Last Updated on December 20, 2023 by Share My Kitchen
In these somewhat troubled times, there’s one sure-fire cure for the blues: a fabulous meal. Everybody needs to eat, and when vacations to exotic lands may be out of reach, a memorable dining experience is a pretty satisfying substitute. Plus, you’ll save a bundle on airfare and hotels.
Here are some of our favorite foodie destinations in the Midwest:
1. Augusta, Missouri. Did you know this once sleepy little village is actually the first nationally recognized wine region in the United States—preceding the more famous Napa Valley? Not only does Augusta boast AVA (American Viticultural Area) status: now entrepreneur and philanthropist David Hoffmann, who grew up near Augusta, aims to turn the town he loves into a global destination. With the new hotels, wineries and eateries under development, pretty soon it’ll be de rigueur to tell friends who exclaim about the wine you’re serving, “Yes, this is a premium Augusta vintage!”
2. Brazen Open Kitchen Bar. If you find yourself traveling through Dubuque, Iowa, this modern-day supper club is a must-stop. Innovative cocktails, craft beers, and a creative seasonal menu all tempt the palate in this casual atmosphere. The food is all locally grown on nearby farms—and, in fact, the chef was named a semifinalist for best Midwest chef in the 2022 James Beard Foundation Awards.
3. Fox and Pearl. This Kansas City restaurant took the bold move of opening in the midst of the pandemic, and obviously that didn’t deter committed foodies: it was listed on Esquire’s 2020 Best New Restaurants in America. This place offers comfort food at its best, with such Midwestern staples as fried green tomatoes (remember the wonderful 1991 movie starring Kathy Bates and Jessica Tandy?) and smoked ribeye. Fox and Pearl even has its own community garden, so much of what you’ll enjoy comes literally right from their own backyard.
4. Lambert’s Café. What the heck is a throwed roll? You’ll have to stop by one of Lambert’s three locations to find out: they’re in Sikeston and Ozark as well as in Foley. The food has to be good to have attracted so many famous customers over the years, including the King (yes, Elvis ate here), Jay Leno, Clint Eastwood, and a passel of country music artists, from Blake Shelton and Brad Paisley to Miranda Lambert and Waylon Jennings. The cast from the long-running soap opera, As the World Turns, ate here in 2002.
5. Park Avenue Coffee. Hard as it might be to imagine, there were once a lot more mom-and-pop coffee shops before Starbucks came along. The main attraction at Park Avenue (besides the coffee) is buttercake, a beloved Missouri treat. Park Avenue (which is actually in St. Louis, not New York as you might infer), sells 73 varieties; you could sample butter cake for two and a half months without repeating a flavor, at one of their six St. Lou locations.
6. Alina. Ready to splash out on Chicago’s finest? Alina is a Chef’s Table restaurant, named the Best Restaurant in the World by Elite Traveler (wowza!), the Best Restaurant in North America by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, and the Best Restaurant in the U.S. by Gourmet. Alina is also one of only 14 U.S. restaurants to receive the Michelin 3-Star rating. This level of haute cuisine does come at a price: $425-485 per person. Then again, that won’t cover even one night in Italy, so for comparative purposes, it’s still a pretty good deal. And, we expect, a pretty amazing meal.
7. Bobkat’s Purple Pie Place. A name like this has got to be another go-to on a foodie road trek. Bobkat’s will fill your backpack before you hike Mount Rushmore, with yummy paninis, pot pies and fruit pies that will fill your tummy during and after the climb.
Eating in the Midwest is an adventure, for sure. Bon appétit!