Sure, there are plenty of exciting local dining options in the CRANDIC, but if you need a change of scenery, here’s a selection of not-to-miss spots.
Schera’s Algerian American Restaurant
107 S Main St, Elkader
This northeastern Iowa town is named after an Algerian leader who resisted the French conquest of Algeria, and is rumored to be home to both the largest stone arch bridge and the oldest continuously operated grocery store west of the Mississippi. It’s also home to a great Algerian American restaurant with a well-curated craft beer and wine list. Their tap, bottle and can menu is littered with everything from sours and goses to smoked beers and wild ales, and the wine menu features unique selections as well. Sink your teeth into a camel burger—yes, you read that correctly—a seafood or chicken tagine or their signature Couscous Royale. Be sure to finish your meal with halva: sesame seed fudge.
Hale Tap & Supper Club
5522 County Rd E-45, Wyoming
A few houses, a road sign, a couple sheds and a destination restaurant that brings in its biggest fans and newbies with great success—this is the little village know as Hale. Friday night is primetime here with surf and turf specials, legendary prime rib and a lively bar with a crew that keeps you entertained and fed all night long. They are also open for lunch and known for some of the best burgers you’re going to get in Jones County. Make the trip and you can tell everyone that you’ve “been to Hale and back” and you’d “go through Hale” again for the juicy steaks and crispy breaded fish specials flying out of the “hotter than Hale” fryers!
Cornell College Café Bon Appetit
600 1st St, Mount Vernon
Scoot over, Kirkwood, because you’re not the only school in the area that’s serving delicious food! The executive chef and cooks at Cornell have carved out a name for themselves in this town. Are you a vegan or vegetarian? Perfect; they have a fresh salad bar, pasta selection (whole wheat and gluten free) with sauces like pesto, tomato basil and a little kale on the side to get those greens we all need. Café Bon Appetit satisfies the meat-eaters as well with a sandwich station, all-day breakfast, burgers, pizza and more. The selections in this cafeteria rotate daily so pay attention to their seasonal, international and local flavors on their website and add Mount Vernon to your list of foodie destinations.
Jim’s Rib Haven
531 24th St, Rock Island
The smoke from Jim’s Rib Haven can lure you in from blocks away; next thing you know you’re saluting the pit masters. Beyond platters full of the best ribs in this solar system, they have other classic barbeque selections like pulled pork, chicken, ham, beef and amazing sides like chili fries, slaw, potato salad and baked beans. Don’t you dare leave this historic smokehouse without getting the ribs, though. This place is so damn great you’ll be eyeballing the napkins you’re about to discard. Before that happens, I recommend just ordering another slab and thanking the inventors of elastic pants. Oh, and get a Kool-Aid with your meal.
Thirsty Camel Supper Club
18747 IA-70, Conesville
The Louisa-Muscatine County line has a tasty and very lively rendezvous point—the Thirsty Camel. The classic supper clubs may be few and far between but the ones we still have are some of the best destination restaurants around. Visit on Fridays for Prime rib specials or all-you-can-eat fried catfish. Try the frog legs, thick-cut ham steaks, or hit the salad bar, freshly stocked with all your mayo based favorites and the infamous Camel Turds—cubed sirloin lightly breaded and fried. Use your GPS if you must, or just tell people you’re heading to the joint where the watermelon farms meet the corn fields next to the marshes. That’s Conesville, my friends, and the gateway to Southeast Iowa.
Canteen Lunch in the Alley
(and an Army of Taquerias)
112 2nd St E, Ottumwa
Ottumwa is home to one of the most iconic restaurants and sandwiches in the Midwest. You may call it a tavern, Maid-Rite or loose meat sandwich, but in Ottumwa they call these Canteens. This restaurant is tucked away in an alley and surrounded by a parking garage, but you won’t have any trouble finding it. The crumbled beef is piled high at Canteen’s and there is very little chance anyone could ever get tired of one of the best things that’s hit a hamburger bun. Ottumwa also has one of highest concentrations of authentic taquerias in Iowa in just a 3 mile radius. There’s nothing better than having to wipe mustard off your cheek from a Canteen and work some cilantro out of your teeth within just minutes of each other.