Along with its sister city Cedar Falls
, Waterloo is one of Iowa’s
bigger cities, and home to a surprising array of unique restaurants and diners. It is even home to one restaurant featuring a spray paint recreation of the Sistine Chapel on its ceiling. Explore this and much more in our guide to Waterloo, a fascinating culinary city in the Hawkeye State.
Restaurant, Seafood, American, $$$
With a New American menu emphasizing seafood (with a delicious lobster & shrimp bisque as its signature item), Cu is a casual take on fine-dining that has been running in Waterloo for over a decade. Its name stems from the chemical symbol for copper on the periodic table, giving insight into how the warm interior of this 1902 former grocery store is decorated, with metal flourishes alongside spray paint works by local artist Paco Rosic.
Cu, 320 East 4th Street, Waterloo, IA, USA, +1 319 274 8888
Restaurant, Italian, $$$
Built in what was formerly the largest hotel west of Chicago, the Brown Bottle now serves high quality Italian food from its former lobby. A family owned and operated restaurant since it first opened in 1974, they offer a rustic take on fine-dining with a wide crowd-pleasing menu and fantastic atmosphere from its intimate dining booth and great Iowan hospitality. The Brown Bottle has truly become a dining staple in the neighborhood and once you try their signature pizzas or prime rib, you will see why for yourself.
Brown Bottle, 209 West 5th Street, Waterloo, IA, +1 319 232 3014
Galleria de Paco
The culinary home of artist and chef Paco Rosic, the roof of the Galleria de Paco is home to Rosic’s stunning spray paint recreation of the Sistine Chapel. The menu at Galleria de Paco features the same level of intricate detail across its European-inspired menu. Its interior is equally European, it feels like a banquet hall, fit for continental royalty, all high-backed chairs and gold detailing, which makes this an aesthetic dining experience unlike any other.
Galleria de Paco, 622 Commercial Street, Waterloo, IA, USA, +1 319 833 7226
Diner, Restaurant, American, $$$
Morg’s has been serving the residents of the Cedar Valley and beyond, delicious diner fare for half a century in its current location, and for 15 years before that on the other side of the river. Its pancakes are gigantic and delicious, and the item on the menu that keeps customers coming back time and time again. But Morg’s has much more to offer besides; apart from the breakfasts that have made it a Waterloo institution, they also offer a popular lunch service featuring freshly made burgers.
Morg’s, 520 Mulberry Street, Waterloo, IA, USA, +1 319 234 2416
Newton's Paradise Cafe
Cafe, American, $$$
Newton’s Paradise Cafe
An old-school diner (with original spinning neon signs) in a historic building with art deco flourishes, Newton’s is one of Waterloo’s best-rated restaurants. Offering hefty portions of diner classics, any meal at Newton’s is guaranteed to be filling and comforting, with their pork tenderloin one of the biggest available in any restaurant in the United States. These hefty portions are predominantly organic and locally sourced, a move that has made the chef something of a local hero and makes for the finest possible food.
Newton’s Paradise Cafe, 128 East 4th Street, Waterloo, IA, USA, +1 319 234 0280
Briqhouse Bar & Grill
Bar, Restaurant, Pub Grub, American, $$$
Briqhouse Bar & Grill
Part upscale sports bar and part family restaurant, the Briqhouse Bar & Grill offers American-style dining, and what many call the best burgers in Waterloo. Its menu features a focus on these burgers along with a few other wraps, sandwiches and salads, helping to ensure the quality of the burgers by keeping them at the heart of the menu. For a guaranteed treat that will be equally popular with every member of the family, Briqhouse is well worth visiting for lunch or dinner.
Briqhouse Bar & Grill, 307 West 5th Street, Waterloo, IA, USA, +1 319 233 4131
Bar, Restaurant, Mexican, $$$
A Mexican restaurant with a dedication to the freshest possible ingredients, dishes cooked to order and staying true to recipes passed through the generations, it is no wonder Chapala is so popular with Waterloo locals. They create versions of all your favorite Mexican dishes, but it is their burritos grandes that really stand out; when they say ‘grandes’, they mean grandes! For big portions and a wide ranging menu featuring every Mexican dish you could desire, Chapala is perfect for a midweek meal.
Chapala, 900 La Porte Road,Waterloo, IA, USA, +1 319 287 8005
LJ's Bar and Grill
Bar, Pub Grub, American
LJ’s Bar and Grill
The best of Waterloo’s sports bars, LJ’s (short for its owners’ names, Lyle and Jan) is a family-run bar and grill with as much commitment to great food as it has to ensuring the best view of your favorite game, a rare combination for a sports bar. Offering a menu of American dishes perfect for either sit-down dining or bar snacking during the big game (including prime rib Friday and Saturdays), LJ’s Bar and Grill is a casual dining spot worth remembering.
LJ’s Bar and Grill, 3550 Kimball Avenue, Waterloo, IA, USA, +1 319 234 3680
Waterloo’s finest Chinese restaurant and a key part of the community, Panda House offers Chinese and a wide array of Asian cuisine in this family-run restaurant. The restaurant serves classic Chinese cooking, giving the place a familiar vibe, where portions are generous and the prices are reasonable. This place sets itself apart from other local Chinese restaurants by cooking everything fresh to order rather than serving buffet-style, it is the perfect place to satisfy your Chinese cravings.
Panda House, 1415 East San Marnan Drive, Waterloo, IA, USA, +1 319 232 6669
A contender for Waterloo’s best Mexican joint, El Patrón’s focus is on making tasty unpretentious food and they definitely succeed. From appetizers through to a dessert menu featuring a delicious take on deep fried ice cream, the menu is full of delights. The restaurant offers a great selection of deals throughout the week to ensure that bargain hunters everywhere get to experience their Mexican classics and mouthwatering margaritas. Definitely a venue at which to arrive hungry as the portions are famously generous.
El Patrón, 301 East 4th Street, Waterloo, IA, USA, +1 319 287 8110