I'm a big fan of Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives and when I found out that Decatur City (in Decatur County) was home to "The Dinky Diner", I knew this had to become part of an adventurous swing through southern Iowa.
After a full day of traveling from Polk through Warren, Madison, Union, Clarke, and Decatur Counties, I had worked up a bit of an appetite. I had stopped at the Iowa Welcome Center on the outskirts of Lamoni and the clerk working there strongly endorsed the Dinky Diner, about 10 miles up the road as you are heading back north from Lamoni.
I've made plenty of trips between Des Moines and Kansas City over the years and yet, I've never pulled off at Exit 12 to see what Decatur City was all about. Decatur City is less than a mile off of the Interstate and has a population of about 200 people. It's certainly not a large city, but they are sure proud of their Dinky Diner.
It may be a small building, but it's pretty easy to spot. It's a relatively simple building with red paint and large windows. There is a fair amount of parking - certainly enough to accommodate the amount of people that can be served at a time.
Inside, it's got that feel of a roadside diner with some booths, the traditional diner counter stools, checked flooring, and lots of license plates on the walls. There are some vinyl records and old movie posters, too.
No doubt, this place has served a lot of meals to locals as well as to hungry passerbys from nearly all of the states represented by plates on the walls.
There is not a lot of space to prepare the meals, but that's to be expected when you have a small building to begin with. They two-person team working that night provided great service and the food was prepared very promptly.
It wouldn't be an eatery in rural Iowa without a community bulletin board with announcements, sales, and other need to know information. There also was some notices on the refrigerator, including a tribute to a past owner operator.
Now to the food.
Let's just say that it might be a dinky building but the portions were anything but! I found it to be very generous in size and for a very reasonable price. They had a full menu and they serve breakfast all day long. They also had specials advertised on a white board.
The very friendly server let me know that they are most known for their enormous breaded pork tenderloins but that they also have some popular burgers as well as hot beef, turkey, and meatloaf dishes that are highly regarded. After much debate, I decided to give the pork tenderloin sandwich a try.
That was NOT a mistake.
It was about the size of my head and totally dwarfed the nicely toasted bun. It came with some fresh toppings. I ordered a baked potato with it and that was nicely prepared. In the future, I will come back and try to the hot beef or hot meatloaf, but I certainly wouldn't be disappointed with getting the pork tenderloin sandwich again. It was quite excellent.
They have varying hours so you'll have to plan accordingly to ensure your visit to Decatur City corresponds with when they are open. Trust me, you'll be disappointed if you miss out.
After my meal, I drove around the small community before getting back on the I-35 toward Des Moines. There were a few cars on the square. There appeared to be a bar called "Good Times" but I am not sure if it is was open. There was also a welding shop in business.
Elsewhere, I spotted this beautiful old church.
On the edge of town was Poor Boy's Lounge. It appeared to be open but I did not go in. Maybe another visit, I'll make a stop there to see.
All in all, for my first time to Decatur City - I had a great experience at the Dinky Diner. Great food and very friendly service. I'd encourage you to check out their Facebook page.
As always, I welcome your suggestions of other places to visit and profile either in Decatur County or any of the other 98 counties in Iowa. Please feel free to drop me a note through my website.