It's a cozy family restaurant, but The Garden Grill serves up contemporary, elegantly plated dishes that rival those of any fine-dining establishment. The menu of upscale casual cuisine draws on global inspirations: Old-World italian pastas, including an italian-sausage rigatoni; Mexican classics, such as fish tacos; and hand-cut steaks. Pizzas sport both traditional and creative toppings, such as the Pacific pizza's mascarpone-cheese sauce, shrimp, scallops, mushrooms, green onions, and mozzarella. Because the menu runs the gamut from filet mignon to sandwiches, The Garden Grill is an ideal backdrop for all sorts of occasions—be it a romantic dinner date with a special someone or a casual business lunch with the puppet you've been hired to voice.
Midwest Black Angus beef, free of hormones or antibiotics, joins with creative ingredients such as A.1. sauce and chipotle aioli to create more than 15 unique burgers at Legends American Grill. These burgers embody a variety and thirst for excitement that radiates throughout each of the grill's central-Iowa locations. There, nestled amid deep-umber booths or brick walls, diners watch sports flicker across flat-screen televisions, rooting on their team and showing disdain for the ref’s decision to wear white pants after Labor Day. But if the score is disheartening, fans can dig into the menu to cheer themselves up. Hand-cut Creekstone Farms steaks offset surf entrees such as salmon in béarnaise sauce or grilled mahi-mahi in a sweet-and-spicy thai sauce. Comfort-food favorites such as meatloaf and fried chicken also make an appearance, pairing with cocktails and beers served by the bottle and pint.
Planet Sub sidesteps the flavorless land mines of days-old bread, opting for filling-packed subs and sandwiched meaty delights. The menu offers signature subs to sate hungering masses, such as the bacon-bolstered mega roast beef ($5.49/$8.99) and the Planet BBQ, a saucy concoction stacked with ham, turkey, and roast beef ($4.49/$7.99). Vegetarian options abound, so meat abstainers can try the spicy cheese sub ($4.79/$8.19) or the Pesto Bello, which is loaded with portobello mushrooms, red peppers, and a tomato-garlic pesto as smooth and suave as an Italian R & B crooner ($5.19/$8.79).
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.
Since 1926, the line cooks and soda jerks at Maid-Rite have slung a menu of American diner classics, including their signature loose-meat sandwiches, malts, shakes, and root-beer floats. Customers can silence grumbling stomachs with myriad variations of the free-spirited hamburger sandwich, a kind of sloppy joe, including the classic Maid-Rite ($3.19 for sandwich; $6.59 for basket of fries and large drink), the shirt-staining barbecue Texas-Rite ($3.89 sandwich; $7.29 basket), or the belief-begging Mega Philly Cheese-Rite ($6.69 sandwich; $9.98 basket). The corn dog ($2.39; $5.79 basket) carries on the century-old tradition started by corn of eating food off a stick, and the Smokin' turkey-breast dinner shows up to palate parties slathered with hot or mild barbecue sauce and accompanied by an entourage of two sides and a biscuit or bun ($8.99).
Even with Chicago's skyline some 300 miles away up I-80, the taste of Felix and Oscar’s deep-dish pizzas seem to bring it into focus. Its chefs pile up to 15 toppings on their authentic Windy City–style pies, layering Hormel bacon, pepperoni, and Graziano’s italian sausage beside less traditional add-ons, such as sauerkraut or shrimp. They ladle housemade meat sauce atop regular or gluten-free pasta and supplement their comestibles with imported beers and California wines. For diners on the go, Felix and Oscar’s allows customers to place their orders ahead of time to reduce the time they have to wait in the seating area. The pie-smiths also keep galas well fed with their in-house party rooms or offsite catering.