12 things to eat in Cedar Falls- Waterloo Iowa


This post is not sponsored, and all opinions are entirely mine. 

If you like this post, check out my 15 favorite activities for family fun in the Cedar Valley!

Welp!  My family finally made it to Dubuque!  We spent six incredible years living in Cedar Falls, Iowa, and it was so hard to leave.  The Cedar Falls/Waterloo area is such a special place and an ideal place to raise a family.  Plus, there is the University of Northern Iowa, which brings so much to the area too.  I loved having University professors in the neighborhood because they were from all over the country and the world. We had an awesome neighborhood dynamic!   There is so much to do with kids in the Cedar Valley and so many excellent local businesses to eat at!  I grew up in the western suburbs of Chicago, where we had a lot of chain restaurants. One thing I notice is that people in Iowa really cherish their local businesses and are really enthusiastic about supporting them!

Both Cedar Falls, Iowa, and Waterloo, Iowa have lots of excellent local restaurants to enjoy!  I have included some food items on this list, too, as there are also some beautiful spots to picnic and some great family activities that involve food.

If you look at the travel section of this blog, you will notice that it’s pretty empty.  I have a few travel posts for the summer in the works.   Now that I am officially a Cedar Valley tourist, I thought now was an appropriate time to share with you my 12 favorite things to eat in Cedar Falls and Waterloo, Iowa.

12 Things to eat in The Cedar Valley.  AKA Waterloo, Iowa and Cedar Falls, Iowa.

1. A slice of quiche from Sidecar Coffee – After I started getting latte’s from sidecar coffee, I never felt the need to revisit the local Starbucks.  Especially after they opened a drive-thru close to my house, even though their coffee is rich and delicious, the food item that blew me away was their quiche.  It is so rich and so good!  They have a Bacon- Cheddar Quiche and Tomato-Spinach- Munster.  They also have scones that my kids love!  If you are visiting the Cedar Falls/Waterloo area, I highly recommend that you visit the Sidecar location on College Street for a coffee and a slice of quiche!

2. Lunch at the Wild Carrot– When we lived in Cedar Falls, my family enjoyed taking day trips up to Waverly, Iowa, to visit the Wild Carrot and then play at the Kid’s Kingdom Park afterward.   The Wild Carrot is one of those lunch places where almost everything you see is just cute.  They serve sandwiches, soups, salads, and truffles.   You must try a bowl of carrot soup!

3. 4 Queens Dairy Ice Cream – Pretty much every summer night, there is a traffic jam on 1st Street in Cedar Falls.  That’s because the drive-thru at 4 Queens is backed up.  4 Queens is a little like a Dairy Queen, but so. Much. Better.  4 Queens has “Snowstorms,” which is their take on a blizzard.  They have chocolate-dipped cones, and hot fudge sundaes.  My very favorite thing here is just the traditional plain vanilla in a cup.

4. Thai Chicken Pizza from Tony’sWhenever we didn’t feel like cooking, this Thai Chicken Pizza from Tony’s Pizza was always our first go to take- out choice.  I tend to be a little bit of a pizza snob since I grew up in the Chicago area, but I must say, Tony’s makes a delicious pizza.  The crust is light and crispy, the sauces are just really flavorful and not overly sugary, and they use high-quality ingredients on their pizzas.  There were several times during my time in Cedar Falls when I took my ” Chicago friends” to Tony’s to show them how good the pizza is in Iowa.  They were always impressed.

5. Le Calle Latin American Bistro Cachapas from the Cedar Falls Farmers Market.  La Calle is a Food Truck that you will find at the Cedar Falls Farmers Market on Saturday Mornings.   You can also follow them on Facebook to find out other locations they also visit.   They make fantastic Cachapas, which are sweet corn pancakes topped with pulled pork and cheese curds.  This delicious breakfast makes the Saturday morning trip to the Cedar Falls Market worth it!

6. Hansen’s Butter. Or Cheese Curds. Or Ice Cream – If you know anyone who is traveling to the Cedar Valley, I highly recommend that you try to arrange a tour for them at Hansen’s Dairy.  During our six years in Cedar Falls, we took the tour four times. We always brought grandparents, friends, and cousins when they were visiting.   After the tour,  you should stop by one of their stores for some of their excellent butter!  ( and cheese curds too).  Hansen’s is a local Dairy farm, and they sell most of their products locally.  Their milk isn’t pasteurized, and they have the best-tasting butter ever!

7. Freshly Baked Bread from Ajla’sAjla’s is a hole-in-the-wall bakery located not far from downtown Waterloo.  They make freshly baked bread; it is inexpensive, perfect, and the store and parking lot always smell amazing, like newly baked bread!  They also make a nice variety of European pastries and smoked meats.

8. Montage rosemary cashew crusted chicken opakapaka- Montage was our go-to date night restaurant when we lived in Cedar Falls.  Everything at Montage is good.  Everything.  My husband loves the salmon with blackberry sauce, and I love the montage casserole. We both love the crab cakes.  But my favorite dish, one that I ordered multiple times during my time in Cedar Falls, was the Rosemary Crusted Chicken or the Rosemary Crusted Opakapaka.  Oh my! The montage is so fantastic!  If you’re looking for a romantic date night, Montage is the best place in town.

9. Anything on the Menu at Greenhouse Kitchen- I was trying to describe the Greenhouse Kitchen to my brother-in-law, who lives in Des Moines.  And his answer was, ” Oh. So it’s like a Chipotle, but with lots of different international flavors”.  And yes, that is true, but The Greenhouse Kitchen is so much more than that.  You can pick flavors like a fajita, Philly cheesesteak, or spring roll, and they will turn it into a rice bowl, a burrito, or a salad.  It’s all local, and it’s healthy and delicious!  My favorites are the Tuna Poke Bowl and the Fajita Chicken Salad!  Plus, I am currently figuring out how I can make an indoor herb garden, similar to the one The Greenhouse Kitchen has at both of their restaurants!  You will see them cut fresh herbs as they are assembling your meal!  The Greenhouse Kitchen has two locations. One in Cedar Falls and One in Waterloo.

10. Pork Tenderloin Sandwich, or any sandwich from Newtons Cafe – I took this photo of my brother’s Pork tenderloin sandwich right after we moved to the Cedar Valley in 2013.  Imagine two Chicago kids, having never seen how large pork tenderloin sandwiches were supposed to be. 🙂  Newton’s is a unique restaurant and has tons of great things!  They have creative twists on diner food.  I love their BLT’s and their sweet potato salad.  They also serve a delicious breakfast! Newton’s is a must-visit for people visiting the area.

11. Dinner at Single Speed– A few years ago, in downtown Waterloo, a hostess factory closed, and then someone got a bright idea to turn the empty building into a beer hall/restaurant.  The truly genius part about Single Speed is that there is a kids’ area for the kids to play in while you wait for your food.  The beer and the food are great!  And I say that as a non-beer drinker.  I don’t have a favorite dish because I have always loved everything I have tried!  I especially love the Amish Pretzel listed under the appetizer section.  It is vital that you visit Single Speed if you are visiting Waterloo, Iowa.   I should also note that my kids love ordering breakfast for dinner at Single Speed!

12. Smoked Chicken Salad Lettuce Wraps from Whiskey Road – Gah! I don’t have a picture of these!  I don’t know why! I always take pictures of my food when I enjoy something at a restaurant!!   Whiskey Road is such an excellent restaurant. I, in my opinion, the smoked meats on their menu are the best. So items with smoked salmon, smoked chicken, pulled pork, etc. It is a must-try and a great place to bring friends visiting the area.   I know I will go back when I visit!


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