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Nebraska & Iowa - close to Interstate 80

My son and I are driving coast-to-coast on Interstate 80, leaving San Francisco on Sunday May 18. We are looking for good places to eat in Nebraska and Iowa, close to Interstate 80. Thanks!

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  1. Hi Hugh - Iowa City is right off of I-80 and has lots of good eating options. Is there anything in particular you're looking for?

    Good diner type food at the Hamburg Inn (an Iowa City institution - my dad used to grab a burger here after his paper route when he was young) and Lou Henri (LH has odd hours, so be sure to call before you go).

    Thin crust pizza at Pagliai's, also an Iowa City institution.

    Great homemade soups, sandwiches and salads at the Bread Garden on the pedestrian mall in downtown IC. You can also get good sandwiches, cheeses, bread and other fun snacks to go at the New Pioneer Coop.

    Wonderful, local vegetarian fare at the Red Avocado

    The Motley Cow is wonderful for dinner - great, creative pizza and a limited selection of entree's, lovingly prepared by a chef who values quality and local, seasonal ingredients.

    Devotay is nice spot to stop for wine and small plates - Chef Kurt is also very much into local, seasonal ingredients.

    Hope that's a start - let me know if you'd like any additional info on these or other spots near Iowa City!

    Sounds like a great road trip (save for the gas prices, of course)

    iowagirl

    2 Replies
    1. re: iowagirl

      I second the Hamburg. The Bread Garden has good food, but the new location has as much aesthetic appeal as an airport departure lounge.

      1. re: sigerson57

        I totally agree about the new Bread Garden - we were there for dinner on Friday night and it was awful! All the salads and hot entrees had been sitting out and were crusty and congealed and it took about 15 minutes for the sandwich guys to make my stepdaughter a plain roast beef and provolone sandwich. I miss the old Bread Garden!!

    2. Iowa try Darrell's in Hamlin or Larsen's in Elkhorn for pork tenderloins.

      3 Replies
      1. re: iowan

        All -
        We couldn't decide which place to go for tenderloin, so we tried four of them in Iowa for lunch in one day (splitting a sandwich in each). Our ratings:
        #1 Larsen's Pub in Elk Horn,
        #2 The Red Barn in Exira
        #3 Darrell's Place in Hamlin
        #4 Country View Cafe in Kimballton
        All were excellent, and very difficult to rank; what a great sandwich!

        1. re: Hugh DeMann

          You, my friend, are a true chowhound.
          Glad you enjoyed them, thanks for letting us know.

          1. re: Hugh DeMann

            Amazing. You are my new hero. I ate at the Country View a couple of weeks ago and loved it. Larsen's and Darrell's, of course, win props from the Iowa Pork Produers on a consistent basis. The Red Barn's second place ranking surprises me a bit, but only because they don't get as much buzz as some other places. Congrats on your Chowhoundiness?!?!?!?

        2. This is a topic that seems to come up a little bit, so you might do a quick search for I-80.

          Some of my past recommendations:

          North Platte, NE -- 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.

          Cozad, NE -- Green Apple Cafe, one of those Main Street diners that small towns always have in the movies but seldom have in real life. Hot beef, chili, broasted chicken. And NOT TO MISS pies and apple dumplings.

          Grand Island, NE - Wave Pizza is a surf-themed pizza place downtown. Sounds suspicious, but really pretty good pizza baked in a wood oven.

          West Des Moines, IA -- 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 ;)

          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. If you drive off of I-80 into a town's downtown area and see a lot of pickup trucks with Michoacan and Coahuila stickers in the window, stop and eat.

          1 Reply
          1. re: heatherkay

            I would like to second "Palmer's Deli". Reasonable prices and lots of salad and sandwich choices. It is always popular with my clients.

          2. I'm doing almost the same trip and would like tips on tenderloins, loose meats or other regional specialties close to the freeway. Good breakfast recs would be great also. Thanks.

            4 Replies
            1. re: foodfan

              I would say that truck stop breakfasts are usually pretty darn good and usually served 24 hours a day. You'll find them all along the interstate, just pick one that looks good to you.

              1. re: foodfan

                foodfan--If you are really interested in loose meats I recommend the Marshalltown Maid-Rite. It was the second one to open, in 1928 and does not adhere to the new Maid-Rite franchise nonsense. They still grind their own meat on site and it is always fresh. They serve nothing but Maid-Rites, malts and pie. No french fries to be found and ketchup only available upon request but watch out for dirty looks from the locals if you choose to do so. It's 45 miles off 80 northeast of DSM, but you could take a straight shot from there to Cedar Rapids and down to Iowa City back on 80.

                That is the undisputed king of loose meats in Iowa. Tenderloins--man, they are everywhere and they are good.

                1. re: foodfan

                  When are you leaving? Maybe we can meet for a meal.

                  1. re: Hugh DeMann

                    Sorry, late check back ~ we aren't leaving until mid June.

                2. You'll find plenty of recommendations for your route, including a link to the lengthy topic on Iowa City, in this previous discussion:

                  Cross Country, I-80 - www.chowhound.com/topics/490480

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: nsxtasy

                    West of Des Moines about 70 miles is an area affectionately know (by me) as the Pork Tenderloin Axis. In a 40 mile radius you'll find a variety of Pork Tenderloin options, but it will require a 15 minute sidetrip.

                    I think your best bet is Elk Horn, home of the Danish Immigrant Museum. Larson's, on main street, is a bar and grill but their tenderloin was just named the state's best by the Iowa Pork Producers Association. You might want to stop at the museum and the old mill if you want to stretch your legs. Both sites are worthwhile.

                    Just last week I was up the road in Kimballton (about six miles north, I would guesstimate) and had a fabulous tenderloin at the Countryview Drive Inn. In Kimballton, you might catch a glimpse of the Little Mermaid statue, which is a replica of the statue in Amsterdam. The Countryview also offers a Hilltopper which is a pork tenderloin with a cheeseburger on top.)

                    Most people think that Darrel's in Hamlin offers what might be the best tenderloin in the state and it's not too far from Elk Horn. The Red Barn in Exira and the Farmer's Kitchen in Atlantic are also good options. Be warned that many of these places cater to a lunchtime crowd and so you need to call ahead or take your choices. The Farmers Kitchen also has terrific hot beef sandwiches and some fine homemade pies.

                    Hope that helps.

                    1. re: jwagnerdsm

                      The waitress at Darrel's place is who recommended Michaels in Beaverdale. She said it's the same loin, only bigger. I've had both, and would have to agree. It's also more money, but if you don't want a 10 mile trip North of I-80, Michaels is about 5 miles from the Merle Hay exit in Des Moines.
                      J, did you try the Hilltopper? I'm going to have to spend more time in your Axis.
                      As for the loose meat sandwiches, they get a lot of love around here, but I don't really get it. My mom used to brown a pound of ground beef, stir in some chili, and I thought it better than anything from Maid Rite.
                      However, taste is subjective.

                      1. re: Bobfrmia

                        I agree maid rites are more interesting cultural food than actually being something you would drive out of the way for. Tenderloins on the other hand...
                        I am sure good examples of both can be found right off the interstate...