The Best Food and Drink in Iowa for 2018 from The Best Food and Drink in Iowa for 2018 Gallery

The Best Food and Drink in Iowa for 2018 Gallery

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The Best Food and Drink in Iowa for 2018

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The Best Food and Drink in Iowa for 2018

Located in the heart of the Midwest, Iowa residents love all the classic comfort foods America has to offer. Craving corned beef? You can find it in Iowa. Cornbread? That’s there, too. We promise that they also eat foods that don’t have corn in the name. Total coincidence. We’ve rounded up the best of the state’s eats as part of our first annual guide to the best food and drink in every state.

Though, they do love their corn. People from Iowa really hate quinoa, and some say it’s because the state is the number one producer of corn nationwide. But just because their economy is kept afloat on corn’s kernels doesn’t mean that it’s all they eat.

In fact, Iowa has stirred up a surprising amount of food-related controversy for being such a sparsely populated state. They recently got involved in a heated debate over Pop Tarts and mustard and beat out Wisconsin in the ranking of the country’s cheesiest states. They’ve also been home to more than one alarmingly political local restaurant.

But despite all that drama, they still manage to put on an internationally-acclaimed state fair with some absolutely wild state fair foods. You won’t find many health foods within Iowa’s borders — but you will find farm-fresh dishes and creative comfort classics.

Over the course of the past year we’ve honored everything from its best hot dogs and farmers markets to its best dive bar and craft brewery in our comprehensive and wide-ranging lists and rankings, compiled through extensive research and with input from a wide network of site contributors, bloggers, journalists, and chefs. We’ve compiled these into individual slideshows celebrating .the best food and drink in every state.

Best Bar: El Bait Shop, Des Moines

Facebook/el Bait Shop

Best Bar: El Bait Shop, Des Moines

It’s all about craft beer here at El Bait Shop, a rustic bar populated with taxidermy, beer signs, and bicycles. The bar also doubles as Des Moines’ “unofficial bicycle headquarters,” given its proximity to a number of bike trails in downtown Des Moines. With more than 185 beers on tap and 100 by the bottle, this is a beer-lover’s paradise. Try the Root Down shot, made with locally produced Millstream Root Beer and Jägermeister, and enjoy the fish tacos and bacon-wrapped tater tots while chatting with beloved bartender Joe Tolpingrud.

The Best Bar in Every State 2017

Best Beer: Kentucky Brunch Brand Stout

Goliath Brewing Co.

Best Beer: Kentucky Brunch Brand Stout

Kentucky Brunch Brand Stout may be hard to track down, but when you find a bottle of this Toppling Goliath Brewing Company brew, hold it tight. Seriously. Riots have broken out over this stuff. And one taste of this smooth maple syrup- and coffee-flavored stout, and you’ll know why it’s the best beer in the world.

The Best Beer in Every State 2017

Best Chili: George the Chili King Drive Inn, Des Moines

George the Chili King / Facebook

Best Chili: George the Chili King Drive Inn, Des Moines

At George the Chili King, a Des Moines standby since 1952, you’ll still find George himself, now well over 80 years old, behind the counter spooning up his signature chili all day long. His insanely rich chili starts with a whole pot of melted beef fat, to which ground beef and a proprietary seasoning mix is added. The end result tops hot dogs and burgers, and is available by the bowl, pint, and quart. After one spoonful, you’ll understand why they sell it by the quart!

These 25 Restaurants Serve the Best Chili in America

Best Chinese Restaurant: Le’s Chinese Bar-B-Que, Des Moines

Photo by Yu-Ren L. via Yelp

Best Chinese Restaurant: Le’s Chinese Bar-B-Que, Des Moines

With ducks, pork, and chicken hanging in the window, it’s hard to resist sampling the roasted meat at Le’s, and thankfully it’s also for sale by the pound to-go. But grab a seat and sample some of their dishes — including house special fried rice (loaded with roasted pork), roast duck soup, and char sir chicken wings — and you’ll also be rewarded. This place is the real deal.

The Best Chinese Restaurant in Every State

Best Cupcake: That One Cupcake Place, Hiawatha

Best Cupcake: That One Cupcake Place, Hiawatha

That One Cupcake Place is anything but an ordinary cupcakery. Since it opened, it has created more than 112 flavors to add to the equally diverse and delicious menu, from stuffed French toast (maple cinnamon cake with a cream cheese filling and maple buttercream) and That Unicorn (vanilla cake with rainbow vanilla buttercream) to even more adventurous creations like the bubblegum cupcake, a bubblegum-flavored cake with bubblegum-flavored buttercream. To learn Things You Didn’t Know About Maple Syrup, click here.

The Best Cupcakes in Every State

Best Dive Bar: Deadwood Tavern, Iowa City

Foursquare

Best Dive Bar: Deadwood Tavern, Iowa City

At the Deadwood Tavern in Iowa City, you’ll find townies and University of Iowa students drinking Bud Light together in harmony. It’s not fancy. It’s not cool. It just has good domestic beers, a pool table, and some pinball machines.

The Best Dive Bar in Every State 2017

Best Doughnut: Topped Donuts, Ankeny

Photo by Daniel L. via Yelp

Best Doughnut: Topped Donuts, Ankeny

The innovator behind the fantastically crazy doughnuts sold at Topped Donuts is the incredibly talented 20-something Lindsey Reed. Every day, the doughnuts are made from scratch, and five different flavors are featured on the daily menu. Flavors range from red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting, to peanut butter and jelly, to banana split: We want to try them all.

The Best Doughnuts in Every State

Best Farmers Market: Downtown Farmers Market, Des Moines

Courtesy of Des Moines’ Downtown Farmers’ Market

Best Farmers Market: Downtown Farmers Market, Des Moines

From 7 a.m. to noon, this farmers market, spans nine city blocks and hosts nearly 300 vendors selling everything from fruits and vegetables to meat, dairy, bread, sweets, and even artisanal food and craftwork. The market also helps out the community by encouraging vendors to donate some of their fresh food to local homeless shelters in the area.

101 Best Farmers Markets in America for 2017

Best French Fries: Django, Des Moines

Django

Best French Fries: Django, Des Moines

There’s a whole lot to love about the fries at Django. They’re cut to just the right thickness to be super-crisp on the outside but soft and fluffy on the inside, and an expert fry in duck fat leaves them all but greaseless. And to top it all off, the multiple dipping sauces they’re served with — including béarnaise, curry ketchup, and harissa aïoli — elevate them to new heights.

America's 50 Best French Fries for 2017

Best Grocery Store: Hy-Vee, Multiple locations

Photo by Tony G. via Yelp

Best Grocery Store: Hy-Vee, Multiple locations

Hy-Vee is an employee-owned regional supermarket chain of about 240 stores located throughout the Midwest with 138 stores in Iowa alone. Its longtime slogan has been, "Where there's a helpful smile in every aisle.”

The Best Grocery Store in Every State

Best Inexpensive Steakhouse: The Big Steer, Altoona

Yelp/ Clem M.

Best Inexpensive Steakhouse: The Big Steer, Altoona

Picture in your mind your idea of a restaurant called The Big Steer in Altoona, Iowa, and we bet you’ll come pretty close to what this place actually is, starting with a giant painted cow advertising its Sunday brunch and dinner specials and a sign in the front window hawking “Iowa’s Finest Prime Rib.” The interior is charmingly dated, but you don’t come here for the décor; you come here for the Iowa beef. That prime rib is, in fact, paradigm-changing, and very well might be Iowa’s best. The homemade bread is legendary, the steaks are spectacular (order yours “Deburgo,” in a butter-garlic sauce that’s a regional specialty), and the Iowa pork is also worth sampling. It’s also downright affordable: A 12-ounce top sirloin costs $23.95; a 10-ounce New York strip costs the same; a 16-ounce slab of prime rib costs $27.95; and their two most expensive steaks, a 20-ounce porterhouse and a 16-ounce bone-in rib-eye, cost just $30.95.

America's Best Inexpensive Steakhouses

Best Italian Restaurant: Baroncini, Iowa City

Jake K/Yelp

Best Italian Restaurant: Baroncini, Iowa City

Chef Gianluca Baroncini spent time cooking at some of Verona, Italy’s finest Italian restaurants (including the two-Michelin-starred Il Desco) before opening this Iowa City favorite. He’s committed to turning out spot-on interpretations of Italian classics made with fresh, seasonal, local ingredients, and the star of his menu is his fresh house-made agnolotti filled with a mixture of local beef and Parmigiano-Reggiano, tossed with a traditional brown butter and sage sauce.

The Best Italian Restaurant in Every State

Best Mexican Restaurant: Tacos Mariana’s, Des Moines

Aja L./Yelp

Best Mexican Restaurant: Tacos Mariana’s, Des Moines

Run by a Mexico native named Mariana, this tiny taquería is serving some seriously legit tacos to thankful locals. Though Mariana’s offerings run the gamut from al pastor to chicken, chorizo, and tongue, you can’t go wrong with perfectly seasoned and grilled carne asada, topped with onions and cilantro and served with sliced radishes and lime. And make sure you try her rice and beans, made with slow-cooked heirloom mayocoba beans.

The Best Mexican Restaurant in Every State

Most Expensive Restaurant: 801 Chophouse, Des Moines

801 Chophouse

Most Expensive Restaurant: 801 Chophouse, Des Moines

Des Moines’ premier steakhouse serves only USDA Prime beef, so diners should expect to pay for the quality. Steaks start at $43 for a single cut prime rib, and top out at the $69 24-ounce porterhouse. While you’re shelling out, you might as well drop $19 on pancetta-roasted scallops and $10 on a foie gras torchon steak topper while you’re at it.

The Most Expensive Restaurant in Every State

Best Pasta Dish: Agnolotti di Carne at Baroncini, Iowa City

Yelp/ Angela R.

Best Pasta Dish: Agnolotti di Carne at Baroncini, Iowa City

Chef Gianluca Baroncini spent time cooking at some of Verona, Italy’s finest Italian restaurants (including the two Michelin-starred Il Desco) before opening this Iowa City favorite. He’s committed to turning out spot-on interpretations of Italian classics made with fresh, seasonal, local ingredients, and the star of his menu is his fresh housemade agnolotti filled with a mixture of local beef and Parmigiano-Reggiano, tossed with a traditional brown butter and sage sauce.

The Best Pasta Dish in Every State

Best Pizza: Gusto Pizza Co., Des Moines

Yelp/ Andrea T.

Best Pizza: Gusto Pizza Co., Des Moines

You can practically envision the folks behind Gusto Pizza Co., friends Josh Holderness, Joe McConville and Tony Lemmo, sitting down over a few beers before opening their fresh and imaginative Des Moines pizza shop in 2011, and coming up with their menu as an hours-long snort-inducing punfest. “Thai Kwon Dough” with peanut sauce and chicken? “Seoul Food” pizza with Korean-style marinated skirt steak and Sriracha mayo? “Vincent Van Goat” with goat cheese and fried sweet peppers? “Fromage-A-Trois”? Very fun. But don’t mistake the levity for anything less than a serious approach to some delicious pizzas featuring some crispy-chewy thin crusts.

The Best Pizza in Every State

Best Sandwich: Loose Meat at Taylor’s Maid-Rite, Marshalltown

Best Sandwich: Loose Meat at Taylor’s Maid-Rite, Marshalltown

An Iowa staple that’s a true Midwestern regional specialty, the “loose meat” sandwich (also called a tavern sandwich) can be thought of as a sloppy Joe without the sauce: crumbled seasoned ground beef on a bun, topped with mustard, pickles, and chopped onions. Even though you can find it in plenty of small local restaurants, the one to visit is Taylor’s Maid-Rite in Marshalltown. Going strong since 1928, it’s a truly historic institution; there are franchised locations all across the Midwest (just called Maid-Rite), but the original is the one to visit.

The Best Sandwich in Every State

Best Soup: Bacon Iowa Corn Chowder at Vesta, Coralville

Yelp/ Dong B.

Best Soup: Bacon Iowa Corn Chowder at Vesta, Coralville

When in Iowa, you need to make sure you eat some local Iowa corn, specifically in a comforting bowl of chowder. The version at Iowa City’s Vesta is the best around, thanks to the addition of plenty of smoky bacon.

The Best Soup in Every State

Best Steakhouse: The Big Steer, Altoona

Facebook/The Big Steer

Best Steakhouse: The Big Steer, Altoona

Picture in your mind your idea of a restaurant called The Big Steer in Altoona, Iowa, and we bet you’ll come pretty close to what this place actually is, starting with a giant painted cow advertising its Sunday brunch and dinner specials and sign in the front window hawking “Iowa’s Finest Prime Rib.” The interior is charmingly dated, but you don’t come here for the décor; you come here for the Iowa beef. That prime rib is, in fact, paradigm-changing, and very well might be Iowa’s best. The homemade bread is legendary, the steaks are spectacular (order yours “Deburgo,” in a butter-garlic sauce that’s a regional specialty), and the Iowa pork is also worth sampling. For more states, check out our ultimate guide to the best food and drink in every state for 2018.

The Best Steakhouse in Every State

 

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The Best Food and Drink in Iowa

The Best Food and Drink in Iowa for 2018 Gallery

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