Restaurant Guide–Iowa

Restaurant Guide Main Index

  • Date indicates the most recent update of the restaurants listed
  • Bold indicates my recommendations; others come from what I consider to be good sources (see bottom of page for further explanation)


Sfumato Pizzeria–4995 Carnes Dr. (Pizza) Open Thu-Sun only (5 to 9 pm).  Reviewers say this is thin crust artisan pizza that is as good as the pizza in NY and NJ. (6-13-19)


Millstream Brau Haus–741 47th Ave. (German) Open Daily.  Recently opened in the building that used to be Colony Inn (which many said was the best restaurant in Amana). Described as German “beer” food (not as upscale as Ronneburg). Burgers, brats, schinitzel sandwich. (3-23-19)

Ronneburg–4408 220th Trl. (German) Open daily (closes at 7 pm; 8 pm on weekends).  People give it better reviews than Millstream, and say the German food is traditional as it is in Germany, but most people here get the family style meal to get the best out of the experience. Note: Ox Yoke Inn which is next door is similar but has more choices on the American side of the menu (if you don’t want German food). (3-23-19)


Botanero Latino–604 E. Lincoln Way (Colombian) Closed Sun (Yelp now says it is open daily).  The food seems to be excellent with dishes which are served in very few restaurants in the US. However, it is a small place run by one man, and service can be slow. (3-7-19)

Cafe Beaudelaire–2504 Lincoln Way (Brazilian) Open Daily.  Probably the best thing about this restaurant is that it specializes in Brazilian sandwiches, etc. that are not expensive, making it easy to come back and try other things. The Brazilian hamburger is a favorite of customers. (3-7-19)

Grandpa Noodle Gallery–926 S. 16th St. (Chinese) Closed Mon.  This place has real honest to goodness Chinese noodle dishes. The main negative the reviewers have is the price (but it doesn’t seem too bad for healthy fresh food). (3-7-19)

Safari Cuisine–217 S. Duff Ave. (African & Middle Eastern) Open Daily (opens at 1 pm on Sun).  Middle Eastern food with an African influence. Sambosas are the specialty. Okra stew is said to be excellent. (3-7-19)

Taste Place–223 Welch Ave. (Chinese) Closed Mon.  Reviewers say this is the most authentic Chinese food in Iowa (it is Sichuan style and is said to be hardcore, with some dishes served in hot chile oil). (3-7-19)

The Cafe–2616 Northridge Pkwy. (American) Open Daily.  Upscale restaurant that looks a little bit high priced. It looks like an excellent place for breakfast. (3-7-19)

The Spice–402 Main St. (Thai) Closed Sun.  Seems to be legit Thai food, but on some dishes you should tell them it want it the authentic Thai way (usually this involves making it more spicy). Panang curry, ginger dishes, and basil dishes are especially recommended. Reviewers say in some cases dishes can be customized. (3-7-19)


Siam Table–757 N. Ankeny Blvd. (Thai) Open Daily.  What looks promising about this place is that the recommended dishes are the classic Thai favorites (red curry, etc.) and that you can order it spicy if you wish (in much of the Midwest spicy dishes are dumbed down). (3-7-19)


Billy Sims BBQ–2750 Mt. Plesant St. (BBQ) Open Daily.  This is a chain barbecue restaurant with a strong presence in Oklahoma. If the franchises in other states can keep up the same standards, though, I would certainly recommend it. Reviews indicate that this location does that. Probably ribs and pulled pork are best, and I think the sauce is one of the best. (3-23-19)

La Tavola–316 N. 4th St. (Italian) Closed Sun.  Italian home cooking–reservations only. Some reviewers say the food is bland (I have found authentic Italian to be more “bland” than American style, but to me it’s just not over-spiced). (3-23-19)

McConnell Cafe–208 N. 4th St. (New American) Breakfast & lunch only (closed Sun & Mon).  Popular for breakfast–quiche is recommended (so it’s more on the high end side of the food scale). (3-23-19)

Cedar Rapids

Little Bohemia–1317 3rd St. SE (Czech) Closed Sun & Mon.  People say the service is sometimes not good and prices are high, but you can come here to get “amazing Czech cuisine.” (4-24-19)

NewBo City Market–1100 3rd St. SE (Food Vendors) Lunch Thu-Sun, dinner Thu & Fri.  Located in the New Bohemia District, this is a (primarily) Czech style food court with small stands serving specialty items. Some of the businesses include The Sausage Foundry (sausages), Big Boy Meats, Roasters Coffee House, or even Dumpling Darling (Korean dumplings). (4-24-19)

Pho Mai–2315 Edgewood Rd. SW (Vietnamese) Closed Mon.  Seems to be the highest rated Asian restaurant in CR. (4-24-19)

Popoli–101 3rd Ave. SW (Italian) Closed Sat lunch & Sun.  May be different than the typical Italian restaurant because this seems to be closer to real Italian style (spinach artichoke dip, Berkshire pork chop, wedge salad, mussels in red sauce are some of the choices). Some of the prices seem to be higher than at Cobble Hill, but each item is a la carte, so you can order as much or as little as you want. (4-24-19)

Rodina–1507 C St. SW (American) Closed Mon & Tue (and closed from 2 to 5 pm).  A story in The Gazette says it offers Midwest comfort food, but it is located in the “Czech Village” district of Cedar Rapids, and part of its mission is to bring attention to simple food that has Czech and German origins. Meals are served family style (with vegetables put on plates in the middle of the table) and the vegetables served are seasonal. Note: Czech Village also has a variety shops, restaurants, a museum, etc. (4-24-19)

Sykora Bakery–73 16th Ave. SW (Czech) Breakfast Mon-Sat, lunch daily.  This is supposed the place to go for kolaches, but also has meals (such as pierogi and goulash). (4-24-19)

The Lost Cuban–209 3rd St. SE (Cuban) Open Daily.  Reviewers say it’s not just a novelty, but really good Cuban food. The Cuban sandwich is a good place to start (especially at lunch). (4-24-19)

Note: Cedar Rapids has a bona fide fine dining restaurant (Cobble Hill) which is not cheap but Iowa gives you this type of food for better prices than you would find elsewhere. (4-24-19)

Clear Lake

Seven Stars Family Rest.–2309 3rd Ave. S. (American) Open 5 am to 8 pm daily.  Good quality diner style food. For breakfast people like the combo (bacon, eggs, & pancakes). Hot beef sandwich is probably the specialty of the restaurant. Coconut-raspberry cake is very popular. (6-13-19)


Coaches Kolaches–8527 University Blvd. (Czech) Breakfast & lunch only (closed Mon & Tue).  These are not fruit kolaches, but sausage, ham, cheese, etc. that you can eat for breakfast, lunch, or a snack. They are said to be quite good. (6-13-19)

Council Bluffs

La Carreta Rosa–622 S. Main St. (Mexican). Has both American and Mexican style tacos (which seem to be the real deal). It seems that for other items you can get the authentic style if you want it. Reviewers say this is definitely one of the best Mexican restaurants in the Omaha area. (3-13-19)


California Pho–3559 W. Kimberly Rd. (Vietnamese) Closed Tue.  Very popular and highly rated restaurant. Many like the vegetarian pho–even those who are not vegetarians. (3-23-19)

Exotic Thai–2303 E. 53rd St. (Thai) Open daily (closed from 3 to 5 pm).  NE Thai style (Isan). (3-23-19)

Village Corner Deli–1030 Mound St. (Sandwiches) Lunch only (closed Sun).  They pay as much attention to the bread as to the meats, and this is one thing that makes them popular. (3-23-19)

Des Moines

A-Dong–1511 High St. (Vietnamese) Closed Mon.  Authentic Vietnamese with a large menu. (Takeout only 7-17-20)

Gazali’s–1205 25th St. (Lebanese) Open daily except Sun evening.  Authentic food. Has specials of halal meat (depending on what is available). Family run and does not dumb down the food to appeal to a mass market. (Dining room is open 7-17-20)

Local Bites Food Court–700 Locust St. (Food Court) Lunch only (closed Sat & Sun).  I found this by searching for Indian food (India Pointe is here). I don’t know what other restaurants/food stalls are here, but they seem to give you good food at low prices (but you will get it on paper plates). (Dining room is open 7-17-20)

Proof–1301 Locust St. (New American) Dinner only (closed Sun & Mon).  Fine dining restaurant, but has the advantage that prices in Iowa seem to be much lower than comparable restaurants in other areas. Serves Iowa steak, but other items are Spanish influenced (such as Spanish pork loin). (Takeout only 7-17-20)


Bierstube–1301 Rhomberg Ave. (German) Closed Sun.  Wienerschnitzel, cabbage soup, red cabbage, beef rouladin, bratwurst, goulash, chocolate cake, and ice cream are recommended (but schnitzel is particularly popular). (6-13-19)

Lina’s Thai Bistro–2055 Holliday Dr. (Thai).  Good flavor and spices, but some say the meat is obviously from factory farms and poor quality (so vegetarian meals may be recommended). Most say this is the most authentic Asian food in Dubuque. (6-13-19)

Fort Dodge

Gaga & Hoo Korean–368 Country Club Dr. (Korean) Closed Sat lunch & Sun.  Good reviews, and photos make it look genuinely interesting. (6-13-19)

Hacienda Vieja–217 S. 25th St. (Mexican) Open Daily.  Urbanspoon indicated it was authentic, but not so much on Yelp. To me it looks better than average (especially for the Midwest). (6-13-19)


Sassy Souk’s Asian Cuisine–3600 SE Crossroads Dr. (Thai) Closed Sun.  This area of the country is not known for its authentic Asian food, but at least some of it can be flavorful as this restaurant is said to be. Basil dishes are recommended. Also has pho (this is probably their most popular dish). (3-7-19)

Iowa City

Bao Chow–201 S. Clinton St. (Dim Sum) Closed Sun.  Only serves Chinese style dumplings, but they are said to be very good and a wide variety is available. (1-16-20)

Her Soup Kitchen–625 S. Dubuque St. (Soup & Sandwich) Lunch only (closed Sun & Mon).  I wanted to include an American restaurant on the list, and this one had very good reviews–it seems that if you are not a big fan of soup and sandwiches, this place will surprise you and exceed any expectations you probably have. (1-16-20)

Jiang Hu Asian Street Food–110 E. Court St. (Chinese) Closed Mon.  Xian street food that reviewers say is the closest thing to “real” Chinese food in Iowa City. Good reviews, but descriptions of items are a little hard to follow. Most of the food is spicy, but you can make it more spicy by adding your own chiles (if you want it authentic Chinese style). One reviewer who has tried multiple items recommends sao zi as possibly the best item. (1-16-20)

Oasis Falafel–206 N. Linn St. (Middle Eastern) Open daily 11 am to 9 pm.  Falafel is the signature dish, but other items such as hummus, kafta, etc. are good also. I like the fact that vegetarian meals get as good reviews as the meat items. (1-16-20)

Soseki Cafe–227 S. Dubuque St. (Japanese) Closed Sun.  A full menu Japanese restaurant with good ramen, gyoza, etc. as well as sushi. (1-16-20)

Sun Cafe–1681 S. 1st Ave. (Vietnamese) Closed Tue.  The consensus of reviewers seems to be that this is the best Vietnamese restaurant in Iowa City. They moved in late 2019 and the address I listed is from their web site (which I think is the new address). (1-16-20)

Thai Spice–1210 S. Gilbert St. (Thai) Open daily except Sun lunch (closed from 2 to 4:30 pm).  Very popular and overwhelmingly good reviews. (1-16-20)

Le Mars

Archie’s Waeside–224 4th Ave. NE (American) Dinner only (closed Sun & Mon).  Has a varied menu of American dishes, but reviewers say the notable item here is the steak (it is dry aged and they say it is definitely some of the best in Iowa). (6-13-19)

Bob’s Drive-Inn–Hwy 75 S. (Hot Dogs) Open Daily (some sources say it’s closed in winter).  Hot dog with loose meat is the specialty. Also has other items such as taco salad and chicken strips. (10-20-17)


Appanoose Rapids–332 E. Main St. (Steaks) Closed Sun.  Tenderloin is the specialty. Burgers, sides, and drinks are also good. Menu includes items such as chicken marsala. (3-23-19)

Juanita’s–537 Church St. (El Salvador).  Small restaurant with authentic Central American food that is very popular with customers. Pupusas. (3-23-19)

Red Sea Eritrean and Ethiopian–323 E. Main St. (Ethiopian).  Good reviews, and I think this is because it is authentic and not dumbed down. (3-23-19)


Golden Pheasant–44028 Hwy 3 (Steaks).  Many say it’s the best steak in the western Iowa/Omaha area. Located just e. of Le Mars. (6-13-19)

Sioux City

Da Kao–800 W. 7th St. (Vietnamese) Open daily 10 am to 9 pm.  Authentic with good food, according to many. Many say the pho lacks flavor, but they like other dishes such as Vietnamese pancakes (and they order the pho because it’s the best in the Sioux City area). (3-13-19)

Diamond Thai–515 W. 7th St. (Thai) Closed Mon.  Small family run Thai that is cash only unless you spend over $15. Reviews are mixed but mostly good. Some say the food is not spicy enough and that the curry is runny (but noodles and stir fried dishes seem to be popular). (3-13-19)

Table 32–100 S. Virginia St. (New American) Closed Sun.  With a good selection of items and good reviews for them, the result is a very popular restaurant. Some popular items include lobster bisque, steak sandwich, pork chop, chicken remoulade, etc.). (3-13-19)

Note: South Sioux City, Neb. has the best reviews for Mexican food (Mi Rancherita and others)

Spirit Lake

Gingham Inn–100 Hill Ave. (American).  Specializes in pan fried chicken. Peach pie is also recommended. Reviewers say skip the salad bar unless it comes with your meal. (10-20-17)

Storm Lake

Giovanni–723 Lake Ave. (Italian) Open daily except Sat lunch.  I don’t put many Italian rests. on the list but this one seems to be worthy. It’s a place in a small enough town that the owner can put his best effort into every meal and apparently give a large number of them something very memorable. (10-20-17)

Lakeshore Pho–1411 E. Lakeshore Dr. (Vietnamese).  Reviewers say it is also Thai, and that the pad thai is probably the best dish here. Pho is beef and it looks as if they don’t have other varieties (chicken, vegetarian, etc.). (10-20-17)

Little Vientiane–805 Flindt Dr. (Lao) Closed Wed.  Good reviews for the food and many customers say it is authentic. From looking at the photos, though, I am guessing that if you really want authentic Lao style you need to tell the server and order it that way. This definitely seems worth a shot for Lao food. (10-20-17)


Newton’s Paradise Cafe–128 E. 4th St. (New American) Open daily except Sun evening.  Typical Iowa cuisine, but it’s locally sourced. BLT is popular. Best time to come seems to be breakfast (opens 6am). (6-13-19)

West Des Moines

Banana Leaf–5515 Mills Civic Pkwy. (Thai) Open Daily.  Although it has sushi and apparently some Americanized Chinese dishes, its primary focus is Thai food (and it has good reviews). Basil dishes are said to be good. (Dining room is open 7-17-20)

Heavenly Asian Cuisine–225 5th St. (Chinese) Closed Mon (and closed from 2:30 to 4:30 pm).  Authentic Chinese food (owners are from Shanghai but food includes Sichuan style, northern Chinese, and Cantonese style dim sum). Tangerine chicken is one of their popular dishes. (Takeout and delivery only 7-17-20)

Mi Patria–1410 22nd St. (Ecuadorian) Closed Sun.  Said to be authentic by those who have lived in Ecuador. Possible pitfall is that some of the food may be Peruvian and not as good as the Ecuadorean dishes. (Dining room is open 7-17-20)


Notes About This List:

This is a “master list” of restaurants that I have seen on the Internet or other sources and would like to try, or that I think would be of interest to others.  I do not mean for this to be an exhaustive list of every good place to eat, but it should represent a good sample of the most interesting or unique restaurants, along with a few that best represent an area’s regional cuisine.  My own recommendations are in Bold.

I am not looking to include:

  • Fine dining (unless they are unique because of regional specialties)
  • Low end restaurants that are popular with locals but may not be of much interest to travelers or people in general (everyone will have to use their judgment on this one)

Extra consideration for the following:

  • The food is organic, fresh, healthy, or farm to table
  • The restaurant serves a relatively hard to find type of ethnic food and reviews are good

In addition to the regular guidelines I try to include:

  • The best Asian restaurants in the area even if they are not totally authentic
  • Particularly good Mexican restaurants (this usually means the food is from a particular state in Mexico or it is one of the best examples of a U.S. regional style)

Please feel free to leave your own comments or suggestions.



Chowhound (Iowa)

Des Moines Register (Eat Your Way through Cedar Rapids) (former web site which I used for preliminary research)

Yelp (Iowa)

Zomato (Des Moines)


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