Iowa's foodie scene may be the Midwest's best kept secret. Here's why.
Thirty years ago, the “food scene” in Iowa existed in diners, spaghetti joints, supper clubs, and steakhouses. It was all prime rib off the cart, perfectly fried onion rings, chicken-fried steak, and French silk pie. If nothing else, it was visceral: You could try and hold together a sloppy Maid-Rite with no success; you could pace yourself, gratefully, through Pink Squirrels and 20-oz steaks; you could order a billboard-sized tenderloin — the only size available — and relish the leftovers for days.
And all that, actually, was quite good. But it wasn’t necessarily surprising; it was more like gathering around the same dinner table your family has circled for generations. It was your grandma’s best cherry pie, every day of the week.
Things have changed in Iowa.
Sure, you can still get your tenderloin fix when the mood strikes, you can still find complimentary appetizers to test your willpower, but now you’re also going to come across someone from a new generation of gastronomes quietly experimenting with what’s in their backyard. The foodies, chefs, and entrepreneurs listed below are some of those taking the richest farmland in the world and creating dishes that would (and do) make James Beard nod.