Inspired by trips to the state's northwestern lakes, Okoboji Grill conjures the wayfaring spirit of summer vacation with hearty American comfort food. Chefs marinate chicken strips in beer before hand-breading them in a secret blend of spices, crown crispy onion strings with Iowa-raised pork chops, and stack thin-sliced meats into towering club sandwiches and edible replicas of the Chrysler Building. Okoboji Grill also culls recipes from international cuisines, adding an American take to greek gyros, housemade tzatziki sauce, and italian bruschetta and pastas.
WestCyde Wings bastes their signature buffalo-style wings in a selection of 21 lip-smacking sauces. Canines first chew on decisions, opting for traditional bone-in or boneless bites, and mouths water mournfully when forced to choose between dipping cups of blue cheese or ranch dressing that accompany every wing platter and glass of water. Spice sensors with a need for heat can coat the crispy pinions in a spicier ensemble, selecting a sauce that is hot, x-hot, blazing hot, or inferno-ally hot, and milder temperaments with a taste for travel can sample sauces such as curry, Cajun, teriyaki, sweet & sour, or Caribbean jerk (one sauce/order; additional sauces $0.59). Eight beers—including brews from Boulevard, Fat Tire, Bud Light, and Miller Light—cascade from the tap at the bar, slaking thirst wrought from the saucy sustenance or while exchanging pleasantries about optometry with the larger-than-life referees projected on the 8-foot TV screen.
A quaint Italian restaurant with old-country roots and classic flair, Pazzesco heaps piles of pasta and charm onto guests’ plates while leaving ample room for a succulent hand-cut steak. Founder Chris Patterson’s fusion of fresh Italian and chophouse fare incorporates menu items that have been passed down through generations or decoded from complex metrical schemes in Virgil’s lost epics. The antipasti freddi ($13) starts meals off heartily with an assortment of Italian meats and cheeses served with peppers and olives, and diavolo eggs ($3) make spicy souvenirs from Dante’s trip to the Inferno. Spaghetti marinara ($8.50) and lasagna layered with sausage and cheese ($12) co-star in an extravagant production of pasta dishes that includes a supporting cast of homemade meatballs or sausage links ($3 each). Hand-cut chophouse steaks such as the thick 12-ounce Iowa Chop ($15) or the juicy 14-ounce rib eye ($18) are chargrilled or broiled in butter and garlic and topped with a rich brown-butter sauce.
Papa Murphy’s pizza eschews monarchical store baking and provides fresh, high-quality pies for customers to enjoy on their own terms. Every pizza on the menu is made to order and whipped together in moments by artisan dough-throwers, who slather on a groundwork of sauce and cheese and then construct leaning towers of harmonized toppings. Stuffed pizzas sandwich a slew of meat and veggies between two layers of dough in a tasty Windy City tribute ($12.99–$14.99) and gourmet pizzas such as the Papa’s Favorite feature traditional red sauce and smorgasbord of meat and veggie pie packers ($11.99–$13.99). A cornucopia of thin-crust pizzas can be loaded with one of four different sauces, including traditional marinara and herb tomato ($5.99–$11.99). With detailed instructions provided for baking, grilling, or laser blasting your personalized pizza at home, Papa Murphy’s lets you finally reclaim culinary sovereignty from the dictatorial delivery boy.
From its unexpected burger toppings to its funky decor, Oddfellow’s Burger Kitchen is chock-full of character. The all-American menu, which is festooned with cartoon Elvis silhouettes and a colorful hippie van, features quirky items, such as pasta dishes tossed in peanut butter and barbecue sauce, and starters including an “ice cold can” of PBR. And as the eatery's name suggests, the specialty here is burgers—15 of them to be exact—and despite the playful names and wacky topping combinations, the restaurant takes its creations seriously. Every day, the staff grinds its own beef in house, hand-forms each third-pound patty, and bakes fresh buns in order to build burgers such as The Ring of Fire, which packs the heat with hot sauce, jalapeños, and a Cajun spice rub. The Crabby burger features lump crab and garlic aioli, and the bacon-and-cheese-topped Oddfellow burger is sandwiched between housemade glazed donuts. Guests can substitute a grilled salmon breast, a grilled chicken breast, or a veggie burger, or add another beef patty for $3.