Arkansas’ Delta Byways region is home to outstanding Southern flavors, from catfish to tamales to award-winning barbecue. Plus, the state’s fertile farmlands are home to soybeans, rice and more. Here’s a quick look at some of the best tastes to seek out in your trip through the Natural State.
Barbecue. You might not expect to find a James Beard award-winning restaurant in the Arkansas Delta, but a visit to Jones’ Bar-B-Q Diner in Marianna will show you what the fuss is all about. The Jones family has been serving locals—and since their Beard Award win, people from all over the world—for more than 100 years. Stop by this nondescript diner for some great food and a true taste of the South.
Tamales. Like its neighbor Mississippi to the east, Arkansas celebrates the mixing of many cultures in its cuisine. Take the tamale, which can be found at restaurants big and small throughout the Delta. A blink-and-you’ll-miss it spot to check out in Lake Village is Rhoda’s Famous Hot Tamales, which is famous for its coffee can-packed tamales (a dozen in each that you can take home).
Delta Cultural Center. Learn about the history and heritage of the Arkansas Delta at this unique museum in Helena. Explore exhibits that examine the history of the area, starting with early settlements on rich croplands. Speaking of food, the Delta Cultural Center has been the home of the King Biscuit Radio Show—the longest-running daily blues radio show in the United States—since 1990. Stop by from 12:15 to 12:45pm Monday through Friday to listen to “Sunshine” Sonny Payne broadcast live.
Lake Chicot State Park. Want to catch your own meal? Lake Chicot is an angling haven, whether you’re going after catfish or crappie and bass.
(Photos courtesy of Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism)
Kentucky and its neighboring Southern states often get lumped together in the food category. Southern cuisine, however, is a blanket term that covers a diversely wide range of dishes that are nuanced in flavor, preparation and history. The Kentucky food scene is proof that Southern cooking is not only delicious, but downright unexpected, with something new around every corner. Here’s a look at some of the culinary specialties you can find along the Kentucky Great River Road.
You can’t go to the Bluegrass State without digging into some famous Kentucky barbecue. From beef brisket to dry-rubbed ribs to the more unique mutton barbecue you’ll find along the Ohio River in north-central Kentucky, there’s something for every barbecue-loving palate. When you’re traveling along the Kentucky Great River Road, don’t miss Kentucky Hillbilly BBQ in Wickliffe and Bardwell.
Burgoo is a Kentucky specialty. The dish is a hodgepodge of various meats, vegetables and spices, but it’s mostly a fun opportunity for ambitious chefs to put their skills to the test. Here’s a look at a few burgoo recipes you can try on your own.
A trip to Kentucky is incomplete without sampling some delicious bourbon. While most of the distilleries are concentrated in the center of the state, you can find products from Kentucky makers big and small (like those distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and the Kentucky Craft Bourbon Trail) throughout the state, including along the Great River Road.
But Kentucky’s expertise in spirits extends beyond bourbon. To get a better taste, check out The Moonshine Company in Paducah, just a short drive off the Kentucky Great River Road. This distillery is operated by the descendants of Uncle Mosey, whose white whiskey moonshine recipe was one of Al Capone’s favorites during the Prohibition Era.
This famous sandwich, invented at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, is a classic Kentucky dish that can be found throughout the state. An open-faced sandwich that consists of turkey, bacon, tomatoes and a generous helping of cheese, the Hot Brown should be on your must-eat list in Kentucky. Read more about the origin of this sandwich and find a recipe from its namesake hotel here.
There’s no shortage of scrumptious sides to complete your plate in Kentucky. With recipes like Silver Queen sweet corn and Kentucky Wonder green beans, you’ll want a second helping of vegetables. Don’t forget to order a bowl of white beans and corn bread. If you want to try something truly unique to Kentucky, ask for beaten biscuits. Making these rolls requires antique cookware and tedious mixing methods, but the result is unforgettable.
Kentucky is home to culinary experimentation, practice and perfection. From its barbeque to its burgoo and, of course, its bourbon, the Bluegrass State has plenty to offer to the foodie in every traveler.
You might associate Iowa with corn fields and cows, and the state sure does have a lot of those. But there’s a lot more to Iowa, including countless local flavors that extend far beyond the realms of corn and dairy. We put together a list of stops along the Mississippi that show just how diverse and delicious the flavors of Iowa are.
Schera’s offers an array of Mediterranean favorites and Iowan classics. The Mediterranean dishes pay homage to the town’s namesake, Algerian leader Emir Adb El Kader. At Schera’s you can get your falafel with a side of fried pickles. Now that’s the best of both worlds.
The upbeat yet cozy atmosphere of The Wild Carrot makes it the perfect place to stop for breakfast or lunch. The menu features American favorites including burgers, cheesesteaks and the dish that made the restaurant famous, carrot cake.
Who says Iowans can’t do spicy? If you can’t wait to get down South, Flatted Fifth has you covered. This unique spot offers Southern-inspired dishes like jambalaya, pulled pork and gumbo to keep you on the edge of your seat while you tap your foot to live music.
Things to do:
Osborne Welcome Center (Elkader)
The Osborne Welcome Center is the perfect place to stretch your legs after a trip in the car. Peruse the Native Wildlife Exhibit and learn about Iowa’s many species of plants and animals. Then, take a walk down one of the scenic nature trails for a breath of fresh air before stopping in the gift shop for a souvenir to remember your adventure. Osborne Park is located 5 miles south of Elkader on Highway 13.
Froelich 1890s Village Museum (McGregor)
Step back in time with a tour through this historic gem. See turn-of-the-century inventions, a country store and an old schoolhouse as they were over a century ago. Tours available daily (except Tuesdays and Wednesdays). Find hours and ticket information here.
Places to eat:
Atlas Steak & Smokehouse (Fort Madison)
Atlas Steak & Smokehouse wrote the book on farm-to-table dining. This steakhouse sources its beef from a farm just six miles from its front door. It doesn’t get fresher than that! Located across the street from Riverview Park and Old Fort Madison, Atlas is the perfect place to wine and dine before a sunset walk along the Mississippi.
Wide River Winery (Clinton)
Enjoy live music on the water’s edge. Take in the scenery as you experience wine made on the Mississippi. Check out their website to get info on events and offers. You won’t want to miss their seasonal specials. While you’re there, get a behind-the-scenes look at the facility and learn the art of wine-making.
Rastrelli’s Italian Restaurant (Clinton)
This Italian bistro is a favorite of locals and tourists alike. In fact, people love it so much that Rastrelli’s offers overnight delivery of its pizzas anywhere in the United States. That means you can relive your trip with a taste of one of Iowa’s best Italian restaurants long after your vacation ends. View menu options and learn more about Rastrelli’s on their website.
Things to do:
Blue Hyll Dairy (Clinton)
This dairy farm is home to 1,200 cows and goes through 75 tons of feed every day to keep the animals fed and happy. The family-owned facility has been providing dairy products to restaurants and grocers all over the area for over 50 years, and they are proud to welcome visitors. Check their Facebook page for hours and plan your visit to see the farm in action.
The Sawmill Museum (Clinton)
This one-of-a-kind interpretive center pays tribute to the United States’ lumber industry and emphasizes the pivotal role Clinton played in developing the Midwest. The museum features vintage sawmill equipment and, in July, will open a virtual reality lograft simulator for visitors to experience the Mississippi the way loggers did in the 1800s. Visit their website for hours and ticket information.
Savor the flavors of the South when you explore the Great River Road through Tennessee. From barbecue to bananas—yes, bananas—and everything in between, there’s plenty to whet your appetite.
When it comes to cuisine along Tennessee’s Great River Road, the undisputed king has got to be Memphis. (All apologies to Memphis’ other king, Mr. Presley.) Memphis is a city that boasts history, culture and personality in a bundle that can’t be beat. It has everything to offer from stellar live music venues to can’t-miss historical spots. Among these one-of-a-kind traits are the flavors of Memphis—especially barbecue. Locals have been perfecting their craft for centuries here, making a science out of sweet-and-spicy combos that you can now find in a variety of Memphis-born dishes.
If you’re looking for a twist on some classic barbecue, head over to Central BBQ for their signature BBQ nachos. That’s right—these chips are loaded with your choice of chicken, beef or turkey and topped with barbecue sauce, assorted cheeses, jalapenos and a dusting of BBQ Shake. This favorite has been featured on several foodie blogs and has the local seal of approval.
A critic’s favorite is the dry-rub ribs at Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous, a diner located across the street from the famous Peabody Hotel. The cooks here have perfected the Memphis tradition of using dry rub instead of barbecue sauce for ribs you’ve only tasted in your dreams.
A food tour through Tennessee wouldn’t be complete without experiencing the sweeter side of the menu. You might be familiar with Elvis Presley’s favorite lunch, a peanut butter and banana sandwich. But did you know that Tennessee actually has a connection to the banana industry? The Kentucky-Tennessee border cities of Fulton and South Fulton were once home to the only facility for distributing bananas to the northern states, so it became known as “The Banana Capital of the World.” Locals are so proud of their role in bringing bananas to the United States that they still celebrate the Annual Banana Festival every September.
If you’re looking to catch a few flavors of your own, head westward from South Fulton to Reelfoot Lake. It’s home to Reelfoot Lake State Park, a nationally renowned fishing destination for anglers going after crappie and bluegill. Plus, Reelfoot Lake—the only natural lake in Tennessee—welcomes visitors at lodging properties like Blue Bank Resort, which offers delicious cuisine at its Fishhouse Restaurant.
Between barbeque and biscuits, sweet teas and sugary treats, Tennnessee is the perfect place for a food tour you won’t forget. Add these stops to your trip and your taste buds will thank you all the way home.
Celebrate the flavors of the Minnesota Great River Road’s Mississippi River on your next road trip—wild rice and walleye straight from the river are among just a few classic Minnesota flavors. Bonus: you can fish for the state’s treasured walleye in many locations and experience the beautiful Minnesota outdoors at the same time. Choose one of the days below or choose them all… Just leave a “gone fishin’” note and hit the road!
Before you go: Place your order for Native American-harvested wild riceonline from the White Earth Nation and gather inspiration from the recipes. For community information by region, including local tourism guides to help you find delicious local restaurants where someone else will cook the wild rice and walleye for you, visit the Minnesota Great River Road online. For farmers’ markets and more local flavors along the way, look to Minnesota Grown to guide you. And, the Minnesota DNR has a great online list of outfitters and boat rentals to help you plan before you leave home.
Day 1: Begin the day at the Mississippi River headwaters in Itasca State Park, get your fishing license at the Jacob Brower Visitor Center, and pick up a copy of the state’s fishing regulations or check them online. Then, launch your own boat or rent kayaks and canoes right at the park. Sleep under the stars in the park’s campgrounds or enjoy the rustic historic architecture of Douglas Lodge.
Day 2: Follow the Great River Road to beautiful Lake Bemidji State Park, where you can continue to try for walleye from the shore or your boat, then camp at the park or find many lodging opportunities in nearby Bemidji or at surrounding river and lake resorts. Don’t forget to try a local restaurant! Find public water access maps and safety tips here.
Day 3: Fish for walleye in lakes the Mississippi River runs through as it journeys east, including Andrusia, Cass, Winnibigoshish, Ball Club and Pokegama. Restock your wild rice supply at the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Main Office at 15756 State Hwy 371 NW in Cass Lake or online, where you can also find recipes and history. For members of many Native American cultures, wild rice is not just a crop; it’s a sacred component of their culture.
Day 4: Museum Day in Little Falls! Start at the Minnesota Fishing Museum, featuring over 10,000 artifacts related to Minnesota fishing. Grab some lunch downtown and head over to Charles Lindbergh State Park and State Historic Site to soak in the beautiful setting and rich history.
Day 5: Below the St. Cloud dam, choose from over a dozen boat landings and fishing piers on the Mississippi between here and the Twin Cities to try your luck at fishing for walleye, or learn why this area is home to some of the best smallmouth bass fishing in the state.
Day 6: Experienced paddlers can go low on the water to try their hand at fishing walleye in the Twin Cities stretch of the Mississippi River by renting a kayak at Mississippi River Paddle Share, which provides access to the river within the Twin Cities’ very own national park, the Mississippi National River & Recreation Area. Fishing piers, boat landings and marinas also offer river access throughout this stretch.
Day 7: From Hastings to the Iowa border, this section of Mississippi River offers three riverfront state parks and multiple DNR and local boat landings and marinas. The Mississippi Bluffs region is also home to the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, an angler’s paradise. Charming river towns along the way will tempt you to extend your exploration of the Great River Road’s flavors by offering great restaurants, farmers markets and more!
Discover more to see and do along the Minnesota Great River Road here.
Discover the flavors of the Dairy State—and beer, too
More than 250 miles of the Great River Road traverse Wisconsin, traveling through lush farmlands and beautiful Mississippi River scenery. Take some time to explore the delicious flavors of the Dairy State.
When we say Wisconsin’s the Dairy State, we’re not kidding. No matter where you travel on the Wisconsin Great River Road (aka state Highway 35), you’ll find tasty treats, from farm-fresh milk to squeaky, delightful cheese curds (or fried ones you’ll find at most any bar or restaurant). A popular stop on the Great River Road is the historic Nelson Cheese Factory, where you can stock up on gouda, cheddar and parmesan or grab a seat outside and enjoy an ice cream cone.
June is alsoDairy Month in Wisconsin, and the state goes all out, hosting farm breakfasts and other events throughout Wisconsin. Visit the Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin to find great recipes, videos and more.
It’s not just cows in Wisconsin—farming is the lifeblood of Wisconsin, and you’ll discover tons of other farm-fresh foods at farmers’ markets, festivals and other agritourism attractions in the charming communities along the Great River Road.
Sitting on the banks of the Mississippi River means good fishing too, and in addition to fresh catches at local restaurants, several communities along the river celebrate this bounty—visit Trempealeau for its annual Catfish Days celebration in July or snap a selfie with the larger-than-life Sunny the Sunfish statue in Onalaska, “the sunfish capital of the world.”
Want to learn a little bit about the state’s agricultural history? Pay a visit to Stonefield State Historic Site in Cassville, where you’ll encounter historic farm implements and discover what it took to make Wisconsin the farming capital it is today.
Let’s not forget perhaps Wisconsin’s most important contribution to the country’s palate—beer. Travelers along the Great River Road will find plenty of ales, lagers and stouts to sample, whether you
And beer lovers shouldn’t miss the Potosi Brewing Company in the southwestern corner of the state. Potosi Brewing was founded in 1852 and was once the fifth-largest brewery in the state before eventually closing in 1972. Thanks to strong community support, the brewery reopened in 2008, and the site is also home to a restaurant as well as the National Brewery Museum and the Potosi Brewing Company Transportation Museum. Stop in for a pint—all proceeds go to charity!
The rich soil and rolling hills of the Mississippi River Valley produces some outstanding heartland wines. The Great River Road is a route that will take you through the beauty of this country, which stretches from Minnesota to Arkansas. It’s an ideal route for wine lovers—you can visit several great wineries in a single day and fine restaurants and accommodations are plentiful. All you need to complete the trip is a taste for new discoveries, a love of wine and a little space in your trunk for the cases that are simply too good not to bring home. Harvest time is fast approaching and the vines are growing heavy along the route—some wineries will be harvesting grapes in August. It’s a beautiful time visit the vineyard. Plan your trip today!
Below is a sample of the wineries you’ll find on the Great River Road. To see more winery details—and other fun agritourism spots—go here.
This summer, experience the Great River Road one bite and one sip at a time. The Mississippi River Valley is not only a rich land that helps feed the world; it provides fresh and delicious offerings to travelers on the route. The Great River Road will lead you to straight to this bounty. Discover why some of the most delicious food on earth is grown along the Mississippi.
Here are some fresh ideas for your trip:
Pick your own
One for the mouth, one for the basket? It can be tempting to eat a few when you’re enjoying a little time on a pick-your-own farm. Grab a pail or a basket and reap the season’s rewards. The Great River Road passes dozens of berry patches and orchards.
Head to market
There’s a bounty to be found this season in the fields, parks and parking lots along the Great River Road. Local vendors offer farm-fresh fruits and vegetables as well as locally made crafts and baked goods. See where to find markets here.
Pop a cork
Generations of wine growers have capitalized on the fertile soil and steep hillsides of the Mississippi River Valley. Toast their success at one of the wineries along the Great River Road. Take in beautiful views of the vineyards, do a tour and tasting and pick up a special vintage to remember the day. Find wineries here.
The northern stretch of the route passes dairy country and there are some award-winning cheeses made right along the route. Plan ahead and bring a cooler along; you will taste some amazing cheese that might have to come home with you!
Pick an apple
Climb a ladder, or just go for the low-hanging fruit. Either way, apple, cherry and peach orchards offer plenty of delicious reasons to go picking this season. Fruit never tastes better than when it is fresh off the branch. Keep an eye out for heirloom varieties that you’ll never find in a supermarket. See a list of orchards here.
While journeying down the Great River Road, you’ll pass through ten different states, each with its own unique dining culture. Here are some restaurants located just off the GRR that you should definitely check out.
Minneapolis, MN: The Bachelor Farmer
Located in a newly restored building built in 1881, The Bachelor Farmer captures the historic yet modern feel of the downtown Twin Cities. You’re guaranteed the freshest Nordic-style food, thanks to their use of local ingredients, including produce from their rooftop garden.
La Crosse, WI: The Waterfront Restaurant and Tavern
Dine on Waterfront Restaurant‘s contemporary versions of American classics, relax in the cushy lounge and enjoy the smooth sounds from the piano bar. And as the name hints, patrons can appreciate panoramic views of the Mississippi River, as the restaurant is situated along the waterfront.
Dubuque, IA: L. May Eatery L. May Eatery takes pride in its use of local ingredients, serving a rotating seasonal menu of “gourmet comfort food.” Whether you’re craving a sophisticated pizza, delectable seafood or a refreshing cocktail, L. May guarantees delicious cuisine.
Quincy, IL: Tiramisu’
Order the unique homemade pasta when you visit Tiramisu’. This Italian restaurant also offers a fine selection of wine, pizzas and more. A great place to unwind.
St. Louis, MO: Bogart’s Smokehouse
Strap on your bib for a BBQ excursion at Bogart’s Smokehouse. You’ll need an appetite for this one, as the smokehouse serves up mouthwatering meats like pulled pork, smoky brisket, apricot bruleed ribs, pastrami and prime rib.
Memphis, TN: Restaurant Iris
Specializing in French-Creole cuisine, Restaurant Iris has been named Memphis’ “Best Restaurant” for the past four years by a number of qualified reviews. Its charming atmosphere can be attributed to its presence inside a restored old home near the historic Overton Square.
New Orleans, LA: Commander’s Palace
Last stop on this culinary food tour of the Mississippi… New Orleans! Commander’s Palace is the perfect place to experience New Orleans culture. Serving award-winning Creole dishes since 1880, the restaurant holds vibrant history, and vast experience has driven their success throughout the years.
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