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I-80 Must Eats...

A friend and I are driving from NY to Portland, OR mostly via 80. Besides NY and Chicago, any stops that we should not miss? Prefer low-end, ethnic, and regional American foods. Specialties of the area, of course, are always sought after.

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  1. I-80 west of Iowa City, Amana Colonies exit, north and through the colony of Homestead and then north into the colony of Amana --> Colony Inn.

    That's my pick and personally the only one of the old foursome of my favorite Amana eateries that I can still abide. The other three old-timers (The Ox Yoke Inn, The Ronnenburg, Bill Zuber's) all now cater to bus tour groups and the food quality and service have slipped enormously over the past 15 years or so, but Colony Inn remains loyal to what it was like in the mid-'50s when I was a kid going to the Amana Colonies with my parents and grandparents.

    I'm rather partial to their big country breakfast myself. Amazingly fresh eggs, terrific Amana bacon and sausage, massive pancake, toast/muffins with homemade jams, fruit bowl, fried potatoes, juice, coffee -- in endless quantities!

    Their lunches and dinners are pretty good, too, but I try to specifically time my visits to breakfast hours (7 a.m. to 11 a.m., seven days a week).

    www.amanacolonies.com/colony-inn

    While Iowa City has several wonderful restaurants, if I was just passing by that way and wanted something really different, homey, affordable, I'd do Colony Inn.

    1. Western Nebraska, about a mile or so into the town of Paxton --> Ole's Big Game Steakhouse & Lounge -- and they have a coffeeshop, too.

      The joint first opened the very next day after prohibition ended in 1933.

      The place is as much a natural history museum as a restaurant with a huge collection of Ole's mounted beasts and fish from his decades of travel as an outdoorsman.

      Affordable, different, and for the adventurous, Rocky Mountain Oysters. I like their gizzards, too. Sometimes they've got buffalo burgers. Save room for an Apple Dumpling with a heap o'soft serve ice cream on top.

      http://www.olesbiggame.com

      1. Darrell's place in Hamlin, IA, about 10 or so miles north of 80 on 71. Pork Loin sandwich.

        http://www.allenbukoff.com/wildBPTiow... (last one on the page)

        1 Reply
        1. re: Dennis S

          I second the Loin at Darrell's place. Last I knew it was 5 bucks. You can get virtually the same loin at Michaels in Des Moines, just a few miles off I-80, but it will set you back 7.99. If you want to try it, and chose close over price, Michaels is at the intersection of Beaver and Urbandale.
          Merle Hat exit, south a couple miles to Urbandale, east across Beaver (1 1/2 M) just east of the intersection to your left.

          1. re: Kelli2006

            I've been a fan of Tony Packo's ever since I used to hear Klinger on TV's M*A*S*H talk about it!

            Especially fond of their fried pickles and stuffed cabbage, but my real passion is their pickled Brittany tomatoes! In fact, I love them so much that I order a case delivered about once a year.

          2. I am hoping someone kind will help find you a tenderloin sandwich(in the 80 corridor of the "I" states). There are some chow links. to the uninitiated this is a pork tenderloin pounded flat, breaded and deep fried, served on a bun. It may sound aweful but it is great and very available I am sure along 80 in the "I" states. Also an Iowa and Illinois thing, the Loose meat sandwich. not has good as the tenderloin in my opinion, but a taste of regional americana. the things an east coast gal learns marrying a midwestern boy...as it happens,like him, these things are easy to love

            edit: I see there IS a link already up above. do not miss a tenderloin!

            1 Reply
            1. re: lyn

              There's a Maid-Rite (loose meat sandwiches) just north of I-80 in Newton (home of Maytag Bleu cheese). That's east of Des Moines.

            2. This may be too much out-of-the-way, but the Kolache Korner Kafe in Prague NE. It's about 45 miles north of I-80 on Highway 79. I've eaten there once, and will never forget it. I went in, the waitress stated, in a thick eastern-European accent "We've got pork and we've got duck, which would you like. No menu." I said pork and was gifted with a feast of traditional Czech roasted pork, dumplings with sour gravy, braised red cabbage and caraway, oh, it was amazing. And yes, kolaches for dessert (a sort of Czech danish, but still completely different). And, while I was eating, the Saturday night polka band started up. Yep, Czech food, bottles of Pilsner Urquell, and ooom-pah music. Can't miss with that !

              1. 80 goes right through the Akron/Barberton (Ohio) area. Barberton chicken is a regional favorite and John T. Edge (leader of the Southern Foodways Alliance, author of Fried Chicken: an American Story) thinks that it just may be the best fried chicken in the entire country. He wrote an article about it for Attache Magazine:

                http://64.233.161.104/search?q=cache:...

                Milich Garden, Hopocan Garden and Whitehouse Chicken are three of the restaurants that serve this distinctive style of chicken.

                1. If you're looking for something a little healthier after eating a couple of tenderloin sandwiches, when you're driving through Des Moines, there's a soup and sandwich place called Palmer's Deli. Very good salads, soups, and sandwiches. It's right off I-80 in West Des Moines (a Des Moines suburb) at 4949 Westown Pkwy. A little greenery is good between grease courses ;)

                  I've suggested this one before, but when you're in North Platte, check out Roger's Fine Foods. It's on South Jeffers as you're driving into town from I-80. Excellent homemade pies, hot beef sandwiches, homemade biscuits and rolls, and all other manner of diner foods. Also super-groovy vinyl banquettes that were probably very classy in 1962.

                  Other highlights that are a little further off the interstate (but not far -- these are not big cities) include the Front Street Brewery in Davenport, India Cafe in Iowa City, Racoon River Brewing Co. in Des Moines, Cool Basil (Thai) in Clive IA, Clay Oven (Indian) in Lincoln, Wave Pizza in Grand Island.

                  Also -- Iowa and Nebraska have a lot of excellent Mexican and Central American restaurants. Lots of meat packing plants have changed the demographics considerably in this area.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: heatherkay

                    I'd totally forgotten about Roger's!! I remember when I was a wee kid living out in the Sandhills getting to go there for breakfast. Seriously...if you spend a night in North Platte, be sure to hit Roger's for breakfast....the lightest, fluffiest pancakes anywhere!

                    Oh, in Lincoln, it's the Indian Oven, not Clay Oven. And Tandoor is much better for straight forward Indian. The Indian Oven (or just The Oven) has a nice fusion menu, though. And from there you can walk across the street to the Mill for great coffee, or around the corner and down the street to Ivanna Cone for good ice cream for dessert.

                    1. re: KCJ

                      Otherwise known as a "bierock." I personally love them, with all their beef-y, cabbage-y, onion-y goodness, but they're not everyone's cup of tea. For a little more food history, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bierock

                      1. re: KCJ

                        I did the Runza a few weeks ago. I thought that it tasted like ground-up White Castles baked into a bun. It is NOT something that I would do twice.

                      2. About an hour west of Chicago @ Exit # 81 on I-80 is a great cajun restaurant called Rons Cajun Connection. It is only about 5 minutes off the interstate. They have great gumbo, jambalaya, etouffe, crawfish(in season), and pecan pie. They serve beere, and hurricanes as well. The restaurant is non-smoking, and is open for dinner Thurs-Sat, and for lunch on SUndays. There is typically a line out the door by 5 p.m.

                        www.ronscajunconnection.com