Road trip: Iowa, Miss. River, MN, UP, Ontario, Montreal, VT, NY, PA, MI
My wife and I are taking a circle tour kinda-sorta of the Great Lakes. The trip is roughly: Chicago → Iowa City → Trempealeau, WI → Mississipi River → Minneapolis → Apostle Islands/Lake Superior → Upper Peninsula → Mackinac Island → Sault Ste Marie → Sudbury, Ontario → Montreal → Quebec City → Lake Champlain, Vermont → Adirondack Mountains → Niagara Falls → Pittsburgh → Ypsilanti, Michigan → Chicago. (Here is the vaguely USA-shaped route we're probably-maybe taking, via GoogleMaps: http://tinyurl.com/6felf5)
We're interested in seeing all sorts of stuff, but most important to us are the restaurants. I'd be happy to base the entire route on hitting three good spots a day. We've got a few ideas, from these boards, Roadfood, and the Road Trip USA book, but we still have lots of gaps. If you've been to those destinations, or on those paths, where would you recommend we stop?
In Iowa City I enjoy the Atlas Grill downtown as it is a great place to sit outside and observe. They have excellent Thai Satay Chicken Salad, Buffalo Chicken Burrito and a tasty macaroni dish. Guido's is another local option, but they may have been flooded out. If you travel a bit futher west the Augusta in Oxford, Iowa (about 8 miles) is very quaint and we have enjoyed excellent food there. Jimmy Jack's on the east side has great BBQ ribs and brisket. Also on the east side is the Blackstone Grille with a delicious Ahi Tuna Salad. There are lots of good eats in and around Iowa City.
Don't know where you are staying in Trempealeau, but if it's the Trempealeau Hotel....good choice. The restaurant has fabulous food--they are known for their Walnut Burger. Also, if you stop in La Crosse prior to visiting Trempealeau, I would recommend The Waterfront, Piggies and Freighthouse. All are near the mighty Mississipi. Enjoy your trip!
I second the Trempealeau Hotel. Assume you specify Treampealeau because of the hotel and the Mississippi and the state park. Further up the road a piece is Fountain City, Wis., home to the Monarch Tavern, a hundred-something year old bar (also with sleeping accommodations) with a pretty good menu and wonderful beer menu.
Sounds like a great trip! I haven't been up-and-over that way for a while, but here's a thread from last summer on the Lake Superior Circle Tour:
roadtrip from chicago through WI, around lake superior, through MI and back. where to eat?
When you get to Marquette, you gotta go to Jilbert's Dairy for ice cream. For meals, there are lots of good choices - I like the breakfasts at the Sweetwater Cafe. Here are some threads on Marquette and the UP:
Must-Eat Joints in Michigan's U.P.
UP: Best cudighi in Marquette?
Cherry Pie in the UP
Pasties in Michigan?
Wisconsin - Michigan Road Trip
And when you get to Chicago, the world's your oyster. What a great eating town! The hounds on the Chicago board are really helpful - do a little searching, then ask for specifics and you'll get a ton of information. (Click on my name and check my recent posts - a page or two back - for my recent Chicago dining adventures.)
Likewise, if you're into real Midwest retro, hit Haab's in downtown Ypsilanti.
In SE Michigan, try Middle Eastern food. Hit Pita Pita on Washtenaw in Ypsilanti. A notorious Ypsi breakfast place is the Bomber on E. Michigan Ave.--portions beyond enormous. Was featured on some kind of national program.
If you will be in the Iowa City area for dinner, travel north from there toward Cedar Rapids, and then detour 10 miles east to Mount Vernon. There you will find Lincoln Cafe (link below). A hidden gem for dinner.
If you are traveling on the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi, there are a number of places from Pepin on north. In Pepin, Harbor View Cafe. In Arkansaw (very small detour), Easy Creek Bistro. In Stockholm, Bogus Creek Cafe. I'm sure others can add to a Mississippi River list.
re: Brad Ballinger
When will you be coming to the Iowa City area? Brad is correct that the Lincoln Cafe is a great stop (and BYOB!) but the road from Iowa City to Mt. Vernon is closed due to the horrible flooding we had two weeks ago. You can still get there, but it is a round about route. No news on when the road will be opened, so be sure to check before you go. If you're coming soon, I'd highly recommend the Motley Cow Cafe in downtown Iowa City. Great local, sustainable, organic, slow food with a nice wine list.
For the Canadian stops along your journey, you'll need to post on the Quebec and Ontario boards...
Minneapolis St. Paul is well-documented on this board, so, you might just start following the board or give us some more specific parameters.
Here's a pretty comprehensive and recent visitor spending a month in MSP thread
Here's a recent MSP "hot and trendy" thread http://www.chowhound.com/topics/528756
Here's a recent MSP "best the cities have to offer" thread
Here's another visiting MSP thread
Here's my post (with photos) about Duluth from about a year ago. Needs updating. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/429382
Everyone loves Russ Kendall's though I haven't personally made it there yet, alas http://www.chowhound.com/topics/523777
Here's a recent Minneapolis to Duluth thread. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/530609#3794286
Here's an old but still active Iowa City thread.
Have fun! And please report back with your picks, pans and discoveries!