A dozen burgers you don’t want to miss in Eastern Iowa

A dozen burgers you don't want to miss in eastern Iowa

Photo courtesy of Canva

By Katie Giorgio

December 27, 2023

There’s not much that compares to the taste bud celebration that occurs when you bite into a delicious, mouth-watering, greasy cheeseburger. These local favorites in eastern Iowa—all of which are locally owned—are worth a pit stop the next time you’re on a burger binge.

But this list of a dozen burger joints is just to get you started. It only scratches the surface of delectable beef patty options across the state. What are some of your favorites? Read on to see if they made this list.

The Map Room

416 3rd St. SE, Cedar Rapids

A dozen burgers you don't want to miss in eastern Iowa

Photo courtesy of The Map Room

Put The Map Room in your GPS if you’re looking for a good burger while passing through Cedar Rapids. There are burgers inspired by and named for Delhi, Havana, Lima, Seoul, Melbourne, and Saigon—or you can build your own. They also offer a house-made veggie burger that’s both gluten-free and vegan. Don’t miss out on their fries, which are also customizable with international flavors, and custom cocktails. Enjoy the outdoor patio or dine in the cozy, eclectic restaurant.

Tornado’s Grub and Pub

1600 3rd St. SE, Cedar Rapids

A dozen burgers you don't want to miss in eastern Iowa

Photo courtesy of Tornado’s Grub and Pub via Facebook

A staple in the New Bohemia neighborhood on the east side of the Cedar River in Cedar Rapids, this neighborhood bar and grill comes highly recommended by locals for a delicious burger. With a dozen different options to choose from, regulars say you can’t go wrong. Take note of the burger names, which take inspiration from tornado wind-speed ratings, to help you decide what level of adventure your taste buds can handle. They also feature a discounted burger of the week that makes for a great deal, so check their social media accounts before your visit.

Káva House Cafe

122 2nd St. SE, Swisher

A dozen burgers you don't want to miss in eastern Iowa

Photo courtesy of Káva House and Café via Facebook

Káva House in Swisher may be known for their bakery case—their kolaches, muffins, scones, cinnamon rolls, cakes, and dessert bars are larger than life and a true treat—but their Friday night burger special is not to be missed. The hand-pattied burgers are served on toasted, buttered buns for an experience you’ll be telling friends about long after your meal is complete.

Gunder Roadhouse

17455 Gunder Road, Elgin

Next time you’re in northeast Iowa, head over to Elgin to grab the famous 1-pound Gunder burger. Also hand-pattied from Iowa beef, the burger has made a name for itself beyond the limits of the small town. If you aren’t up for a full pound, Gunder Roadhouse has several other smaller burger options, including a pork burger and a mushroom-and-swiss option.

Hamburg Inn No. 2

214 N Linn St., Iowa City

The Hamburg Inn has been a staple in Iowa City for decades. Known primarily for their breakfast menu and as a common campaign stop of presidential hopefuls working their way through Iowa, this popular spot recently reopened under new ownership. Luckily for diners, the menu remains as delicious as ever and the classic diner burger, fried onion burger, and black bean burger are all still available. Whichever you choose, you simply cannot skip an award-winning pieshake while you’re there.

Jefferson Street Grill

121 N Jefferson St., Mt. Pleasant

A dozen burgers you don't want to miss in eastern Iowa

Photo courtesy of Yelp

This casual, family-friendly restaurant repeatedly makes the list of establishments with the best burgers in the state. Since 2019, they have been serving up fresh-ground burgers, with at least a dozen to choose from and a whole host of other menu items that make for a delicious dinner out on the town. Check out the Plain Jane burger or the classic double cheeseburger, or perhaps the Reuben burger, which is topped with sauerkraut, swiss cheese and Thousand Island dressing. The buffalo blue cheese burger comes topped with blue cheese crumbles and buffalo sauce, while the Mac Daddy features mac-and-cheese bites.

Short’s Burger & Shine

Two locations in Iowa City

780 11th St., Marion

A dozen burgers you don't want to miss in eastern Iowa

Photo courtesy of Short’s Burger & Shine Marion via Facebook

With two locations in Iowa City and one in Marion, Short’s Burger & Shine has created a growing fan base. The original location in downtown Iowa City was once home to a Short’s Shoe Shine. The motto then was “Expert Workmen ∙ Best Materials Used ∙ Prompt Service.” Today, the Short’s team takes that idea to heart with their restaurant, serving gourmet burgers made from never-frozen beef from local farmer Ed Smith of Columbus Junction and fries that are hand-cut daily. Nearly every burger on the menu takes its name from an Iowa town, including Defiance, Gravity, and Eldorado.

Foodie Garage Eatery

1046 Central Ave., Dubuque

A dozen burgers you don't want to miss in eastern Iowa

Foodie Garage Eatery via Facebook

This burger joint in Dubuque is a favorite of locals and bikers alike, styled like a 1950s car repair shop but serving up plates heaping with burgers and fries. Opened in 2020, this relative newcomer on the Iowa burger scene quickly gained a reputation for serving great burgers and steaks. But make sure you’ve got plenty of time. Foodie Garage has nearly 50 different burgers on the menu to choose from, featuring just about every topping you can think of.

Fishback & Stephenson

1949 Pleasant Plain Road, Fairfield

A dozen burgers you don't want to miss in eastern Iowa

Photo courtesy of Fishback & Stephenson Cider House via Facebook

If you are looking for a truly unique Iowa dining experience, pop into Fishback & Stephenson near Fairfield. Not only does this cider pub offer their house-made hard ciders to guests, but they also serve up family-owned, local farm-to-table, apple-finished beef from Adrian Family Farms for their mouth-watering burgers. They source their other ingredients from the nearby Maharishi International University Regenerative Agriculture Program, ensuring their menu is good for people and the planet. As an added bonus, you are likely to find live entertainment and the setting could not be more picturesque as you dine in the heart of the Iowa countryside.

Arty’s Ice Cream & Grill

609 W. 5th St., Wilton

If you are looking for a great little mom-and-pop restaurant where you can find a great burger, look no further than Arty’s Ice Cream & Grill in Wilton. A coffee shop in the morning and an awesome place to grab a scoop (or two or three) of ice cream later on, Arty’s has gained a following for their delicious burgers, completing the trifecta. With some two dozen different burgers to try, you may just need a couple of visits to find your favorite. Come with a crew and order the family platter, which includes five burgers, fries, fountain drinks, and two quarts of ice cream.

Steel Plow Burger Company

1430 E. 52nd St., Davenport

A dozen burgers you don't want to miss in eastern Iowa

Photo courtesy of Steel Plow Burger Company via Facebook

With two locations in the Quad Cities (but only one in Iowa), Steel Plow has become a go-to spot for a delicious burger. Whether you choose to build your own burger or sample one of the dozen house-made creations the Steel Plow team has come up with, what’s unique about this menu is the range of burger patties you have to choose from: grass-fed bison, grass-fed beef, vegan, turkey, or prime rib. You can also sample some of their specialty fries—we are partial to the Parmesan fries and the poutine. We’d also be remiss not to mention that their “above the rim” shakes are over-the-top fun (literally) and satisfyingly sweet, so be sure to save some room.

The Downtown Pub

102 W Gillet St., Preston

Pop over to The Downtown Pub in Preston to try their burgers, which come in at an inflation-defying $5 for a cheeseburger and $6 with bacon. At this quintessential local pub, you’ll also want to wash your beef down with a beer. The bar and restaurant offers the full Iowa small town experience. Plus, you can check out Downtown Pub’s weekly specials for other great deals.

  • Katie Giorgio

    Katie Mills Giorgio is a freelance writer, editor, and nonprofit professional living and working in her hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She’s written for a wide variety of publications, including WashingtonPost.com, BHG.com, and U.S. News & World Report. 100 Things to Do in Cedar Rapids Before You Die, her first book came out in October 2022. Learn more at katiemillsgiorgio.com or follow her on Instagram at @ktmgiorgio.

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