7 Best Places to Eat When You Visit Mason City, Iowa

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7 Best Places to Eat When You Visit Mason City, Iowa

Mason City, located in Northern Iowa, is a fantastic place to tour the architecture, look at the artwork, and even spend a night in the Historic Park Inn, but did you know that they have some of the best restaurants, too?  It’s true.  If you’re looking for places to eat in Mason City, Iowa, I’ve done the work for you, and here are my top seven choices.  And I’m not alone; all these restaurants come with high recommendations from the locals!

Places to Eat in Mason City, Iowa – Best Lunch Food & Bloody Mary

The Blue Heron Bar & Grill

A Round Blue Sign with the words "The Blue Heron Bar & Grill" and a large blue heron

Everything about the Blue Heron Bar and Grill screams of downhome comfort food.  From the juicy burgers, loaded salads, and unique additional sides on the menu, you cannot leave this place hungry, and that’s a promise!

The Blue Heron Bar & Grill has been open since 2017, and it’s no surprise they survived Covid and are back with a bang!  But before we get to the great food they serve, we need to talk a little about the history of the Blue Heron.

The building has been standing for over 100 years, although owners Vickie Lau, the new owner, and her husband Mike took over more recently in 2017.  The building was formerly the home of a rather rough-and-rowdy bar.  Workers from the nearby plants would come to the old bar, cash their checks there, and then promptly spend them.  I can only imagine a Friday night in that joint.  I’m guessing Bloody Mary’s weren’t the only bloody things there.

But that lil bar got a new name and has turned a new leaf.  This quaint little spot has become a perfect place for a burger, a sandwich, or something deep-fried!  Yum!  We rolled in on a Tuesday in June and had a great experience!  The servers were delightful and prompt, and the food was served piping hot!

Deep Fried Goodness!

I got my first shot at having a deep-fried green pepper ring, and I was hooked!  My husband does not eat green peppers, red peppers, or any peppers, for that matter.  Green Peppers have no place in my house or my kitchen.   I loved indulging in this special treat because, unlike Dan, I love green peppers, and I can’t get enough of them since I no longer use them in my favorite recipes.

A pile of deep fried green peppers on a plate with a small cup of honey-mustard dip

They were made even better by adding a house-made honey-mustard dip.  I could’ve eaten the whole plate of these yummy rings.  Fortunately, I was sharing with friends, or I would have filled up on those and missed the joy of my Reuben Sandwich and side of deep-fried cheese balls.  Yep!  They do deep-fry perfectly here!  Every order is hand-cut from fresh ingredients and hand-battered!  Fresh out of the fryer, every bite was piping hot and packed with flavor.

Reuben sandwich and cheese balls at the Blue Heron Bar & Grill - one of the places to eat in Mason City Iowa

But don’t worry – if deep-fried isn’t your thing, choose a side of twisted taters, which are as unique as they are delightful.

The “I Wish I Was in Vegas” Bloody Mary

But now we need to talk about that drink!  Any talk of the Blue Heron Bar & Grill must divulge their most delightful “Wish I was in Vegas Bloody Mary,” which comes topped with a chicken wing, a deep-fried onion ring, a pickle, and a tenderloin slider, all topped with a giant green olive.  Dee-lish!  Of course, we had to try one out while there, and it was every bit as impressive as it sounds!

a bloody mary in a glass topped with various food items

You can find the Blue Heron at 1401 N Federal Ave in Mason City, IA, 50401.  Keep an eye on Blue Heron’s Facebook page to see their daily special! 

Places to Eat in Mason City, Iowa – Best Fine Dining & Hors D’Oeuvres, Two Choices in One

Historic Park Inn Restaurant Markley & Blythe

The entry of the Historic Park Inn showing the reservation desk for Markley and Blythe Restaurant
Pink background with "Hip Grandma Merch" available on front

If you’re looking for a smooth drink, a unique dish, or a few small plates to pass around, you can’t go wrong at the Markley & Blythe restaurant and the Draftsman Lounge.  Markley and Blythe is new on the scene, opened in the spring of 2022, and is located inside the Historic Park Inn.  The name pays tribute to the two attorneys, James Markley and James Blythe, who were instrumental in bringing famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright to the Mason City area to develop the original Park Inn Complex.  The restaurant is billed as a sophisticated American Tavern, and the menu is varied and homespun, paying homage to Iowa’s agriculture with a unique twist.

Located inside the Historic Park Inn, Markley and Blythe’s delicious menu begins with starter items such as Street Corn Scallops or Short Rib Ravioli.  Once you’ve whetted your taste buds with good hors d’oeuvres, be sure and follow through with an entrée.  The menu features items such as duck pot pie, local Iowa Pork Chops, or a Beef Wellington.  The sides are as tempting as the entrees.  Pair your dish with a side of parmesan truffle fries, broccolini, or whipped potatoes.

If you are looking for a dining experience, the Markley & Blythe is a premier dining experience right in downtown Mason City.  Don’t miss it.  But if you’re looking for the same excellent customer service in a more casual atmosphere, check out the Draftsman, at the exact location, just a few floors down.

The Draftsman

An image of the Draftsman on the lowest level of the historic park inn - showing deep blue comfy chairs and cool patterned carpet in Frank Lloyd Wright style

When I recently visited Mason City, I enjoyed a relaxed evening in the Draftsman, in the basement of the Historic Park Inn Hotel.  The atmosphere of the Draftsman is comfortable and swathed in rich navy blues and deep hues that soothe the soul.  A live singer regaled us with some classic favorites and unique tunes.  A couple played a game of pool in a nearby area while my group of women snacked on some hors d’oeuvres and sipped cocktails.

We sampled the Ravioli and the Cheese Curds, but my favorite was the charcuterie board.  I love everything charcuterie, and this one certainly did not disappoint!  Our chef had everything beautifully laid out, and it was lovely to look at and delicious!  The bartender rose to the occasion and made me a delightful drink in a Martini glass when I asked for my usual, “Something pink and sweet, not sour.”  Why do I order that way?  Easy!  Because I’ve never been disappointed in a pink drink, and I wasn’t disappointed here, either!

The author holding a glass of wine and smiling mischievously into the camera
a round table stuffed full of drinks and hors d'oeuvres
You can see we enjoyed a fine selection of drinks and hors d’oeuvres!

Both Markley & Blythe and the Draftsman are inside the Historic Park Inn at 15 W State St, Mason City, IA 50401

Places to Eat in Mason City, Iowa – Best Steak House

Northwestern Steakhouse

The menu for the Northwestern Steakhouse
The menus at the Northwestern Steakhouse are located under a piece of glass on the tables.

I am always looking for a great steak.  A Ribeye, to be precise.  That’s my favorite cut, and no matter how many other cuts I’ve tried, I always go back to the Ribeye.  I love the juiciness and the flavor the ribbons of fat marbled throughout give this steak.  A classic steakhouse is always a favorite of mine! 

So, of course, when I got the opportunity to eat at the Northwestern Steakhouse, I ordered the Ribeye!  But then the next question was what to choose for my side.  I have never seen a side of spaghetti offered with a steak.  Maybe I’m uncultured, but that was new for me.  And I love trying new things, so sign me up!  Bring on the spaghetti side!

My steak also came with a gorgeous hunk of bread and a side salad.  In another unique and maybe “uncultured” twist, I was surprised that my salad came with a dill pickle.  It must be a Greek salad thing, and I’m here for it!  I love a good pickle, so I ate that right up!

A green salad with an egg, a pickle, and a container of French dressing
a pile of bread chunks on a plate with small cups of butter

The Secret Recipe

When the steak arrived, it was huge!  And Delicious!  The spaghetti side was terrific, and much to my surprise, it was missing the red meat sauce I am accustomed to seeing.  Instead, it was mixed with a buttery olive oil goodness and topped with a crunchy topping that I’m sure had Parmesan Cheese in it.  When I asked the server about the recipe, she told me that every cook that works there signs a non-disclosure agreement so that their recipe stays in the Northwestern family.  I must say – that’s some dedication to a family recipe!  And this is one family who knows how to be dedicated.

The Northwestern Steakhouse has been operating since 1920 and specializes in “Greek-Style broiled steaks that melt in your mouth, all while using top quality Iowa Beef” according to their website

A giant Ribeye on a plate with buttery sauce surrounding it
a side plate of spaghetti in a buttery sauce

You can find the Northwestern Steakhouse at 304 16TH ST NW in Mason City, IA 50401, where it has been for over 100 years!  They are closed on Sundays.  If you have a larger group of people, make a reservation, as Northwestern fills up quickly!

Places to Eat in Mason City, Iowa – Best Mexican

Avion Azul

Mexican food, anyone?  Avion Azul is the place for you!  Located in the Mason City Municipal Airport, this clean and fun new restaurant offers the best in fresh Mexican fare.

Don’t forget to order a Margarita or a Fajita, and enjoy the sunset from the outdoor patio area.

A Flight of Margaritas at Avion Azul in Clear Lake Iowa
A plate of fajitas served at Avion Azul - one of the great places to eat in Mason City, Iowa
The sunset scene over the airfield from the patio at Avion Azul

Of course, dinner is not complete without dessert.  Avion Azul offers Flan, Fried Ice Cream, Churros con Cajeta, and Sopapillas.  I enjoyed the Churros on my recent visit, but next time I think I’ll enjoy a dessert evening with a drink and table full of all these treats to share!?  What could be better?  Talk about good self-care?  Dessert first (or only) may be the way to go!

Located inside the Mason City Municipal Airport at 9184 265th St Clear Lake, IA 50428.

Best Pizza

Pasta Bella

Pasta Bella doesn’t serve your everyday Italian, folks!  And if you want pizza, why go to the local Pizza Hut when you can experience pizza the way it’s meant to be eaten!?  Scoring four out of five stars on TripAdvisor, this restaurant is a people pleaser!

Menu items are varied, and Pasta Bella serves all kinds of classic Italian dishes along with their fantastic Pizza!  This Hip Grandma loves to indulge in a good pizza, and Pasta Bella is the place to get it in Mason City.  The staff is friendly and attentive, the atmosphere is excellent for families, and the pizza is delicious!

If you’re not up for pizza, don’t worry!  You can score a delicious steak or a pasts dish that will rock your socks off!

Located at 416 Indianhead Drive, Pasta Bella is a local favorite!  Please take note that they are closed on Mondays!

Places to Eat in Mason City, Iowa – Best Ice Cream Shop

Inside Music Man Square

A view of the ice cream counter in the Music Man Square

If you’re looking for a sweet treat in Mason City, and it’s your first time visiting, you probably won’t know about this little ice cream shop inside the Music Man Square.  The atmosphere in the Candy Kitchen is so quaint, with parlor tables and chairs and an old-fashioned checkerboard floor right out of the Music Man era.

Because the Candy Kitchen is located inside Music Man Square, you won’t be able to see it when you drive by.  Park and head right in.  You won’t need to pay for the museum if you’re stopping for ice cream, so let one of the kind people working at the entrance know that you’re there to treat yourself, and they’ll let you walk right on through!

When I visited, there were plenty of hard-scoop ice cream flavor choices, all made by Ashby’s Sterling Ice Cream.  I, of course, chose Amaretto Cherry.  Anything with cherries and chocolate chunks is good by me!  The amaretto flavor put this one OVER the top!

The final feature that makes this location perfect is that you can sit back, relax and soak in the bug-free and air-conditioned outdoor seating at one of the little tables right outside the shop while you enjoy your smooth ice cream treat!  But don’t do like I did and forget to take a picture BEFORE indulging.  Oh well.  Now I have a reason to go back!

The red striped awning over the outside of the ice cream shop at the Music Man Square
The author holds an empty bowl of ice cream

Find the Candy Kitchen at 308 S Pennsylvania Ave, Mason City, Iowa 50401

Wrapping It All Up

No doubt, Mason City Restaurants are not lacking in delicious food and great service.  If you want great food for your next special occasion or if you’re just rolling through town, plan your meal at one of these places.  But these aren’t the only places that have the best food in Mason City.

Some other local favorites in the area that serve good food include Pete’s Kitchen, The Quarry Restaurant, Las Palmas Mexican Restaurant, and Boulder Tap House.  I have my list all ready for my next visit!  Where have you eaten in Mason City?  I would love to hear in the comments!

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