it’s definitely worth the wait. Save room for dessert! The homemade pies here simply cannot be beat.
Canteen Lunch In The Alley is located at 112 2nd St. E, Ottumwa, IA.
10. Jimmy Jack’s Rib Shack
This one is a pretty obvious pick for this list and leaving it off would be a crime against food. Jimmy Jack’s has been recognized repeatedly as the best BBQ restaurant in Iowa City, and the awards are well-deserved. While the ribs are certainly the star of the show, Jimmy Jack’s has some incredible sides to accompany their meaty centerpieces and a long list of amazing sauces to top it all off!
Jimmy Jack’s Rib Shack has two locations in Iowa City: 1940 Lower Muscatine Rd. and 201 S Clinton St., University Capitol Ctr.
11. The General Store Pub
This historic general store-turned-restaurant was immortalized by famous American painter Grant Wood in his work titled "Stone City, Iowa," but this unique little eatery is a masterpiece in its own right. The General Store Pub was built in 1897 and offers a lovely experience that everyone in Iowa really needs to have at least once in their lifetime. Aside from the tasty menu, The General Store Pub is tucked in along the scenic banks of the Wapsipinicon River, which you really should explore while you’re there (it's a great way to work off the absolutely enormous portions!)
The General Store Pub is located at 12612 Stone City Rd., Anamosa, IA
12. Bombfire Pizza
Iowa’s best restaurants are definitely not just in the big cities! Sabula (our state’s only island!) is home to some awesome spots to grab a bite to eat. One of our favorites is Bombfire Pizza. Between the funky-fun decor and the delicious, freshly made, wood-fired pies, this cool little pizza joint is the perfect place to visit on a trip to this awesome little town.
Bombfire Pizza is located at 516 Pearl St, Sabula, IA.
13. Flying Mango
It’s hard to pick a favorite dish at Flying Mango, but it’s hard to beat their smoked meats. The BBQ Glazed Ribs are absolutely out of this world… so it’s no wonder they attracted the attention of Food Network’s Guy Fieri, who featured this awesome spot on an episode of ‘Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives.’
Flying Mango is located at 4345 Hickman Rd., Des Moines, IA