Ya know... I used to pan Midwestern food like any good son of California. But now that I'm not in the Midwest, I find myself missing a lot of good, home-y stuff.
So here are my northeastern Iowa good eats.
Italian - There are a few good Italian places in Oelwein, which is on Hwy. 150 just north of Independence, and about 45 minutes north of Cedar Rapids... I forget the name of the best one but it's on the south side of town, on Hwy. 150 and is a huge building.
Pizza - Absolutely, unequivocally, the best pizza west of Chicago is at the Burr Oak Mercantile, just off US-52 ten miles north of Decorah and five miles south of the Iowa/Minnesota state line. The town of Burr Oak (follow the signs for Laura Ingalls Wilder) is basically a few roads and a church, and the Mercantile Exchange is at the crossroads, two blocks east of US-52. SOOOOO good... though honourable mention goes to Happy Joe's for that taco pizza.
Coffee - I don't remember the name of it - something like the Raven's Nest or something - but there is a neat coffee place on Washington St. in Decorah that, once a month, sponsors a California-type prix-fixe dinner.
Tenderloins - Joensy's on the highway in Center Point, or the place with no name in St. Olaf (just follow the signs that say "WORLD'S LARGEST TENDERLOIN AT ST. OLAF").
Burger - The Shanti in Gunder, at the east crossroads. Home of the Gunderburger. Oy, is that a hunk of meat.
Bosnian (yes, Bosnian) - a bit too greasy as a cuisine for my taste, but downtown Waterloo has Bosnian restaurants. Pick one, any one. There are also Mexican markets (a rarity in Iowa) and Eastern European markets (get your goulash fixings!).
Italian Market (not NE Iowa) - Sorrento's, on University Ave. in West Des Moines. Take a cooler and stock up on mozzarella di bufala and San Marzano tomatoes.
Best Potato Salad - McElroy's grocery store in downtown Winthrop.
Best Bars - Wee Willy's in Quasky (er...Quasqueton), on Hwy. 282. They have Leinenkugel's (oh God, Leinenkugels, how I miss you) on tap and it's not overly smoky. If you're into NASCAR decor and pool and an interesting barkeep (hi Wanda), try the Checkered Flag on 1st Ave. W (IA-939) in Independence.
Korean (can you believe it?!) - Cho Sun in Decorah, just behind the motels on Hwy. 9 on the east side of the city, bills itself as a Chinese restaurant but if you ask they will serve you kalbi or bulgogi with that awesome kimchi.
Norwegian - the Cafe at Vesterheim Museum in Decorah serves traditional Norwegian open-faced sandwiches (smørrebrød) and pastries/cookies/etc. I think it's called the Dayton house. It's in downtown Decorah on W. Water St.
Ice Cream - The Whippy Dip in Decorah is somewhat of a legend in its own time, especially with Luther College students. It's closed for the winter, though.
German - The Amana Colonies, of course. In the largest village, Amana, on 220th trail, is a family-style restaurant called the Ronneburg. They have the most droolingly delicious sauerbraten.
Okay. I'm going to go retire to my smoothie, which no longer holds any goodness for me, and think about sauerbraten and spaetzle and (sob) Leinie's.
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