Midwest Restaurants Worth the Drive | Midwest Living

Midwest Restaurants Worth the Drive

These gems may be located in small towns, but they're cooking up some big flavors.

Big cities are known for their dining scenes, but plenty of small towns around the Midwest boast rave-worthy restaurants, too. Here are a few that are well worth a couple of hours in the car.  What should we add to the list?

The Dancing Bear Cafe | Corder, Missouri

Located in a former chicken hatchery from the 1800s, The Dancing Bear Cafe is open Friday and Saturday evenings for dinner by reservation. Kansas City foodies drive 60 miles to Corder (population 404 as of 2010) to try seasonal dishes such as ginger butternut squash soup in the fall and fresh berry cobblers in the spring. thedancingbearcafe.info

Renaissance Cafe | Assaria, Kansas

Walls covered in antique opera photos—and sharply dressed waiters carrying antipasto spreads complete with fresh mozzarella and artichoke pesto—make it easy to forget you're dining in a 1919 high school gymnasium. Fans trek to Assaria (population: not quite 500) for housemade Italian sausage, black pepper-crusted ribeye and handmade ravioli stuffed with braised duck (menu subject to change). renaissancecafeassaria.com

Salad, dinner and dessert at Renaissance Cafe; photos courtesy of Renaissance Cafe

Ron's Cajun Connection | North Utica, Illinois

Owner Ron McFarlain was raised in Louisiana and now shares the flavors he grew up with, including some family recipes, with guests who are Starved Rock State Park visitors or some of the 1,352 people who call North Utica home. Classic Cajun dishes include alligator, catfish po-boys and crawfish creole. Diners rave about the bread pudding and boudin balls. ronscajunconnection.com

Harbor View Cafe | Pepin, Wisconsin

Pastel-colored chairs line the front of this sky-blue restaurant that attracts both visitors and locals in Pepin (population about 800) for dishes like saffron-braised chicken or grilled pork tenderloin with a ginger peach sauce. The menu, written on a giant chalkboard, changes daily, but you can always count on freshly-baked cake or pie for dessert—and scenic views of Lake Pepin. harborviewpepin.com

Harbor View Cafe in Pepin, Iowa
Dishes on the chalkboard menu at Harbor View Cafe change daily; Almond Cake with Lingonberries, a customer favorite; a line forms at dinnertime; photos courtesy of Tracy Rundquist, Midge Bolt and Mel Tinney

Rusty's Saloon and Grill | St. Anthony, North Dakota

A cowboy-style steakhouse that smokes their own meat, makes their own Alfredo sauce and serves towering bloody Marys from behind an antique bar with whiskey barrel-stools? Count us in. Diners can expect a scenic 30-minute drive from Bismarck through the rolling hills of Southern Morton County to get to St. Anthony, a town of 121. Rusty's Saloon and Grill Facebook page

Eat Restaurant | Dodge, Nebraska

Old-banks-turned-gourmet-restaurants are apparently not limited to Ladora, Iowa. The owner of Eat Restaurant chose a former bank in Dodge, Nebraska to serve "country-inspired, city-influenced" dishes such as grilled eggplant and portobello mushroom lasagna or sourdough bread with kalamata olives. Fewer than 600 people live in Dodge, but Eat is doing just fine; reservations are recommended if you want a taste of the locally-sourced, from-scratch cooking. Eat Restaurant's Facebook page

Eat Restaurant in Dodge, Nebraska
Gifts from the sea in Dodge, Nebraska; the bank's original pillars; Eat Restaurant's dining room. Photos courtesy of Eat Restaurant in Dodge, Chef/Owner Michael A. Glissman and Sous Chef/Owner Mama Lin Schwanebeck

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