2021 T-Bone Trail · Grownup Getaways · Southwest Iowa

Sugary, Beefy, Artistic, Scenic: Mills County & One of Iowa’s Best Beer Buddies

*Southwest Iowa brings a certain kind of scenery to the state that more travelers and outdoors enthusiasts are discovering every year. We have made several trips to the Southwest Iowa region and every time we want to explore more and more. Our trip was hosted by the Malvern Bank, Zack Jones, and Glenwood Area Chamber of Commerce. Some of the goods, meals, service were complimentary. The views expressed in this blog post are of our own. Let’s Gallivant!

Mills County, Iowa

The second round of Mills County that was 5 years in the making! We arrived to this area for a RAGBRAI mission in 2016, and now we’re back in town for a beefy mission. It’s more than just a day showing up and writing about our trip. It’s a string of communities that we’ve been itching to get back to for a very long time and we couldn’t wait to reconnect with the locals. A lot of changes have happen to this Loess Hills county since we showed up in our younger days and…..OMG! I was in my 30s when we were here last! Any-hoo…..A lot of things have changed and much of the area has stayed the same. You see why folks make this their hometown very quickly when you arrive. It’s beautiful and these towns are eager for more entrepreneurs to open up shop. Let’s start out in Glenwood and get some candy beer, and pizza! That works every time…..


I have now stopped here at Glenwood Lake Park to relax multiple times and, within just a few minutes of arriving, you’ll see why. This is just a couple minutes of a drive from the town square and yet it seems miles away.

Arrive early in the morning and get some work done from the shelter at Glenwood Lake. Electric outlets at the shelter keep you plugged in. Get your lakeside office setup here in Mills County!
I break for geese every time!

You deserve a little indulgence after you’ve walked the lake. Or a lot of it! Glenwood has a source for all of us who baby our sweet tooth! Let’s sugar-up with my new friend, Rachel Reis of the Glenwood Area Chamber of Commerce!

Sugar Makery has two locations in Western Iowa- one in Council Bluffs and one here in Glenwood! This will be one of the tastiest and most unique candy shopping treats that you’ll have in all of Iowa!
Handmade chocolate delights a plenty! My favorite part was the colorful, flavorful, and fizzy choices of soda from all over the map. Meet me in Glenwood for a burping match! (Not kidding) And look at that grin Rachel has!

The square has changed since I was here last and that includes some shops and boutiques. I just found some great ideas for all those shop-til-you-drop readers of ours out there! People are asking us about new ideas, when it comes to locally owned retailers or gift shops, more than I’ve ever seen before and they’re willing to travel to find a new spot. Glenwood can be your new go-to for a getaway to feed that fashionable craving you’re having!

Liv Brave Athletic Fashion has a lot of great products that benefit a lot of great people. They feature products that support some amazing organizations that help others in crisis. Your dollars spent at Liv Brave goes back into the Mills County community and into stopping human trafficking and other causes that could help heal many.
Welcome back to TIG, JWren Boutique! We visited them in 2016 and it was great to stop back and see them again. Small-town Iowa has plenty of options when it comes to beautiful clothes, jewelry, and surprises for all those holidays coming up. Let’s get out and support places like this like freaking crazy this year and beyond!

You know what goes great with walking a town square and hitting up some fabulous boutiques? Pizza! Not at the same time, you big silly! New to me in Glenwood was a place with a very large oven and they know how to pump out a hot lunch in just a few minutes.

Bonus Beef Alert!

Adriano’s Brick Oven is some gourmet eatin’ and they have some very creative combinations. Like this Bacon Cheeseburger pizza! Fresh dough topped with delicious beef, bacon, pickles, onions, mustard, and plenty of cheese!

Beer Me!

One of the fastest growing breweries in America has its home in Glenwood and it might just have the most spectacular views out of every brewery in Iowa. I’m ready to enjoy a beer with the Loess Hills in the background any day at Keg Creek Brewing!

Keg Creek Brewing is on the edge of town and in a beautiful facility.
Beer me, Keg Creek! Like four times, too!
My buddy Randy Romens is a big fan of TIG and we’re giant fans of his, too! It’s not our first time waltzing into his brewery and he sees to it that you’ll want to come back. Their new brews are finding their way to the taps and into bars, restaurants, and stores all over the beer drinking landscape. Click here and see our video from inside Keg Creek Brewing!
I wasn’t kidding about that Loess Hills view. That is an Iowa scene you can only get in Western Iowa. Have some cold ones at Keg Creek Brewing while you enjoy them. Play some cornhole, too!

Check-In to Malvern

You are about to see one of the most inspiring AirBnB options in the entire Midwest. Artist Zack Jones of ZJ Paintings has created an unforgettable place to stay and it’s in rural SW-Iowa. Ladies, gentleman, art lovers, and travelers…This is the Art Church in Malvern, Iowa!

Almost 150 years young and an easy walk up the hill from Main Street Malvern! 201 East 4th Street
Zack Jones loves to host his guests and show his pieces to anyone who wants to see his amazing artwork. Another thing he is exceptional with is being a supreme ambassador of Malvern.
Always a work in progress at the Art Church. A beautiful, beautiful work in progress.
Zack’s talents expand into many styles of works. You see so many of his talents on display in his studio and……
….In your room downstairs in the Art Church!

Surrounded by Zack’s art is how you will spend your time staying at the Art Church. Two bathrooms, a full kitchen with a stylish island, a beautiful bedroom, and A LOT of ambiance you won’t see anywhere else in Iowa. And seriously folks. That king size bed is one of the most comfortable mattresses I have ever slept in anywhere.

There was even a piece that was started near my neck of the woods in good ‘ol Cedar Rapids. Veterans Auditorium is historic good times.

There’s so much more you’re going to see from this amazing place down the road on TIG. So stay tuned for an exclusive post on the Art Church. But guess what! Zack produced a TIG first while hosting us at his AirBnB. He showed us….another vacation rental that’s not his? Yup! That’s next level ambassador skills right there!

On the edge of Malvern is Pierce Crossing Guesthouse and your local time capsule is ready for your reservation! 31052 Little Lane, Malvern
Why break bread when you can cut pie! Zack was not letting me get away without seeing Pierce Crossing Guesthouse with a tasty snack waiting inside!
That was a choice cut of rhubarb pie that Zack’s mom bakes. Your family recipe might have met its match!
Pierce Crossing takes you back to multiple decades at an old farmhouse. You’ll step into a kitchen that will make you wonder why we don’t all have that at home. It felt like a perfect family get together place.
All the rooms have their own style and a unique way of taking you back to another time period. Zack, you know how to keep travelers interested in Malvern and coming back!

It was really time to relax. Did we go back to the Art Church? Nope! It was time to see Mills County in the rural landscape that surrounds it. Let’s hit the gravel roads!

Sometimes you need a long drive down miles and miles of gravel roads. For me it’s one of the most therapeutic ways of clearing my mind. We eventually got back to Malvern, but I was very grateful to see local rollercoaster roads. That was exactly what this gallivanter needed.

Let’s Eat Steak!

This is what you want to see on Saturday night in small-town Iowa. A busy Main Street!
One of the reasons Main Street was loaded with cars is because of this place right here. It’s time for a classic great time at Classic Cafe!
Laughs with the locals! One of my favorite pastimes. Randi makes everyone feel like a longtime regular and that’s not something I’ll ever get tired of in my travels. She was wonderful and I felt very grateful to have her joining us in our adventure at Classic Cafe!
Without further ado….One of the best smoked Prime Ribs of my life!

There’s no joking, sugarcoating, exaggerating, or fibbin’ when I say this….Classic Cafe had the greatest smoked Prime Rib I have ever had in my life! I’ve traveled across the country, worked in 8 states, and been doing a constant culinary quest on TIG since 2014. I even cooked smoked Prime Rib myself many times at a resort in Arizona. Classic Cafe’s is without a doubt the greatest of its kind that I can think of. Smoked and still capturing the flavor of the beef. Topped with one of the richest au jus’ that you’ll ever experience. And look at the top of the plate…Homemade mashed potatoes alert! Click here and watch our video from Classic Cafe in Malvern!

The tasty times at Classic Cafe didn’t just happen on the smoked Prime Rib Plate. Get your fresh salad fix taken care of here too!
One of the cheesiest spinach artichoke dips you’ll order up. Look at that freshly toasted rye bread!
You had me at beer in mason jars, Classic Cafe!

Malvern From the Roadside

Walk it off! Try to stretch your legs a little after a huge meal like that. Malvern makes this a little easy to do with all their wonderful public art you’re going to easily notice during that constitutional down Main Street and such.

The bike tree! And you were just going let that old one of yours go to waste.
One of my favorite pieces of public art on the trip thus far. Look hard enough and you might just see some birdies….
Malvern at dusk. You know where the yellow brick road leads. This red brick one leads to Main Street….Where the bar is!!!
Wait for Christmas if you want. Malvern shines all year long. That was a lovely sentence I just wrote. Thank you.
Take this little drive or walk it. You’ll see some Victorian era beauties while you’re in Malvern.
Then you’ll stumble into this little darling. Plenty of paranormal groups know all about Malvern Manor and I just found another reason I want to head back. It’s made it on national TV, so this haunted destination needs to land on TIG!

Malvern is directly on the Wabash Trace Nature Trail which is a 63 mile path which makes it a very popular hiking/biking trail in SW-Iowa. The steady stream of hikers and cyclists stretches from Pottawattamie County to the Missouri border, and it goes through Mills County using Malvern’s businesses as a hub. Grab a beer, ice cream cone, a great meal at the Classic Cafe, and check with Zack to see if there’s room at the Art Church.

I wasn’t joking about Malvern being serious when it comes to welcoming bicyclists!

The welcoming crew of Mills County put in some very gracious hours with us during our time here. It was the second of seven Loess Hills counties on our trip and I already know that I’ll miss this Western Iowa region when we’ve completed the whole stretch of its constant scenery. It is amazing how much of an impact Mills County made on us five years ago. What’s even more amazing is how we were able to pick up on conversation with the locals right where we left off. Now we have more of Mills County’s greatest ambassadors to holler at the next time we show up. And let’s not wait another 5 years this time!

Randy Romens of Keg Creek Brewing and his big dorky friend from Iowa City.

Book your stay at the Art Church on AirBnB.

Thank you to Malvern Bank!

Be sure to click here and see all our gallivants in the Southwest Iowa region!

Like the Glenwood Area Chamber of Commerce on Facebook.

Like Western Iowa Tourism Region on Facebook.

Like the Iowa Beef Council on Facebook and keep up with info, updates, events, and promotions!

Be sure to like the T-Bone Trail on Facebook!
Hey, Mills County….Call me?

6 thoughts on “Sugary, Beefy, Artistic, Scenic: Mills County & One of Iowa’s Best Beer Buddies

  1. Nicely written! Thanks for supporting Mills County! I am born and raised, still live here, raising a husband and four kids here! LOL! We hosted 25 of the MOST AMAZING people in our yard, driveway home, etc during RAGBRAI’s most recent departure from Glenwood. I had one group that didn’t have places to stay in Shenandoah or Ottumwa, but I hooked them up! We fed all of them smoked pork and ribs with all the sides and fixings for supper and had breakfast ready before departing. It was the most incredible experience!
    Gratitude and hospitality go hand in hand!
    Would we host that many again? ABSOLUTELY!
    SW IA is an absolute gem that doesn’t always get the shining it deserves. Thank you for rubbing off the dust and helping our local communities SHINE!

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