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8 Reasons Why Iowa City Is the World’s Best Breakfast Destination

Is this heaven? Sure tastes like it.

By Tim Carty on September 25, 2019

Iowa City IA
Iowa City / Photo Courtesy of Tim Carty

From traditional greasy spoon diner fare to fancy, pinky-up delicacies, Iowa City is the best breakfast place in the world. Go ahead and @ me. Here are eight reasons why I’m right – and you need to come visit ASAP for a taste test:

1. The views.

You know Iowa City. It’s home to the University of Iowa‘s stunning urban campus, blending the buzz of downtown hustle with the grandeur of ornate college buildings. Iowa’s old State Capitol Building anchors the Pentacrest and as the sun sets behind it grab your camera. All of this, including alleys more beautiful than most cities’ main streets, sits just steps away from Iowa City’s crazy-good breakfast scene. Is it a nice day? Many of the beloved breakfast spots here have a patio, and really, what’s better than wearing a hoodie and drinking a hot cup of coffee in the fresh air while anticipating an early morning feast? Very little. That’s what.

2. You don’t have to wait until the weekend to get your breakfast fix.

I love Sunday brunch. Don’t get me wrong. Waiting until your stomach starts to eat itself and stuffing every piece of bacon you can find in your mouth until it hurts is awesome. But why do we force ourselves to wait until Sunday for this magical meal? Breakfast is the best. Ron Swanson says so, and he never even came to Iowa City (as far as I know). All of the breakfast places in Iowa City are open at least six days a week. So go ahead and indulge whenever the craving strikes. 
















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Get a cinnamon roll as big as your head at Bluebird Diner on a Tuesday. Start your Wednesday morning with Avocado Toast at The Dandy Lion (very millennial of you, but the pickled radishes and onions on this one take it over the top). On Thursday, go to Hamburg Inn No. 2, order the Presidential Breakfast – as the presidential candidates all do – and wash it down with a pie shake. Or maybe take it to go. Start the weekend right with a Krakatoa Omelette at Bluebird on Friday. It’s spicy and cheesy and perfect.

Brunch is great. Breakfast is better.

Iowa City IA
Iowa City / Photo Courtesy of Tim Carty

3. Come back for lunch. And come back for dinner. And come back again later. 

Just because breakfast is boss doesn’t mean you can’t post up at Iowa City’s best breakfast spots for all three meals. You can get breakfast all day (and into the night) in Iowa City. Trust me when I say there’s nothing better than going out for a few drinks and then hitting up Pullman Diner for a heaping plate of corned beef hash. It’s salty and greasy in the best possible post-night-of-drinking way, and with egg yolk mixed with the house corned beef your hangover will be cured before it even hits you.

Iowa City IA
Iowa City / Photo Courtesy of Tim Carty

4. IC is local AF.

You won’t find Perkins or IHOP here.

OK, actually, you will.

But with the number of downtown options within blocks of one another, you’ll never need to settle for a chain restaurant breakfast again. Here, the idea of “farm to table†is taken really seriously. The restaurants are locally owned and operated, proudly sourcing their ingredients from farms and producers in Iowa. Hogs outnumber people in Iowa 8 to 1, which isn’t really brag-worthy except when we’re talking breakfast meat. The Iowa football team even plays Minnesota for a bronze pig trophy. (Sorry, Minnesotans, we’re better at breakfast AND football.)
















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5. Nobody judges you for drinking in the morning.

First of all, Iowa City is a college town, so drinking here is acceptable any time of day. Secondly, how can you refuse a Green Bloody (cucumber, tomatillo, aloe, kale, parsley) at Goosetown Cafe or a Tipsy Pig (smoked bourbon, maple syrup, bacon, orange) at Pullman Diner? YOU CAN’T.

Iowa City IA
Iowa City / Photo Courtesy of Tim Carty

6. The options. Ohhh, the options.

I wouldn’t have chosen such an aggressive title for this article if Iowa City had one or two great breakfast restaurants. Iowa City boasts nearly a dozen early morning eateries. They’re all unique, and they’re all delightful.

Looking for something traditional? Try Bluebird Diner. Bluebird takes a fun twist on some favorites, so it’s not just your standard fare. Order the Huevos Epstienos to get your fill of their famous smoked pork green chili (pro tip: ask for a side of house-made sourdough toast).

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Maybe you’re in the mood for something spicy? Check out Billy’s High Hat Diner for Mexican and Cajun breakfast fare. You also can’t miss with their oatmeal pancakes. 

Really hungry? Head to The Dandy Lion for the lasagna-adjacent Lodger Special (another pro tip: start with French Toast for the table, and order Kaya – an coconutty, apple butter, almond butter mashup  – on the side).

Iowa City IA
Iowa City / Photo Courtesy of Tim Carty

7. Bomb breakfast bibimbap.

In a city filled with this much breakfast splendor, how can one decide which dish reigns supreme? Well, when one orders the Bibimbap at Goosetown Cafe, one understands. In this superbly crafted breakfast bowl, diners dive into braised pork, gochujang, green onion, kimchi, cucumber, carrot, pickled red onion, warm grains and a 7-min egg. It’s spicy but not too spicy, filling but not too filling, and as beautiful as it is delicious. Feeling a little too sophisticated? Order homemade pop tarts to wash it down. The chef chooses the filling everyday but they always taste like sweet nostalgia.

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8. You just feel good here.

Iowa City is a special place. It’s smart but not stuffy, fun but not crowded, hip but not pretentious. The bottom line is that it’s an easy place to live because it just feels good here. Not only will you find the best breakfast food in the galaxy, but the people are kind and want you to enjoy your time here. So, stop by next time you’re in the Midwest, have some breakfast, buy a book, and just soak in the good vibes.

Iowa City IA
Iowa City / Photo Courtesy of Tim Carty

Bonus: Oh, you’re in a hurry?

First of all, chill out. Iowa City is the absolute easiest place to live and the laid-back vibe here doesn’t lend itself to hurry and stress. But if you’re really short on time, grab a Bacon, Egg and Cheese on a locally baked ciabatta bun at NODO. It’s topped with garlic aioli that you didn’t even know you needed, but you totally do.

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Or, treat yourself to a slice of breakfast pizza at Casey’s. Casey’s is an Iowa- based gas station, but once you get past the idea of eating breakfast pizza from a gas station, your life will be better for it.

Is this heaven? Sure tastes like it.

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