Belly up to the soda fountain and order yourself a thick, creamy strawberry milkshake at the Princess Grill and Pizzeria in Iowa Falls, a picturesque community located a short drive northeast of Des Moines and nestled alongside the scenic Iowa River.
Greek immigrants and cousins, Ernie Karry and Nick Pergakis built the restaurant in 1915. Just a year later, Nick’s brother Harry moved to Iowa Falls and purchased the nearby Sweet Shop. The three joined their businesses in 1929, calling it The Princess Café & Sweet Shop.
On Christmas morning 1934, townspeople woke to the devastating news that the cafe had completely burned. Fortunately, the owners rebuilt the landmark attraction, reopening it the following July.
The new building featured a modern art deco design of black Carrara glass with a pale green linear design on the building’s perimeter. A Minneapolis company designed the neon sign that protruded from the building’s façade. At the time, it was the largest sign in central Iowa. Not only was the café’s exterior state-of-the-art, the inside was, too. Gas ranges and water heaters replaced wood and coal-burning stoves. It was also the first building in town with air-conditioning.
The soda fountain counter is made of fine Italian marble and, at 25-feet long, is rumored to be the largest remaining soda fountain counter in the world. Booths made of magnificent African Mahagony are still used today, and the glass cases that originally housed a variety of candies now showcase local students’ artwork.
While the café is under new ownership and has changed names to Princess Grill and Pizzeria, diners can still expect a large menu, quality service, and delicious food. Diners enjoy generous portions of ice cream and rave about fried pickles, pizza, and prime rib. Patrons come from near and far to experience the old-fashioned eatery and leave with full bellies and fond memories. More evidence of the restaurant’s historic charm: They only accept cash.