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A delicious road trip through the Mississippi River states

Dine your way through the Midwest on this tasty food tour of four states along the northern Mississippi River.

Chicago Pizza
Credit: Illinois Office of Tourism/Neil Burger

On this sample itinerary, we’ll dine our way down the Mississippi River, enjoying a huge variety of food from America’s Heartland. The restaurants we’ll be visiting are some of the best in the world. Reservations are necessary for many of these establishments, sometimes weeks in advance. Be prepared to be surprised by the culinary excellence of these Midwestern states.

Day 1 – Minneapolis

Minneapolis and Saint Paul are known as Minnesota’s Twin Cities. This metropolitan area is thriving. The city’s success can be seen in its architecture, beautiful neighborhoods, numerous cultural institutions and excellent restaurants. We’ll dine our way through Minneapolis today, starting with a feisty breakfast joint, followed by a restaurant offering affordable elegance and, finally, a restaurant that transforms traditional Midwestern colloquial cuisine into something extraordinary.

Breakfast: Hell’s Kitchen – Damn Good Food

Lunch: Tilia

Other options: Be sure to check out Nicollet and the giant Mall of America.

Day 2 – Saint Paul and Red Wing, Minnesota

Minneapolis isn’t the only place to get a good meal in Minnesota. Sister city Saint Paul boasts some phenomenal restaurants. The day begins with a breakfast that will warm your heart. Lunch will be more refined, with a restaurant serving a wonderful selection of French favorites. Dinner will be in a charming town on the Mississippi River in a hotel dating to the 1800s.

Breakfast: Bon Vie, Saint Paul

Lunch: Meritage – A Brasserie, Saint Paul

Dinner: St. James Hotel, Red Wing

Other options: You can also find a great breakfast in Saint Paul at the tiny Colossal Café.

Day 3 – Dubuque, Iowa

The Midwest has a cuisine all its own. Iowa sits at the center of this region and serves up a cuisine that relies heavily on locally grown foods and rich ingredients. The historic river town of Dubuque offers up several delightful restaurants. We’ll enjoy breakfast in a historic hotel and then hit a catfish hotspot for lunch. Dinner will be at a restaurant serving bison, venison and other foods from the region.

Breakfast: Caroline’s Restaurant in Hotel Julien

Lunch: Catfish Charlie’s

Dinner: Pepper Sprout

Other options: Between meals, take a ride on the Fenelon Place Elevator cable car or check out the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium.

Day 4 – Iowa City and the Quad Cities

There are many sides to Iowa, and today’s dining choices illustrate this very well. Breakfast will be at a classic diner with a throwback vibe. Next, we’ll enjoy a hearty, family-style lunch at a former religious colony. Finally, we’ll sit down to dinner in a restaurant specializing in New American cuisine.

Breakfast: Bluebird Diner, Iowa City

Lunch: Ox Yolk Inn, Amana Colonies

Dinner: Red Crow Grille, Bettendorf

Other options: Spend some time exploring the shops and museums of the Amana Colonies. Visit the Putnam Museum in Davenport to learn more about this region.

Day 5 – St. Louis

St. Louis is one of the best dining towns in the United States. The concentration of innovative chefs and great restaurants is amazing. The town is gaining national recognition for its cutting-edge cuisine. We’ll start our day of eating at what is arguably the best breakfast spot in St. Louis—the place is well-known for its chicken and waffles. Our lunch spot presents a mind-boggling array of sandwiches. And for dinner, we’ll enjoy a combination of French and American Midwestern cooking while enjoying breathtaking views of downtown St. Louis and the Arch.

Lunch: Fozzie’s Sandwich Emporium

Dinner: Vin de Set

Other options: For a world-class hot dog, go to Woofies. No trip to St. Louis would be complete without a trip to the top of the Gateway Arch.

Day 6 – St. Louis

The day begins with a gem of a breakfast spot, followed by lunch at an outstanding Vietnamese restaurant and capped off with dinner at a restaurant famous for its exquisite food and eclectic cocktails.

Breakfast: Benton Park Café

Lunch: Mai Lee

Dinner: Sanctuaria

Other options: Take a trip back in time at Carl’s Drive In, located on Route 66. Visit the Saint Louis Art Museum or explore the Missouri Botanical Garden.

Day 7 – Chicago

Chicago is a foodie’s paradise.  The town is famous for its fine dining as well as its pizza, Italian beef sandwiches and hot dogs. The Chicago dinner spots on this itinerary are expensive, but you’ll find they’re certainly worth it. To keep our costs in line, we’ll hit some more budget-friendly—but excellent—restaurants for breakfast and lunch. The day is topped off with dinner at an upscale and innovative Italian restaurant.

Breakfast: Little Goat

Lunch: U.B. Dogs

Other options: Enjoy awesome views of the city from the Skydeck at Willis Tower.

Day 8 – Chicago

The day begins at a café serving up delectable classics, followed by a modern take on the quintessential Chicago steakhouse for lunch. We’ll enjoy dinner at El Ideas, which serves up amazing fixed price meals.

Breakfast: Bryn Mawr Breakfast Club

Lunch: David Burke’s Primehouse

Dinner: El Ideas

Other options: Visit the Art Institute of Chicago, Millennium Park, the Field Museum and the Shedd Aquarium.

Day 9 – Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Milwaukee is famous for its beer and hearty food, two things the city owes to its German heritage. People love to eat in this town, and there’s a lot to choose from. For breakfast, we’ll choose from an eclectic menu at a restaurant in a converted 1904 firehouse. For lunch, we’ll savor some delicious German food at a historic restaurant. And for dinner, we’ll eat at an acclaimed farm-to-table restaurant with its own rooftop garden.

Breakfast: Engine Company #3

Lunch: Mader’s Restaurant

Dinner: Braise

Other options: While in Milwaukee, visit one of the city’s breweries, including the Miller Brewery, Lakefront Brewery and Sprecher Brewery.

Day 10 – Madison, Wisconsin

Madison is a lively community that serves up some culinary surprises. The day begins at a restaurant famous for its breakfasts. Lunch will be at a restaurant that epitomizes Wisconsin comfort food. The day will be topped off with a dinner at one of the top ten restaurants in the Midwest.

Breakfast: Marigold Kitchen

Lunch: The Old Fashioned

Dinner: L’Etoile

Other options: Tour Wisconsin’s beautiful state Capitol. Go shopping on State Street. See the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Monona Terrace.

Day 11 – Depart from Madison, WI