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Five Places Foodie Travelers Need To Visit In Iowa

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When people think of Iowa, situated in the center of America’s heartland, the Midwest, cornfields and rolling plains come to mind. But what about the food? What to eat in Iowa? There are the classic American comfort foods: burgers, cornbread, steak, corned beef, pot roast, fried chicken, and so on… Many people visit Iowa on a road trip (did you know that Iowa has two National Scenic Byways? Great River Road and Loess Hills Scenic Byway are both worth checking out!), so you’ll probably find yourself looking for good food in several places. Larger cities like Des Moines, Iowa City and Cedar Rapids also have a great number of restaurants serving international cuisine, and if you’re a fan of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, you should definitely plan on spending a couple of days in Des Moines, where Guy Fieri featured six eateries with special creations that are worth a try, such as an old-school drive-in and a rad BBQ restaurant.

what to eat in Iowa

If you consider yourself a foodie traveler, make sure to mark the following places on your map before you travel to Iowa:

Six must-visit places for foodies in Iowa

1 Zombie Burger & Drink Lab

Zombie Burger & Drink Lab is, as the name suggests, a burger restaurant, but with a fun twist to it: Everything is horror-themed. There are more than twenty burgers on the menu here, ranging from indulgent burgers like The Walking Ched (a breaded and fried mac and cheese bun, bacon, Cheddar, onion, cheese, and mayo) to more interesting creations like the Undead Elvis (peanut butter, fried bananas, bacon, American cheese, a fried egg, and mayo). There’s something for everyone here – including vegans! If you’re not completely full after your burger, finish your meal with one of their awesome shakes – for example the Zombie Bride Wedding Cake milkshake or the Human Centipeach. If you have only one night in Des Moines: This is one of the best places to eat at in all of Iowa.

Location: 300 E Grand Drive, Des Moines
Zombie Burger

2 Templeton Rye Distillery

Templeton Rye is Iowa’s most famous whiskey – a premium Rye known as “The Good Stuff”, which was already beloved by Al Capone. So, this doesn’t answer the question of what to eat in Iowa, but if you’re a whiskey connoisseur, do not skip the Templeton Rye Distillery.

Templeton Rye’s beginnings go back to the Carroll County’s bootleg era, but now you can visit a brand new distillery in Templeton consisting of a 34,000-square-foot production facility and a 51,000-square-foot rackhouse. You can go behind the scenes of whiskey making here on a 1-hour tour. You’ll learn everything about how the rye (which is imported from Germany) is pureed, mixed with water, mashed and cooked, before it is distilled and aged and finally bottled. There’s a tasting room and even an entire museum. Of course you can also buy a bottle or two of “The Good Stuff” while you’re there. Tours are available Wednesday through Saturday for $10 at these times: 9am, 11am, 1pm, 3pm.

Location: 209 E 3rd St, Templeton

templeton rye

3 Blue Bunny Ice Cream

If you love ice cream, you have to stop in Le Mars and stop at Blue Bunny Ice Cream – the second largest ice cream manufacturer in the United States (only Unilever produces more!). Fred H. Wells Jr. and his sons have been making ice cream in Iowa since 1925, and in 1994, Le Mars was crowned “Ice Cream Capital Of The World”. In 2013, Blue Bunny moved into a newly renovated and state-of-the-art Wells Visitor Center & Ice Cream Parlor. There is a museum where you can learn more about the history of Wells Ice Cream, and of course you can indulge in Blue Bunny ice cream, floats, shakes and sundaes. There are over 40 flavors (samples are encouraged!), including exclusive flavors such as Huckleberry and Mocha Almond Fudge, which are only available at the Ice Cream Parlor in Le Mars.  The Wells Visitor Center & Ice Cream Parlor are open in the summer Monday through Saturday from 9am – 10pm, and Sunday from 12pm – 10om (April 1 – September 30) and in the winter Monday through Saturday 10am – 9pm / Sunday 12pm – 6pm (October 1 – March 31).

While you’re in Le Mars, see how many ice cream sculptures you can find – there are over 50 of them!

Location: 115 Central Ave NW, Le Mars
What to eat in Iowa

4 Chocolaterie Stam

Chocolaterie Stam is known to be one of the most exquisite chocolate makers in the U.S., with traditions and recipes originating from the Netherlands. Their accolades include “The Most Magical Chocolate Shop in Iowa”, and chocoholics must make the pilgrimage to one of their famed stores while visiting Iowa.

Chocolaterie Stam is famous for their truffles, and the corn-shaped milk chocolate (with a tasty hazelnut praline filling) is the perfect souvenir to bring back from Iowa – something that not only your chocolate-loving friends will appreciate.


Chocolaterie Stam: Baby Corn

5 Goldie’s Ice Cream Shoppe

Wait, another ice cream shop? Well, technically, yes, but Goldie’s Ice Cream Shoppe is home to the best breaded pork tenderloin in Iowa! The Pork Tenderloin Sandwich is the Must-Order item on the menu, and one of the best things to eat in Iowa. If you can, leave room for one of their specialty sundaes (like the Smore or the Butterslinger Sundae) or their Suicide Twisters. Check their website to find out the ice cream flavor of the week before you visit.

Location: 304 W 2nd Street, Prairie City
best places to eat in Iowa

Looking for more places to eat in Iowa? Check out Culture Trip’s 10 Best Restaurants in Iowa.

Photo Credit: All images used via Flickr.com’s Creative Commons Licensing. (1) Zombie Burger by Alan Light; (2) Templeton Rye by marajane01; (3) Blue Bunny Ice Cream Parlor by Jody Halsted; (4) Chocolaterie Stam by PF Anderson; (5) Breaded tenderloin sandwich by Jeffreyw

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