Where To Visit The Best Dining Destinations In The Midwest

Just because the Midwest is known for things like cheese, hotdish, and beer doesn't mean we don't have other culinary experiences to share. Many exciting dining opportunities around the Midwest offer everything from traditional American eats to international cuisine. Here, we'll share an incredible dining experience in each Midwestern state.

Not all are fine-dining experiences; in fact, some are very casual with a come-as-you-are atmosphere. This is a perfect combination for a place like the Midwest. America's Heartland is all about the clashing of identities in a way few other parts of the country can understand. In a lot of ways, this curation of restaurants is an ideal spectrum of the melting pot of the Midwest.

This is far from an all-encompassing list. Instead, we focus on a single, incredible dining destination in each of the dozen Midwestern states. At each of these locations, you will encounter some of the best cuisine, experiences, and culture — perhaps unlike anything you've ever had before.

Alinea - Chicago, Illinois

Arguably the most famous restaurant in Chicago, Alinea is one of only 14 restaurants in the country that have achieved a three-star Michelin rating and the only one in the Midwest. Time and time again, it has been named one of the best restaurants in the world. If you're a fan of "The Bear," you may see a lot of similarities between Alinea and the unnamed three-star restaurant in the episode "Forks" — although that was actually filmed in the two-star Ever in Fulton Market in Chicago.

At Alinea, Chef Grant Achatz has created three separate dining experiences for his guests: the Kitchen Table, The Salon, and The Gallery. Fittingly, the Kitchen Table offers diners a unique perspective of the kitchen from the comfort of their table. The Salon is an artist-inspired aesthetic dining room, while The Gallery is more of a contemporary foyer experience.

All three provide guests with incredible prix-fixe menus. Of the three rooms, The Salon is the cheapest starting at $315 per person (depending on the size of your party), followed by The Gallery at $425 per person, and the Kitchen Table at $495 per person.

Brazen Open Kitchen Bar - Dubuque, Iowa

While Alinea is a fine-dining experience, Brazen is a casual, very Midwestern affair. Think of this spot as a modern-day supper club experience, with a little more light than the dusky supper clubs of yore. Complete with creative cocktails, craft beers, and an innovative menu, Brazen delights diners from all over. Headed by Chef Kevin Scharpf, Brazen's menus combine progressive recipes with an approachable nature befitting its place in the Midwest.

The menus change with the seasons, taking advantage of nearby farms to get the freshest ingredients. Chef Scharpf was named a semifinalist for Best Chef: Midwest in the 2022 James Beard Foundation Awards. While his star is still on the rise, Brazen has already entered the national scene.

Should you feel so compelled, Brazen Reserve is a 12-seat chef's table experience where guests can have a personalized meal from the Brazen team. These experiences are tailored to the groups attending and showcase just how much creativity takes place in the kitchens.

DISH Restaurant - Lincoln, Nebraska

Driven by sustainability and community, DISH is run by Executive Chef Rachel McGill. McGill was a semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation's Best Chef: Midwest Award and is always updating the menu here. While this is an upscale eatery, DISH is unique in its dedication to making food responsibly, working hard to utilize local farms, and remaining seasonally focused.

What you'll find online are sample menus demonstrating the kinds of dishes you can expect at DISH, though you should go in with an open mind. It's likely you'll no longer be served melon gazpacho or oyster mushrooms with grits and spring onion. You can be sure that every trip to DISH will bring a new, well, dish to the table.

Housed in the center of Lincoln, Nebraska, you're also surrounded by everything the city offers. It may be corny to say (get it!?), but DISH will have you feeling grateful for being smack dab in the middle of agriculture heaven.

Fox and Pearl - Kansas City, Missouri

Fox and Pearl opened in the flux of the pandemic, and it quickly earned itself a spot in Esquire's 2020 Best New Restaurants in America list and was a 2020 semifinalist for Best Chef: Midwest in the James Beard Foundation Awards. Chef Vaughn Good brings the historic West Side of Kansas City to life in billowing smoke via his smoker and live fire hearth, breathing new flavor into everything that comes through the kitchen.

The views at Fox and Pearl are phenomenal. Initially built in 1907 as a Swedish lodge hall, the building housing Fox and Pearl is a piece of history in and of itself. Although the space has been drastically changed in its journey to become Fox and Pearl, there are hints everywhere of the building's century-long life.

Beyond serving up delectable comforts like smoked ribeye, fried green tomatoes, and confit potatoes, F&P also tends a garden — acting as both an eatery and a farm. While they don't grow all of the produce needed in the kitchen, F&P's community garden brings many greens and vibrant veggies into the restaurant while donating the rest to the hungry in the community.

Grand Central Hotel & Grill - Cottonwood Falls, Kansas

Set in a historic hotel in Cottonwood Falls, the Grand Central Hotel and Grill may seem out of place on this list. Yet, we can say definitively that the Grand Central restaurant serves some of the best steak you'll ever eat in an incredibly unique locale. The Kansas Sampler Foundation even named the restaurant one of the Eight Wonders of Kansas Cuisine.

Since it first opened in 1884, this hotel has had a lot of different names. Over the years, it morphed from the Grand Central Hotel to The American to The Cottonwood Falls Hotel, before finally coming back to its roots in 1995 as The Grand Central Hotel and Grill. Even if you don't stay here, you must try the Sterling beef steaks on the menu. You won't be disappointed.

Most of the restaurants on this list would need reservations, though we especially recommend them for a date at the Grand Central. Although the steaks are to die for, the dining room is fairly petite. If you don't make reservations, you might miss out.

L'Etoile - Madison, Wisconsin

Right off of the historic Capital Square, L'Etoile is a favorite among Madisonians looking for a fine-dining night on the town. This farm-to-table restaurant features a French-inspired American menu and cocktails to die for. Chef Tory Miller is a well-known restauranteur around Madison, also owning Graze and the now-defunct Sujeo. He won the Best Chef: Midwest Award from the James Beard Foundation in 2012 and has been demonstrating his prowess ever since.

Time and time again, L'Etoile receives accolades from all over — from being named one of the top 50 restaurants in the country by Gourmet Magazine in 2006 to Miller being a semifinalist in the James Beard Foundation's Outstanding Chef category in 2019. It was even named the Best Sustainable Restaurant: Midwest by Santé Magazine in 2007.

In that vein of sustainability, L'Etoile's farm-to-table menu is built upon seasonality. So these tasting menus are frequently changing, depending on what they have on hand from local sources. Because of this, every venture to L'Etoile is a new one. All you have to do is follow the "l'etoile" (French for "star"), and you'll discover culinary wonder.

Livery - Indianapolis, Indiana

An incredible taste of Latin American cuisine in the heart of the Midwest, Livery offers diners an unparalleled experience with iconic food. Its name is inspired by the building its housed in, an old 1890's horse stable. Livery is a cozy piece of heaven in the bustle of Indianapolis. Complete with a rooftop seating area, this restaurant is a top show pony for sure.

You can even book private dining events here with a prix fixe menu or small bites. It's a gorgeous way to celebrate any occasion in style, but with that all-important hint of savory comfort.

Munch away on some street corn ("elote"), a scrumptious potato tart, or eat as many chorizo empanadas as possible. Only open for dinner, you have to wait a bit to eat here no matter what day it is. Even so, it's well worth the wait. What could be a better way to end the day than to dine on delicious Latin-inspired dishes under a sea of stars?

Mabel Gray - Hazel Park, Michigan

You can't have more of a one-of-a-kind experience than Mabel Gray. With handwritten menus that are never set for long, Chef James Rigato is constantly updating them thanks to seasonality and his chain of local farmers and suppliers. Everything served at Mabel Gray is handmade. Chef Rigato was even a contestant on "Top Chef" season 12.

In 2015, Chef Rigato was named The People's Best New Chef: Great Lakes in an online contest by Food & Wine, and Mabel Gray earned the Restaurant of the Year Award from The Detroit Free Press in 2017. In. 2013, Chef Rigato earned the title of Best Chef by Hour Detroit and was featured on "America's Best Bites" on the Cooking Channel.

As the tasting menu changes day by day, it can be hard to know exactly what you'll be getting during your visit to Mabel Gray. Some sample items from past menus have included black truffle flatbread, summer tomato salad, and spicy Manila clams.

Pirogue Grille - Bismarck, North Dakota

Though its name might lead you to think the contrary, Pirogue Grille serves up seasonal American fare, including bison, which is on the menu every night. You'll feel right at home in the cozy, brick-walled space. Pirogue was opened in 2005 by Chef Stuart Tracy and his wife Cheryl Tracy.

The name of the restaurant is derived from the kinds of canoes that Lewis and Clark used during their expeditions Westward — a long, narrow canoe often made from a single tree trunk.

Some of the incredible foods you may find at Pirogue when you visit could include parmigiano reggiano-crusted walleye with red pepper vinaigrette, grilled Berkshire pork chop with rhubarb mustard, and peach & white chocolate cheesecake to top it all off. Even if Bismarck hasn't been on your list of places to visit, it may well be worth the trip just to try some of the delights made by Chef Tracy's team at Pirogue.

Snitches - Deadwood, South Dakota

Housed in the Tin Lizzie Gaming Resort, the glitzy Snitches restaurant will make you feel like you've been transported back to the days of Jay Gatsby. Enrobed in Art Deco aesthetics, you can enjoy a classic surf and turf-inspired menu here. Run by Chef Tucker Walton, Snitches opened in 2020 for fine dining surrounded by golden finery.

We can ascertain that the restaurant's name, Snitches, is inspired by the mobster era of the 1920s and the wild west history of the surrounding town of Deadwood. After all, the infamous Deadwood is known for its less-than-glimmering history during the Gold Rush, including the likes of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane.

Open most nights for dinner, Snitches has the typical steakhouse offerings, with smatterings of other entrees like soy ginger marinated tofu and the most tempting staple of dry-aged wagyu tomahawk ribeye. Just don't forget dessert!

Spoon and Stable - Minneapolis, Minnesota

Ensconced in a former horse stable that dates back to 1906, Spoon and Stable embraces the city's history. Here, you will find a French-inspired menu that, in conjunction with the historic space, will show the Parisian side of Minneapolis. You'll find Spoon and Stable in the North Loop neighborhood of the city.

Chef Gavin Kaysen won the James Beard Foundation's Rising Star Award in 2008 and Best New Chef: Midwest Awards in 2018. He also owns several other restaurants in the city including: Bellecour Bakery, Demi, Socca, and Mara.

Like many of the other restaurants on this list, the eats at Spoon and Stable change periodically with the seasons. That said, some of the delectable delights that have been offered in the past include bison tartare, gigli pasta, Spanish mackerel, and, of course, ratatouille. So if you feel like getting your "Ratatouille" on, sans Remy and Emile, you know where to go.

The Barn at Rocky Fork Creek - Gahanna, Ohio

Country chic meets fine-dining steakhouse here at The Barn — where you eat in a barn. While some of us might shudder at the memory of our parents saying our room is a pigsty, there's nothing messy about this charming eatery. Bourbon aficionados will appreciate this place in particular, since the taste of the tangy brown liquor heavily influences the bar. In fact, The Barn even has a bourbon lounge.

Opened in 2014, The Barn quickly became a favorite among locals and visitors alike. Diners come here to savor the full-flavored Midwestern beef in conjunction with fresh fish flown in every single day from the coasts. This farm-inspired restaurant is open for dinner daily with a special, added brunch on Sunday mornings.

Find out for yourself what makes this place so special — other than its unique aesthetic. Sink your teeth into some brie-topped filet mignon or Faroe Island salmon. But remember that The Barn also specializes in their made-from-scratch desserts. So even if you can't stomach something sweet after dinner, at least grab some cherry cobbler or frozen mudd pie to go.