A spur of the moment trip to Mason City, Iowa brought me to a town that everyone should get to know. From its history to amazing architecture, Mason City has something for everyone. It is only fitting that it should have a good food scene, seeing that it’s home to several Frank Lloyd Wright homes (and a hotel) and the town where Meredith Wilson (The Music Man) grew up.
While a Google search doesn’t return Mason City’s food scene in the greatest way, or almost not at all, I had some fantastic meals that you are going to love! In fact, one historic steakhouse, a Greek family-owned restaurant, has such a devout following that it almost needs no introduction.
Here is my guide for where to eat in Mason City, Iowa on your travels.
State Street Deli
The State Street Deli is where to eat in Mason City, Iowa for amazing sandwiches and side dishes. In fact, the meats are sliced right in front of you and then pressed on a panini grill dusted in Parmesan cheese. Not being the biggest sandwich fan, I was thrilled with the way State Street Deli shook things up with the addition of the Parmesan cheese on the bread.
The menu consists of specialty sandwiches, salads, soups, and sweet treats such as muffins, brownies, and cookies. Local favorites include the Lake Shore Drive (smoked turkey, provolone, slaw, Russian dressing on marbled rye) and Grand Avenue (turkey, ham, Cheddar, lettuce, tomato, raspberry chipotle mayo on sourdough). Side items to choose from include slaw, potato salad, macaroni salad, and three-bean salad. Check the board for daily specials and soups.
The Northwest Steakhouse is seriously one of Iowa’s biggest stars. If one person told me to eat the Filet Mignon with Greek spaghetti there, at least 100 did. It did not disappoint either. The Northwestern Steakhouse has been in business since 1920, serving Iowans a fantastic Greek style steak (filet, porterhouse T-bone, or Prime Rib) that is good enough to write home about. Other main dish choices are roast chicken, broiled shrimp, Canadian Walleye and lamb chops. Meals come with your choice of salad, bread and butter, and either a baked potato, rice, spaghetti, or fries. Beer, wine, and liquor are available.
The spaghetti was the star of the meal for me. I had to ask my server what they did to make this ordinary looking dish taste extraordinary. The secret ingredient turned out to be juice from the steak. The noodles are tossed with butter, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, and juice from the steaks. I can’t say enough good things about this scrumptious side dish.
Plaza Mexico is one of the numerous Mexican eateries in Mason City. Indulge in your favorite burritos, fajitas, tacos, or enchiladas while enjoying warm tortilla chips and salsa. White queso dip is a must and Plaza Mexico’s passes the test for me, a cheese dip fanatic. While I found their prices a bit on the high side, the food quality was good and I loved the rice and beans.
Birdsall’s Ice Cream
A name synonymous with Mason City is Birdsall’s, a retro ice cream shop that has been a city mainstay for 85 years. Still making ice cream the old fashioned way, the prices are so inexpensive that you might as well treat yourself to several scoops to try a variety of flavors.
My favorite was the Red Raspberry, with Chippermint (green mint ice cream with flecks of crushed peppermint) as a close contender. Peach (seasonal), Butter Brickle, and Cotton Candy are other top sellers.
Besides ice cream, Birdsall’s is known for malts, floats, sundaes, and banana splits.
Located in the Historic Park Inn, the only remaining Frank Lloyd Wright designed and built hotel in the world, is the 1910 Grille. This classy dining establishment serves breakfast daily and dinner at 5 PM Monday through Saturday.
Start your dinner experience with a cheese board, hummus plate, or spinach artichoke dip. The spinach dip comes with pita chips, but for a small uncharge you can add fresh veggies. Pair your appetizers with a 1910 signature cocktail, beer, or one of the great selections of wine they have in stock.
Entrées include 1910 Grille’s most popular dish, the Rib Eye, as well as risottos, salads, pasta dishes, duck, and salmon. Since I had been eyeing the risotto choices, I chose the Grilled Salmon Risotto option with tomato, spinach, and sun-dried tomato butter. The dish was creamy, yet light and lemony. I had a delightful dining experience, start to finish.
Check out my hotel review of the Historic Park Inn.
Taco John’s is a fast food restaurant for nachos, burritos, tacos, and a huge breakfast menu. It is the fast food choice of locals in Mason City. I swung by one morning for breakfast and ordered the #1 breakfast combo, which consists of loose meat (a Midwestern term for what we call seasoned ground hamburger). My meal came with a breakfast burrito, potato olés, and a drink. Sour cream, salsa, and guacamole are additional sides you can purchase to doctor up your meal. The burrito was good and all-in-all, I can see why the locals dig it.
Later, I learned that Mexican donut bites are the bomb. I really missed out.
The Quarry Restaurant and Tapas Bar
The Quarry is a cool eatery with a fun vibe, big-screen TVs, a popular bar, and great dessert menu. I went there to check out the dessert options and ended up with a delicious bread pudding. It really hit the spot and was served in within five minutes of ordering.
Though I didn’t have dinner from the Quarry Restaurant, I did drool over the four plates that I saw being served to those around me. I can say that the Balsamic Glazed Salmon, Chicken Parmesan, and steaks looked spot on, plus the plate presentation was really lovely. I bragged on the excellent customer service to my waitress before leaving. Of all the restaurants in Mason City, this one offered me the friendliest and fastest service.
Not Going Hungry in Mason City
It was a bonus that my dining choices, in addition to my travel experiences, were so pleasant in Mason City. I hope you can find some awesome places to eat in Mason City using this list.
Since my visit was short and sweet, and not during season, I wasn’t able to get to all of the restaurants I wanted. Next time, I’m headed to Blue Heron Bar and Grill, Rib Crib, and Suzie-Q Cafe. Do you have any other recommendations for me?
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Thanks to the Mason City CVB for sponsoring my visit to some of these restaurants. As always, opinions and reviews are 100% mine and unbiased.
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