Whatever kind of food in Iowa you're looking for, you're sure to find it while
visiting. Certainly, you will find an assortment of restaurants in Iowa that
are the usual family chains, diners, and fast food joints. But do bear in mind
that Iowa's history is shaped by
immigrants, particularly from Germany,
the Netherlands, Sweden,
and Denmark. When dining in Iowa you'll
taste their traditions in many regional dishes.
Much of the heritage of the Amana Colonies is German, and the Iowa restaurants here are not only in historical buildings, but also serve German recipes. Pigs are farmed here, and pork is a staple. Schnitzel and handmade sausages (including any "wurst" you can think of) are specialties. There are also pickled foods like sauerkraut , beets, chutneys, and relishes.
Many local wineries provide
the Amana restaurants in Iowa with local vintages, especially the fruity wines
that are famous in Germany—made with ingredients from local orchards and vineyards.
Hot, spiced apple cider is served during one of the state's premier events,
Winterfest, which occurs in
January. While this German food in Iowa is an Amana trademark, Germans settled
many other parts of the state, and you will find this cuisine throughout the
The community of Elk Horn, about halfway between Council Bluffs and Des Moines, and the surrounding region is the largest rural Danish settlement in the United States. Dining in Iowa in this region will give you many traditional dishes from Denmark, like smorgasbord (open-faced sandwiches), red cabbage, and Scandinavian meat balls.
Iowa restaurants located along the Mississippi River reflects the Cajun culture
that came with boating down to New
Orleans. This is especially true of the riverboat casinos,
many of which are traditional paddle wheel steamers. Look for shrimp gumbos,
frog legs, crawdads, and jambalaya. And speaking of rivers, you'll find fresh
fish from both rivers and lakes.
Look especially for catfish, trout, bass, and walleye. If you're staying at
one of the fishing resorts, the
cook may prepare your catch for you. If you're camping,
you might think one of the best restaurants in Iowa is at your own campfire.
As in many states, you'll find a burgeoning slow food in Iowa movement that emphasizes locally grown and farmed products. Since this a state that is heavily based in farming and agriculture, this means you have a wide variety of local products from which to choose.
Some Iowa restaurants have historic connections, and it is often worthwhile to seek these out. About thirty minutes south of Dubuque, is the Potter's Mill Inn. Located in an old mill that was opened in 1845, it is both a bed and breakfast inn as well as restaurant. The Black Horse Inn is similar establishment just outside Dubuque. This is one of the very few pre-Civil War hotels still standing in the state, and serves fine country cooking.
You may think there is no fine, five-star dining in Iowa with all this "down home" cooking. You will find good gourmet restaurants in resorts, in larger cities, and sometimes off the beaten path. There are seven regional wine trails in Iowa representing scores of wineries. Some of them have very well-respected dining venues.