A Saturday in Decorah: Magpie and Mabe's on Water Street

We all need fuel for our adventures. For me, it's got to be a steady stream of good coffee and at least one good meal at a local restaurant. To get the full flavor of an area, I think you literally need to enjoy the flavor of the local fare.

Decorah is fortunate to have several outstanding restaurants, coffee houses, breweries, and taverns.

Magpie Coffeehouse

As we were enjoying downtown Decorah, my friend and I popped into Magpie Coffeehouse on Water Street. I found myself a good cup of coffee and a really fun and eclectic atmosphere. It's exactly the kind of place you would expect in a small liberal arts college town.

Near the front of the business, the floor is made of pennies and the name of the place is even written in pennies in the floor.

But that's not the end of the pennies. There's also a huge tree on the wall that is made out of pennies.

I like the hardwood floors, the exposed brick, and the decorative metal ceilings. It gives the place both an industrial look and a cozy feel.

They have an expansive menu of options - both food and drink. There's even a little kitchen area where employees were busy coming and going.

There was a healthy crowd of folks seated at tables - it's clearly a great place to meet friends, study, have a business meeting, or just read a good book.

There's some great decor on the walls, including a bulletin board full of community announcements and other requests.

Best of all, though, there was a sign near the front door that I certainly think has some merit.

Just in my own roaming, I spotted at least two other coffee houses in downtown Decorah. Is Magpie the most popular or did I miss something great by failing to stop in the other two? I always welcome local guidance.

Mabe's Pizza

Without a doubt, Mabe's is the most famous eatery in all of Decorah. It's an institution. It's even now got an additional location in Cresco, a town to the west of Decorah on Highway 9 in Howard County.

I've eaten at Mabe's a couple of times and it's always a treat. My friend had never been so it was an obvious choice to check out. Upon doing some research, it appears Decorah has many quite a few good local restaurants as well as some chains like Culvers out near the highway. Next time I stop in Decorah, which restaurant should I visit?

There's more to the menu than just pizza but then again...it's what has built the brand and made it a local icon since its founding in 1953.

My friend and I both ordered a pizza. There are several sizes available and they even have a nice diagram on the wall.

My friend ordered the Bacon Cheeseburger and I went with the original - the sausage and pepperoni. Instead of cutting the pieces in wedges, they are cut into smaller rectangles or triangles if they are on the edge.

These pizzas are delicious but not easy to finish so the place has plenty of boxes ready for take home.

There were several dining rooms full of patrons enjoying lunch.

I didn't go down but I presume there is still a party / event room downstairs. I would guess that about 10 years ago I went to an event in the basement and it was quite spacious.

There's some unique decor on the walls, including a tribute to Mabel White, the founder of the restaurant. Take a minute to read the history of how it got started - it's pretty great.

Coffee and pizza are staples of any college student's diet and I am confident that the students of Luther are well served by these two establishments.

As always, I welcome your suggestions of places to visit and profile whether in Winneshiek County or any of the other 98 counties in Iowa. If you have a good idea or would like to host the Iowa Adventurer, please drop me a note through this website.