A few Northwest Iowa gems...
1. The Northwestern Steakhouse in Mason City, Iowa. Their steaks are so tender you could cut through them with a butter knife. And they have the most delicious flavor (keep the A1 and Heinz 57 at home.) My favorite side is their non-traditional spaghetti dish: a generous portion of thick spaghetti noodles drenched in the delicious juice from the steak and then covered in Parmesan cheese. A greek salad and bread is provided before the feast. Wine, pop or milk goes great with the meal.
2. A personal favorite of mine is a tiny, little diner in my hometown with a grand name: The Grand Diner in Spencer, Iowa. It's about as big as a small school bus with around 8 bar seats lined up in front of a counter. The little old lady, Rosie, makes the best burger and waffle fries in a 50 mile radius. Her homemade pies (Gooseberry and Chocolate-banana-coconut are my two favorite) are irresistible even after the glorious amount of food. Her dinners are cheap and delicious (around $5). She even carries Sioux City Sarsaparilla: The Granddaddy of All Root Beers. She's usually open from around 5:30-6 AM to about 3 PM Tuesday through Saturday. She's been battling a few mini-strokes lately, so experience this as soon as you can!
3. The Taco House in Okoboji, Iowa. The infamous Iowa Great Lakes holds this little Mexican restaurant very dearly. Only seasonally open, the Taco House attracts insane amounts of locals (Okoboji is only 15 miles or so North of Spencer...so I consider myself a local :) and tourists that hear about it from friends, relatives, and random strangers they meet while enjoying Lake Okoboji. Taco House is famous for two things: their ground beef and their hot sauce. The hot sauce comes in two flavors: red hot sauce (my favorite and the milder of the two) and the green hot sauce. I've never tasted anything better than this hot sauce. You can buy a large soda-cup of the hot sauce for around $10. We usually buy a couple of them and freeze them for the wintertime to placate our cravings. My favorite menu item has got to be the meat and cheese nachos with no mild sauce, a side of sour cream and guacamole (chunky and excellent) and perhaps one of their amazing soft shell tacos. And of course, a large pop. The line is usually horrendous, but it's definitely worth the wait.
4. Well's Blue Bunny Ice Cream in Le Mars, Iowa. This is the ice cream capital of the world. So, of course I'm going to mention it. More ice cream is made here than any other place on the planet. It's delicious and a fun experience.
There are plenty more in this area I'm sure, but that's what I wanted to contribute. Let me know of some more gems in the Northwest Iowa area!
208 Grand Ave, Spencer, IA 51301
809 8th St SW Ste F, Altoona, IA 50009
Fresh Bistro in Spirit Lake.
Ate dinner there this past Saturday night. Caesar salad was a grilled romaine heart lightly dressed. Fantastic concept and presentation. Also had the steak frites. Steak cooked perfectly to order and very flavorful with a chipotle butter spread on top. Frites served warm and crunchy in a paper cone. Also came with grilled asparagus. My wife had the seared ahi tuna with ginger glaze and couldn't stop raving about it.
They boast a huge martini list, and offer martini flights (3 for $12). Nice wine list as well as bottle beer list. Cool-looking space.
1621 Hill Ave, Spirit Lake, IA 51360
You might be selling LeMars short or I am biased, having come from two generations of LeMartians... but what about Archie's Waeside (224 4th Avenue Northeast) for a proper steak dinner and Bob's Drive-In (along HIghway 75) for a chocolate malt and loose meat sandwich??? It was a place for slow, home-cooked real mid-western cuisine before is was the heavily-marketed 'Ice Cream Capital of the World' (my grandpa would spin in his grave)...
Highway 75 S, Le Mars, IA 51031