Breitbach Tavern Balltown Iowa

The "new" Breitbach Country Tavern, Iowa's oldest Restaurant & Bar

Breitbach Country Tavern – Restaurant Review

Billing itself as “. . . Iowa’s oldest food & drinking establishment” Breitbach’s was originally built in 1852 and has been run by six generations of the family since 1862. Current owners Mike and Cindy Breitbach have several of their children on site working in the kitchen, waiting tables, washing dishes, or tending to the bar ensuring that in time there will be a seventh generation continuing the family tradition.

The dining area is spacious and comfortable with a few antique touches.

We first discovered Breitbach’s in 2006 while taking our first trip along Iowa’s Great River Road north of Dubuque. At that time the original structure, built in 1852, still existed. (See photos below). It was a neat old building filled with 150 years of antique furnishings and memorabilia collected over the years. Besides a step-back-in-time to a genuine old fashioned country tavern, the food itself was genuine home-cooking. In addition to the delicious Iowa Pork Chops, I recall the most extensive and flavorful salad bar I’d ever experienced.

Since that original visit we’ve returned several times. Unfortunately, in 2007 the original Breitbachs burned to the ground in a gas explosion and fire. Almost all the antiques and collections from several generations were destroyed. A new Breitbach’s now occupies the original foundation. The dining area is much larger and is finished in beautiful oak beams and trim with some nice touches of antiques here and there. But nothing could replace the charm of the old 1800s era building and its contents.

All you can eat Buffet draws people from long distances to tiny Balltown Iowa.

However what hasn’t changed is the Breitbach family is still there running the place. Great small town service and excellent home cooking featuring famous Iowa Beef and Pork. On our most recent visit in October 2017 we caught their fantastic all-you-can-eat Dinner Buffet. We had a choice of beer battered cod, beef tips, popcorn shrimp, and broasted chicken. All excellent tasting, hot and moist. Jo particularly loved the homemade noodles, reminding her of those her grandmother used to make. Mashed potatoes, gravy, and corn rounded out the main course. But then there’s the exceptional soup and salad bar completely homemade by Cindy Breitbach and her kitchen crew. Still the best and most varied salad bar I’ve ever had. So much delicious food and even though I stuffed myself I couldn’t sample everything. Well that leaves more for next time.

From the Balltown scenic overlook, looking towards the Mississippi River bluffs. Wisconsin in background at top of picture.

Next to dining at Breitbach’s Balltown’s most notable attraction is the scenic lookout over the Mississippi River valley. At 1185 feet in elevation it is the second highest point in Iowa. Our latest visit was mid-week so we missed the music and Octoberfest celebration in the beer garden behind the restaurant. We caught that one year and it was lots of fun. In October you can also catch some good color and scenic river overlooks along the Iowa River Road Scenic Byway from Balltown to Guttenberg.

Link: Breitbach Country Dining

Here’s some photos of the original Breitbach Country Tavern that stood on the same site for 150 years as the current more modern version.


Two months before the big Dec 24, 2007 fire. The current restaurant sits on the same site as the original.

The old dining room was very cozy and chock full of antiques and memorabilia everywhere!

My wife Jo loved this antique quilt hanging on the wall in the dining area off the bar.

The Beer Garden out back was the only structure that survived the fire.

Traveling the Great River Road Scenic Drive. We have several articles featuring travel along the Great River Road Scenic Byway(s) from Rock Island, Illinois to Red Wing, Wisconsin.