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Des Moines Iowa

  • k

Hello there
Any suggestions for eats in Des Moines? We will be there for 6 days so any ideas for any type of cuisine, moderately priced (say $25ish and under per entree) would be greatly appreciated. Any can't miss coffe houses as well. In Maryland we lack diners so if there's any of those that would be great too. Also looking for any cool grocery stores, natural food stores there was well.

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  1. No real suggestions but a couple pointers.

    I visited Des Moines with my extended family a couple months ago -- it's a nice central place for us to meet. I researched DM dining options in preparation for the trip but didn't actually get to any of the suggestions -- it was cold and we pretty much hunkered down at the hotel.

    In any case, chowhound BobfrmIA had lots of valuable suggestions that I wish I had been able to check out. If you search for his name on this message board and read the threads he has posted on, you'll get the best info available here.

    One Des Moines note: I did visit Graziano's after reading all of BobfrmIA's praise for their sausage. Graziano's is an Italian market; they mostly sell some imported dried goods and bread in addition to the meat counter. Apparently they're best known for their bulk sausage -- sadly, with no kitchen facilities, I didn't get to taste it. [I know, I know, what kind of chowhound am I??] At the meat counter they offer sausages, salumi and other cured meats and cheese - domestic and imported. It's an old fashioned place and not "designed" for foodie tourists - its a neighborhood/community kind of place. I had to do some serious hunting to track it down but when I found it - on a cold February day - the parking lot was full and the line were long.

    Not sure if Graziano's would appeal to everybody - or even every chowhound - but I loved it. Next time I'm in Des Moines, I may not get back to Graziano's market but I'll definitely have a Graziano's sausage sandwich somewhere!


    4 Replies
    1. re: kcmarshall

      --meant to post here----

      Wow, excellent. Can't wait to check out the markets. That's a part of city life that I love. I live in the sticks, out by the Chesapeake Bay so the markets are a meeting of the two. Each city has it's own flavor and besides the west coast I've never been west of West Virginia so this is exciting.

      All those suggestions are great. Looking forward to Star Bar and Bistro Montage. In the DC area there are so many amazing venues, with creative menus, knock-your-socks of interiors, yet high dollar-but what we really lack are interesting, mellow, a bit less $$, places to just grab a unique, creative dinner. (don't mean to sound like the anti-chowhound)

      THANKS all!

      1. re: Kim


        One of the biggest secrets about Des Moines is how many first and second-generation Italians live on the city's south side -- it was the next big stop west from Chicago back in the day.

        The result is there are still a couple of great, authentic Italian family restaurants here:

        Tumea & Sons, which is just south of where the AAA baseball team Iowa Cubs play. The real deal.

        The other is Baratta's, which is a little more difficult to find. You'll have to get really good directions, but it will be worth your trouble.

        The ambiance in both places is nothing spectacular, but the food is great, great stuff.

        1. re: Troy

          Gino's on 6th Ave. for authentic italian... try the toasted ravioli appetizer and their house special creamy garlic dressing..

          1. re: Troy

            I know I'm chiming in late, but what am I missing at Barrata's? Dinner there is like christmas in prison. When your'e there, you just know you should be somewhere else. Charmless, portal to 1977. Ketchup Bolognese.
            On a brighter note, Lucca in the E. Village is a treat. Simple, satisfying,Tuscan-inspired plates.
            The Latin King? The place cracks me up. O sole mio....
            Sam and Gabe's? Anyone seen the kitchen? Enough said.
            What about that Trattoria on 4th? The Chianti fiascos have kept me away.
            bestest, kellog

      2. Hi Kim. What area will you be staying?
        Access to a car? Any specific cuisines?
        Java Joe's downtown is probably the most popular coffee house here.
        Sage is arguably the top place to dine in town.It's west in Windsor Heights. Bistro type fare. Also have a small plate and wine special going on this summer.
        Sam and Gabes, Latin King, Barratta's, all good Italian.
        Iowa Beef Steakhouse for a big piece of beef. All steaks are like 18 bucks with salad bar. Cook your own or pay an extra buck or two for them cook it.
        Big Steer in Altoona also for great steaks.
        Star Bar for a bistro take on bar food.
        I'll post a link for the local papers reviews of most places. I don't always agree with the reviews, mostly about BBQ places. In Des Moines, there are non worth recommending, but it will tell you cuisines and some pricing info.
        Any questions, just ask.

        Link: http://desmoinesregister.com/apps/pbc...

        4 Replies
        1. re: Bobfrmia

          Thanks so much. Yes we'll have a car. We'll be around Walnut and 12th st...
          That list and a few others should get us going.
          I appreciate it.

          1. re: Kim

            Hmmm, 12th and Walnut, enjoy the Fort.

            Diners, you must make a trip for breakfast to the Waveland Cafe at Polk and University. The best of diner breakfasts in the area. BobfrIowa can tell you about the organic market across the street from the Wave.

            Star Bar a must, bistro take on bar food. Might I suggest the BBQ spring rolls with mango salsa? Not but a stone throw from the bar is Bistro Montage, in the same league with Sage but just a less bit pricey. Try Centro, a short walk for you. Fire there today but is to reopen soon. It reminds me of good storefronts on the north side of Chicago. Make a trip to the East Village for Basil for lunch or breakfast on the weekends.

            Thai Flavors at E14th and University for inexpensive Thai foods is high on the list with Tom Ka Kai soup (spiced to 4 out 0f 5) a must.

            If I am correct about your location try 43 in the hotel. Yes, it is a hotel but 43 is top notch. Enjoy your stay in the heartland, and if you have specific likes. let us know so we can respond.

            PS, A Dong for Vietnamese is high on the list.

            1. re: windsor

              The Organic market across the street from the Wave would be New City Market. Natural and Organic foods and other stuff. Nice place, very nice people working there, and I'm not just saying that cause my daughter works there. Alright, yes I am.
              Next to the Waveland cafe is the Waveland bar. One of Des Moines most classic dive bars. Stop in and have a beer.
              If you want Diner fare, try the Drake Diner or Stellas.
              Drake is about 24th and University, not far from downtown.
              Also, Court Ave Brewery is popular for the jazz on Monday nights. Decent food and beer.
              If you are a beer lover, the Red Monk in the Court Ave district has the best selection in the Midwest.
              If you want to experience the Graziano's sausage sandwich, there are many places that make them, but Kelly's Little Nipper just east of downtown on E17th and Grand puts a full lb. of sausage on half a loaf of fresh bread for about 5 bucks. It can sustain you for days. It's a dive so you might want to call it in to go. The Mexican place across the street is also worth a trip.

              1. re: windsor

                The Fort? Guess I'll see it when I get there. I am doing the Des Moines Fine Arts Festival. I hope the stories of the rogue storms that fly thru the city are just rumours. I also hope it's not like summers here...hot and majorly humid with air quality warnings. I am expecting clear, healthy air.

          2. Oh, a couple of more suggestions. If tea is on your list, try Gong Fu, a local tea house. And if you are here on a weekend, make sure to visit the downtown farmer's market. Good food, produce, music and people watching. It's on Court avenue a ten block walk for you.

            1. Wow, excellent. Can't wait to check out the markets. That's a part of city life that I love. I live in the sticks, out by the Chesapeake Bay so the markets are a meeting of the two. Each city has it's own flavor and besides the west coast I've never been west of West Virginia so this is exciting.

              All those suggestions are great. Looking forward to Star Bar and Bistro Montage. In the DC area there are so many amazing venues, with creative menus, knock-your-socks of interiors, yet high dollar-but what we really lack are interesting, mellow, a bit less $$, places to just grab a unique, creative dinner. (don't mean to sound like the anti-chowhound)

              THANKS all!

              1. I would also highly recommend Cafe di Scala in the Sherman Hills area. Entrees are in your price range, the ambiance is great (old victorian style home) and the food is wonderful. They are only open Thursday through Saturday, but serve both lunch and dinner. (Thursday nights, they have live jazz.) The porch is also now open for outdoor seating - but I have not had the opportunity to try that out yet.

                Link: http://www.cafediscala.com/

                1. A few more comments and questions for DM hounds:
                  I've heard little mention of Phat Chefs in WDM, and having checked it out a few times, I can see why--there is absolutely nothing interesting happening here. In fact, the food is weird, and poorly executed. Strange flavors emerge from familiar dishes. The staff has NO knowledge of the menu, the food on it, or the wine. I appears they attempt to ape things from tv chefs and other restaus, but the only thing they've picked up from large market dining, is large market pricing....I will say it's a good spot for a glass of wine or a drink in the middle of a corporate wasteland.

                  While in WDM be sure to avoid Crave, the fondue bar. cheddar fondue?! Shoot me. The rest of the menu is predictable sandwich fare and meat & taters. Sports are everywhere, courtesy of the flat screen blitzkrieg that extends even into the mens' room.

                  How about Simo's Cafesistrabistopalooza? What's going on here? The Mediterranean meets Mediapolis, in a full blown Valley Junction train wreck. Love mom and pop, but love 'em even more when they can clean a little. The kitchen (curiously open) is like the kitchen on a UBoat, although I'm sure the Nazis kept things much tidier. Achtung!

                  Haven't been to Mosaix in years, and that's for a reason. Anyone have anything to say here?New chef? New menu?

                  Bistro Montage is a nice little spot, with classic french, but I wish they'd relax w/ the salt shaker. Drink lots of water w/ dinner.

                  Star Bar's "Boss Hog" is the best food coma in town. Good apps.

                  Anyone ever try Dolce Vita on University?

                  Is Trostel's Dish still a beehive or can one get in there within the hour?

                  Happy Day--KS

                  1. How about Palmers? It's kind of lunch-y, but the food is really good and fresh, and there is also a small food/gift market. (Also, it is across the street from a really cool Belgian(?) chocolate place) I *think* there are two locations -- I am talking about the one in Des Moines proper. Also, since you are going to be at the arts festival, I'm sure you'll check out the restaurant at the Des Moines Art Center.

                    1. I see a recommendation for Centro. That was one recommendation I've received. Any thoughts about Biaggi's, 25th Street Cafe or Bistro Montage? I might be in Des Moines for a week in September.
                      My hunch is I'll be staying near the airport.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: SteveTimko

                        Biaggi's is pretty darn tasty, especially for a 'chain' (since they're pretty scoffed at here at CH!). I've always had fantastic service and fantastic food. Simple, yummy stuff and not too pricey.

                        I absolutely ADORE Centro though. Some of the best pizza in the city, if not THE best. Fantastic speciality martinis and cocktails - try their in-house made limoncello!

                        If you're staying near the airport, it's not the best place for chowhounding (it's where I used to live, actually). But just follow Fleur into the city and go down Locust - it holds most of the gems like Lucca, Basil Prosperi's, Centro, etc.

                        Oh! And if you stay on Fleur, it becomes Martin Luther King Jr Pkwy, which leads you to the Gateway Market & Cafe. Gourmet market with awesome selection (they make their mozzarella and bread in house) and an even tastier cafe. Their sandwiches rock. Get some Boylan ginger ale and a reuben!

                        1. re: reubensandperrier

                          Looks like I"ll be staying close to Centro. Anything on the menu you like besides pizza? It looks a little too expensive to eat there every day.

                          1. re: SteveTimko

                            I enjoyed my dinner at Centro when I was in Des Moines on business. I live in Chicago and dine out frequently, and I thought the food was quite good and the restaurant fairly sophisticated. They definitely have a lot on the menu besides pizza. I believe that I had the pork chop.

                            1. re: RMA

                              Just to quickly follow up, they have their menu on the website. Some of the items are a little pricey, but I'd say it's a bargain.


                              1. re: RMA

                                There are some other good restaurants downtown. I like Hessen Haus, the Royal Mile, the Miller Hi-Life Lounge -- all in the Court Avenue area of downtown -- for food quality, value and ambiance. Hessen Haus is a German joint, the Royal Mile offers British fare and is a bit more inconsistant than Hessen Haus. (If you like Belgian beer, check out the bar upstairs, a beer lovers nirvana.) And Miller Hi-Life Lounge is pure 70s kitsch with broasted chicken, tater tot casserole and the cheap beers of your youth on the menu. It looks like it's been around forever but was designed to give that appearance. It's only a few years old. All three restaurants source lots of locally grown food for their menus and are owned by the same group of hands on owners.

                                Oh, and the sandwich shop next door to Centro is run by the same folks and is outstanding.