2021 T-Bone Trail · Iowa Food · Iowa Wine · Iowa Wine, Beer, and Spirits · Museums and History · Roadside Iowa · West Central Iowa

Food Lovers Land in Shelby County, Iowa: Danish Ways & the Movie Buff Getaway

*Hop on the Western Skies Scenic Byway and you’ll find yourself on the winding country roads of Shelby County! Our visit was sponsored by Shelby County Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Some of the goods, services, and meals were complimentary. The views expressed in this blog post are of our own. Now, let’s Gallivant!

Wildflower welcoming in Elk Horn, Iowa!

Shelby County, Iowa

Through renowned Danish Villages and into Western Skies. Past the giant windmill while admiring graceful pizza pies.

Ripening grapes on countryside vines to rural whisky casks and Scandinavia’s honey wines.

You’ll see Shelby’s Defiance and all of Panama’s lore and more of Iowa’s bounty through a purple door.

Welcome to Shelby County, my friends….

Breakfast Time

Milk and Honey is one of Western Iowa’s most well known restaurants and I will always have a little giddy-up in my step for all day breakfast joints. They also have their lunch items available during breakfast, too. What a concept! And if you love supporting Iowa businesses a long with local farmers, then Milk and Honey is your Harlan, Iowa go-to!

The ingredient list is a long one at Milk and Honey and you can see their updated board of local farms where they get many of them!
A historically great breakfast burrito that you can manhandle at Milk and Honey in Harlan!
All our favorite breakfast flavors in every bite with this burrito behemoth.
They don’t hold back on the butter in Shelby County!

Roadside Attractions & History

Roadside attraction with a huge Danish twist. Or I should say spin!

Elk Horn, Iowa has the most eye popping welcome center in the entire state and it’s story is also one of the most inspirational tales you’ll hear during your travels. Built in 1848-Denmark and later dismantled for a cruise to its new Western Iowa home. This is the iconic Danish Windmill that’s been apart of Shelby County since 1976! The inspirational story behind it is that volunteers were the labor force that put it all back together when hundreds of pieces of the authentic Danish windmill arrived in Elk Horn. Community members coming together and spending their own free time on a sought after landmark to represent their heritage. Many in the Shelby County area grew up with stories of the “old country” and the Danish windmill was a necessary dream that came true for the community. And years later it continues to attract droves of travelers and tourists to the Danish Villages. The windmill is the largest and most notable reason to stop at this visitors center, but its far from the only memorable moment you’ll have here.

Morning Star Chapel on the grounds of the Danish Windmill. Nothing is too small when it comes to
taking a little break in Shelby County.

I know what everyone is wondering. What would our pal JayJay look like if he dressed up like a furry Viking? I wondered about it several times myself and I have Elk Horn, Iowa to fulfill this dream. And by several times I mean this never came up until I showed up in Shelby County. But hey! When in the Danish Villages do as the Danes do!

That’s how you get the Viking out on your Shelby County getaway!
The second time to Elk Horn and the second time putting the Viking horns on!

Better get that wish list out when you’re at Elk Horn’s Danish Windmill. There’s tons of gifts to get and give to anyone. And don’t leave without some locally made Danish kuchen!

Baby bibs to honey wine! Stocking stuffers, collectibles, artwork, and so much more!

The Danish heritage doesn’t end at the windmill. Just down the road is the Museum of Danish America!

You won’t have any problem finding this museum. It rises from the Shelby County earth as if it grew here.
Designed with beautiful Danish integrity and the cornerstone of our nation’s Danish history positioned in rural Western Iowa.
Not only does this museum illustrate the wonderful and historic moments in Iowa and the US, but they also trace the Danish history all the way back to Scandinavia.
Museum of Danish America is also state of the art when it comes to preserving and storing the relics, antiques, and all their pieces that have made the trek to Elk Horn. You can walk past these windows several times and notice something different every time.
One of the most famous piano players and entertainers of the 20th century. Victor Borge was a proud Danish citizen and was kind enough to donate some of his prized possessions. This includes one of his pianos that proudly sits on display here in Elk Horn. He fled Copenhagen when war broke out with Denmark being occupied by Nazi-Germany. Mr. Borge passed away in 2000 but not before he could see this amazing facility.
I know all you motorcycle fans will want to see this. An antique Nimbus and a very rare find to boot. Hop on your own bike and get on the winding roads of Shelby County and see this beauty in person!
Hey, look! More Danish inspired gift ideas…And WOW! Our hostess from our stay in Exira a few years ago. I love it when this happens on our gallivants!

There’s amazing places to see all over Iowa and museums with rural settings are without a doubt on that list. That includes this blissful home to Danish America. I also learned something incredibly important while I was here too. Lego is a Danish company! Watch the video and see another sample of this awesome museum…

It’s my turn!
Back to Harlan and into a museum that will get you to do several double takes.

Show me the way to any county museum! There will always be something that will peak your interests and the Shelby County Historical Museum did just that for us. Let’s get a two headed look at what this Harlan museum is housing…

I’ve heard of two headed calves and I’ve seen some pictures throughout the years. But this was my first time seeing one in person. I should say two! Or should I say four?
Tons of local history and wonders that you don’t see in every museum. Some of the antiques are still interactive.
This is what I considered the most impressive exhibit of the Shelby County Historical Museum. A system to look up veterans with software on a large touchscreen with dozens of framed pictures of their honored fallen vets surrounding you. This was very humbling and I hope to go back again and read more of the names in this memorial. Very well done, Shelby County.

The Shelby County Historical Museum just keeps going and going, when you step inside, and has one of the best exhibits for area veterans you’ll see in any county museum. Support these museums whenever you can. The folks here in Shelby county have done an amazing job of preserving precious pieces of the area’s history and I can’t thank them enough for showing us around.

Lunchtime

A truly historic picture, meal, and day at Grace on Main in Elk Horn. Why? These pics come from the original location for Grace on Main, but we were days away from their big move in a larger location near the windmill down the street! However, you know you’re going to get the same great food and service in the new digs at 2105 Broadway Ave!

It was lunchtime in Shelby County and we were welcomed into a very memorable Elk Horn restaurant. Grace on Main has an unbelievable story of perseverance in a community that wanted to see them succeed. Running a profitable restaurant is very difficult during any timeframe. It’s even more difficult during an ongoing pandemic. Especially when your opening day was March 17th of 2020. The day when everything had to shutdown all over Iowa. That could have been enough for anyone to throw in the towel and very few people, if anyone, would have disagreed with such a decision. However, the California couple that opened Grace on Main made it happen and a year later they’re expanding!

Hey, Lisa! You caught us taking food pics at Grace on Main!
The range of meals you can have here makes my mouth water just thinking about it. Cheesy bread with a velvety and flavorful marinara sauce that stayed piping hot the entire time. A Mediterranean salad that is beautifully put together with tons of fresh vegetables, crumbled feta, and lemon vinaigrette. And then there’s the pork belly Banh Mi sandwich that’s loaded with refreshing Vietnamese flavors with that juicy pork belly in every bite. And we’re not done….
Bonus beef alert! I mentioned how the owners are originally from California and something that’s very popular out west is In-N-Out Burger. They grew up eating those, and there’s not one in site for hundreds of mile. Grace on Main did the next best thing! Their version of this California staple is in pizza form in Elk Horn! The cheeseburger pizza has ground beef, house-made burger sauce, mozzarella and cheddar, tomatoes, pickles, lettuce, onions, and all on their freshly made pizza dough that makes for a perfect crust. That was a beefy mouthful and everything at our table made for an unbelievable Shelby County restaurant experience!
I’ll always appreciate these moments right here. Even though they were working through a busy lunch rush, the proud owners still made time to chat with us. Folks who work in restaurants are my people. I love this industry and the endless uniqueness it showcases everywhere. On the menus and with the people who work and operate these places. What a great afternoon we had at Grace on Main.

Wine & Whiskey

A philosopher once said, “Drink local wine whenever possible.” I have no idea if any inspired expert of philosophy has ever said that exact line, but I’m willing to bet someone has.

Danish Countryside Vines & Wines is a suiting name for this winery. It’s near the Danish Villages and in a sprawling and stunningly beautiful countryside setting. And they make wine!

Meeting of the minds right here. This premiere winery has a special old world look to their tasting room that makes anyone feel comfortable upon entering.
Refreshing and delicious wines, beautiful decor, and it will always be entertaining at Danish Countryside Vines & Wines.
A fantastic view of the vineyards from the upper level of their event center.
I would love to take a pic in a Western Iowa vineyard while having both hands occupied with local wine!

It was early in the day for Danish Countryside Vines & Wines, but they had a lot to show us. Sure we tasted some fantastic wines, but there’s so much more to behold at this rural winery. Every room, every level, and every conversation we had assured us that we MUST come back during a lively evening in the future. We left with more than a couple bottles of tasty wine. One guitar solo, one tour, and many laughs later, we were instant regulars. The hospitality of this area was continuing to shine in every way possible. And the off the beaten path journey of Shelby County wasn’t done!

Ahhhhh…Farm sweet farm. Seriously! It’s called Farm Sweet Farm!

Near Harlan is this destination for a whole lot of products that some niche shoppers look for. Farm Sweet Farm is a destination shopping experience that offers tons of organic and sustainable products. This includes what they grow right here on their own farm!

Bonus beef alert and it’s all grass fed! Big and lean steaks available in the freezer at Farm Sweet Farm!
Shampoos, soaps, spices, dip mixes, local honey, crafts, oils, vitamins, and a lot more to fill your shelves when you shop at Farm Sweet Farm!

Certified organic meats and homegrown items that can get your cooler filled for the ride home. They specialize in supporting local as much as possible and that’s always a concept I can appreciate. Let’s keep this locally produced theme going…

Lonely Oak Distillery near Earling can get your at-home bar inventory stocked up! Look at all those barrels!
Award winning spirits to bring out the Shelby County spirit in you! Imagine having some of these tasty bottles of libation getting shipped to your favorite whiskey buddies!
More locals showing us around! You never know what you’ll find in an Iowa machine shed. This one has a shiny distillery and plenty of samples to enjoy in the Lonely Oak Distillery tasting room.

I really enjoy seeing business owners excited to show off their proud ways of bringing visitors to their communities. Lonely Oak Distillery is another rural way to discover so much of Shelby County!

Let’s Eat Steak

Right on the town square of Harlan is this edition of the Western Iowa T-Bone Trail!
Find The Purple Door and walk right in. This was another wondrous Western Iowa restaurant and it’s right here in Shelby County!
And look at the crowd The Purple Door brought in! Community members from all over the Shelby County map!

We have seen an amazing spectrum of restaurants through the year on the T-Bone Trail. The Purple Door has one of the most creative menus that we had the pleasure to look at this year, and that means some very entertaining and down right delicious appetizers that were a must-have on the Harlan town square.

Bonus beef alert! The Purple Door had their beef tip and cheddar fries rocking on this night in Harlan! We also shared plates of Brussels sprouts and fried green tomatoes!
Seafood, tacos, giant burgers, and all prepared by a very skilled crew in The Purple Door kitchen!
Then it was time for the main event! One of the biggest and best T-Bones we had all year!

Oh, baby! Gourmet appetizers, seafood, steaks, sandwiches, tacos, and desserts! The Purple Door has a complete menu of dishes that DID NOT disappoint! The T-Bone was very juicy and cooked just perfectly. Served with grilled veggies that went very well with he charbroiled flavor of the steak. You want more from this meal? Then click on the video below and see how much we enjoyed The Purple Door!

That was a table of complete happiness!
I told you they had one of the most complete menus of gourmet food in Iowa. That cheesecake is getting some love on TIG!

Check-In

Just outside of Harlan and inside a wooded area is Scotty’s Place on Airbnb! Find the house and follow this path into a movie geek’s paradise. I am that movie geek….1606 Highway 44-Harlan. 712-579-5390
Pop culture from my youth in the 1980s and 90s all over this entertaining Airbnb!
Whaaaaaaaaaaaat! I can hear the familiar sounds of VHS tapes going in and out of the VCR at Scotty’s Place!
Scotty’s has PLENTY of popcorn and refreshments to keep movie night going for hours and hours at this Shelby County getaway!
That couch is just begging for all of Scotty’s guests to come in and relax.
Multiple bedrooms and both with very comfortable beds.

Scotty’s Place was the ending of our day in Shelby County and it provided just what we needed after a long and eventful day of gallivanting in West-Central Iowa. Josh and his family were gracious hosts and they featured a haven for movie buffs like me and countless other travelers. I live my life by quoting pop culture and this Airbnb catered to that “charming” part of my personality. Great couch for lounging and so many of my favorite Calvin and Hobbs books that I’ve cherished for most of my life. The entertainment center felt like an old friend greeting me and I had no problems falling asleep on my big-wonderful bed.

I was just fine with all the movies and choices on Netflix, but this backyard and its firepit needed some of our attention. What an amazing setting for a rural Airbnb in Harlan, Iowa! Thank you, Scotty’s Place!

The fall is here and it’s my personal favorite time of year for road tripping. Shelby County highlights so much of what we all want in our travels and they showcase these places and moments in their own special ways. This county is one of the great foody destinations in all of Iowa and they mix local spirits, wines, and unforgettable roadside attractions to go with all that is tasty in the area. Winding scenic byways, proud history and all with a hardworking culture that celebrates its heritage. Shelby County, you know how to make a marvelous gallivant happen in Western Iowa!

Be sure to like the T-Bone Trail-Western Iowa on Facebook!

Book your stay at Scotty’s Place on Airbnb.

Like Shelby County Chamber of Commerce & Industry 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!

See everything we’ve covered on The Iowa Gallivant in the West Central Region of Iowa!

Another bonus beef alert and its meatball-style! Even the Harlan Subway knows how to stretch out a Shelby County getaway!

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