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I-80 from Omaha to Chicago

  • p

Any suggestions for non-chain places to eat...not too far off the interstate (5-10miles)
Healthy foods!

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  1. Several of the restaurants in the Amana Colonies -- specifically Bill Zuber's in Homestead and The Ronnenburg and Ox Yoke Inn in Amana -- used to have terrific food. It's spotty now. I've found them offering "pre-fab" weinerschnitzel all of uniform size and shape made up of chunks of meat rather than proper piece of meat -- and they don't seem to remember the hunk of lemon for seasoning it! Also, I've been disappointed that I can't find their delicious fresh homemade cottage cheese at any of the restaurants any more. What they serve tastes just like anything I can buy in a carton at the grocery.

    The only meal I partake of now when I'm heading that way is breakfast if I can get there early enough at Colony Inn in Amana. It's served family style (even if you're the only one at your table) with a big bowl of fresh fruit to start, platters with incredible buttermilk pancakes, laid-today sunny-side up eggs, fabulous Amana bacon and sausage, a bowl of tasty homefries, good orange juice and toast.

    In Iowa City, there's a bar and grill downtown next door to Prairie Lights Bookstore. Can't recall the name of it right now but I bet someone here knows it. I've had some terrific seafood pasta dishes there in the past and other items on the menu look marvelous, too. It's not your traditional bar and grill fare. Oh, and the place has the most gorgeous bar and mirrored bar back I've ever seen! It's quite an antique -- ask about it if you visit. If you're a book person, don't miss stopping in Prairie Lights. Allow at least an hour 'cause the place is large, independently owned, devoted to small press and more esoteric books, and just a wonderful place to be!

    Have a good trip.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Jane

      I went to the Amana colonies several years ago and it was quite good, but be warned, they serve well-water unless you specify otherwise. Some people have adverse reactions if you know what I mean...

      1. re: Jane

        I second the motion in favor of the Colony Inn in Amana. It's very non-commercial and the food is well prepared and tasty - well worth the few miles side trip it takes to get there. Head north from Iowa exit 225 and stay on US151 until you reach Amana. Turn right. A few blocks in, you will see a sign pointing you to the Colony Inn.


      2. l

        Try Ron's Cajun Connection on US 6 just north of Utica, Illinois (Starved Rock area) Exit at exit #80 off I-80 south, one mile to 6 and then east maybe 2 miles. Authentic cajun food and cooking at great prices. We had a great meal for the four of us with appetizers, entrees and pie for $50.

        Link: http://www.ronscajunconnection.com

        1. Anita, Iowa has an awesome steakhouse called the Redwood. Also, RIGHT off the Adair exit is Mikey's Berry Sweet. They serve pizza, salads, lots of ice cream flavors, and the traditional restaurant food.

          1. Amana makes good washing machines, but the food is laughable (at least until you eat it).
            Kellog Sully

            1. I realize this isn't quite a 'non-chain', 'healthy' option, but
              next time I pass through that area, I intend to try a loose-meat sandwich, a regional specialty. Maid-Rite is apparently the main local chain that serves it.


              1 Reply
              1. re: paulj

                Ha, that's a blast from my past. I don't know if I'd go out of my way to find steamed ground beef, but it's not bad. Their buns are always fresh and the fries are real (no strange batter on them like a lot of chains seem to have now). There is one in Grinnell, IA off I-80, north on HWY 146 a few miles, then it's right around the intersection of HWY 6. It's probably one of the older franchises and only has a dozen or so tables and booths. Very friendly family owned and operated I think.

              2. I'm with Sully. I always feel so sad in the Amanas, like a fantastic opportunity, something really cool, has been totally squandered. A fascinating cultural anomoly, full of artisans and craftsmen, has been turned into a German-American Gatlinberg over the last 30 years or so.

                It's filled with enormous restaurants with family style meals that all came out of a can, yet it still tries to pass itself off as if Grandma made it all. Thing is she died 30 years ago.

                In the shops, the smokehouse, and the so-called wineries are Hallmarkish chachkis and jars of jam that say AMANA COLONIES in big letters on the front, then in tiny letters, sideways on the back it says "made FOR the Amana Colonies by..."

                So I wonder, is there any way to bring the Amanas back? Folks used to actually make things there. The brewery is making some fine stuff, a lone shining light in the area, can it be a harbinger? I dunno. I'd love to see it, but I have serious doubts.

                What a shame.


                1 Reply
                1. re: Devotay

                  I am with Kurt on this one. DO NOT STOP IN THE AMANAS. You would be much better off stopping at Devotay in Iowa City and eating some of Kurt's tapas and it is a quick mile or so off Exit 244. Or peruse the various IC threads for other ideas.

                2. I spent a couple of weeks in the Amana colonies for work a couple of years ago. I agree about the food. However, I did find one place that made some pretty tasty cinnamon rolls -- the Hahn Bakery (http://www.cr.nps.gov/nr/travel/amana...). It's a historic bakery with some very good baked goods. Make sure to call ahead -- according to the website, they close when they sell out.

                  I think it's interesting that the bakery is not in the main touristy part of the Amanas. It's right across the street from the appliance factory. A case of the locals preserving the best for the locals?

                  1. KMF--him speak true...nothing genuine or local unless the Jolly Green Giant moved there and I didn't know about it.
                    Farmer fare for a seniors bus. Imagine, as KMF did, a real scene, with cheesemakers, decent wine, cured meats, restaurants featuring local produce...I don't see it changing, not at least without declaring Marshall Law, terminating some leases, and attracting outside talent and investment.
                    Ummmm, niblets! KS