Thank you for Visit Mason City, Iowa for hosting us and putting some of these Must-eat Mason City food stops on our radar.
Regardless of your travel goals, you want to know go-to places to check out and eating where locals eat. You might save a dollar by going to a fast food chain where you can always find your number five with a super large drink. Nevertheless, if you are looking to explore and make new memories, you gotta go out of your comfort zone. Take a leap of faith and ask around for suggestions from locals (yes, you can ask the reception desk).
While researching Must-Eat Mason City food stops, we found ourselves eating in all sorts of places – an upscale Italian restaurant and the Fair food trucks. Today, we’d love to share my favorites with you:
Must-Eat Mason City, Iowa
This Italian Restaurant at 416 Indianhead Dr, Mason City, IA is a lot fancier than what my family is used to. Though we saw plenty of people in t-shirts and shorts we considered an outfit changed the minute we opened the door.
For kids get spaghetti & meatballs and be prepared to take leftovers home. A generous amount of sauce and cheese cover a bowl with two giant meatballs and spaghetti. Your child might not be used to this size portion on the kids’ menu, but they will love the taste. Be sure to grab a bite too!
For the adults, consider a Red Snapper fillet sautéed with fresh tomatoes, mushrooms. While not a seafood restaurant, Pasta Bella cooks Red Snapper well with garlic & basil in sherry wine sauce and served over linguine.
If you happened to be a gluten-free mom traveling with your bread-loving family, try Rick’s Salad. You will get a generous plate filled with lettuce, tomatoes, black olives, mushrooms, mozzarella cheese, red peppers, artichoke hearts, garlic, olive oil & lemon dressing. Add Chicken, Shrimp or Salmon and hold on to your fork – you might have to fight your family off your plate.
Once we went to a Spy Museum in Milwaukee that was easier to find than this downtown restaurant, so if you find yourself wondering the streets of the city trying to find Little Chicago Pizza – call, you are probably standing right next to it and don’t know it. A restaurant with a small sign in the window – this place is gotta be something special. That is why we had to include Little Chicago Pizza in our Must-Eat Mason City!
Located at 1343 N Federal Ave, Mason City, IA, Little Chicago Pizza has a small parking lot behind their restaurant and might be an excellent option for pick up or delivery. However, if you are opting-in for a dining experience with kids, they will have an opportunity to dig into a pile of coloring books and add their unique perspective to the pages.
Our picks – BBQ Beef pizza and Garlic Chicken Alfredo with Garlic Bread as an appetizer. Seriously, don’t skip the Garlic bread! Cut into generous slices and covered in herbs and cheese the platter comes with marinara. Don’t get carried away – the real food is coming!
Garlic Chicken Alfredo Pizza comes smothered in Alfredo sauce made from fresh parmesan and Romano Cheese and topped off with grilled garlic chicken, black olives, and tomatoes.
BBQ Beef Pizza will dazzle you with its zesty BBQ Sauce. Garnished with fresh tomatoes and onions, it is the best opposite of the Chicken Alfredo Pizza, and you might have a hard time deciding which taste you prefer best.
For a family with kids, these two pizzas were enough to eat and take home to enjoy later. However, if you are feeding teenagers, two pizzas might be just right for a family of four.
The Lunch Wagon is a food truck that operates on summer hours and might be difficult to find. We spotted it at the North Iowa Fair, so if you plan on attending you will most likely be able to see it there. With six items on the menu, I would highly recommend a Walking Taco. While a usual walking Taco is designed to enjoy walking, you will need to sit down to consume this beast of a lunch.
BEST homemade ice around, Birdsall’s has been in business for over 85 years. Addison and Esther Birdsall opened Birdsall’s Ice Cream Co. in early April 1931 at 518 N. Federal Ave. It’s still a town favorite for the fresh peach ice cream and hot fudge sundae. Regardless of what time you get here, be ready to wait in line but use your time wisely. Read the menu and make your selection as the line moves fast and you wouldn’t want to hold it up.
You can always just go with our recommendations instead. If it’s summer and they are serving Fresh Peach Sunday, go with that! Black Raspberry Sundae is another excellent option that brought back some sweet childhood memories.
Strolling through the streets, you might not think twice about this building. Yet our Must-Eat Mason City wouldn’t be complete without this restaurant and its unique experience. With less than ten sitting spots inside of the restaurant, locals come here for Spic-n-Span Tenderloins.
This dish is the second in the Nation and best in Mason City! The menu has lots of breakfast and lunch options, but this is the dish you want to try!
In business since 1949 Suzie Q Cafe…
There is another reason for a dine-in instead of the take-out – you might get to see a magic show performed by Troy, the owner of this Valentine-style diner. With the minimal behind the countertop space, you wouldn’t expect to see card magic and fire eating tricks. However, this is is what happens here at 14 2nd St NW, Mason City, Iowa.
I don’t know about you, but we are getting hungry just looking at these pictures. Let us know if you have any other must-eat Mason City favorites and don’t forget to check out our vacation budget stretching idea in the Mason City and One-Day Mason City discoveries.
5 Things to know about Mason City:
- Drive or Fly?
Drive. Mason City Municipal Airport is only 10 minutes away. Air Choice One is the only airline that flies there, and it operates 8-seater planes. It’s an exciting experience if you would like to try it and the tickets are cheap! If you are not into flying on small planes, then the drive from Chicago is about six hours
- How Long to Stay Here
Six-hour is a great drive for a 3-4 day vacation. Mason City has a lot to offer, but Clear Lake is right next to it too. That would make a great long weekend for anyone who lives in the Chicagoland area.
- Will you need a car to get around?
You need the car to get around in this area
- Family Activities:
The North Iowa Event Center – check their schedule and they often host fun family events
River City Sculptures on Parade – grab a booklet and have a scavenger hunt to discover all fun sculptures
The Music Man Square & Meredith Wilson’s Boyhood Home – great stroll down memory lane
- Local food not to be missed.
Suzie Q Cafe – in business since 1949 and serves a killer Spic-n-Span Tenderloins
Birdsall’s Ice Cream Co – in business since 1931 and is a town favorite