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May 2, 2007 06:30 AM

Des Moines Update

It doesn't look like there has been anything posted recently about Des Moines. I'm going to be there for the next couple weeks staying downtown (on expense acct). Could anyone make any recommendations for good food within walking distance of the Renaissance? The only place i've been close by is Splash, the seafood place, which was good. Anything else? I'm willing to drive a ways out of downtown if it's worth it. I also will be looking for decent watering hole holes in the area with decent food as well. Any help would be appreciated!

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  1. You ought to try 801 Steak and Chop. It's the most expensive restaurant in town but the steaks and sides there are terrific. Try the Steak Del Monico. I like Hessen Haus south of Court Avenue downtown for hearty German food and some good brew on tap. Hessen Haus is run by a group of guys who know how to operate a bar. They also have El Bait Shop, the Miller High Life Lounge and the Royal Mile, a British place. El Bait Shop offers all kinds of Mexican food, Miller High Life is like a night in the basement rumpus room, and Royal Mile offers solid British fare.

    1. Okay, well -- if you start out the sentence with "expense account" & "downtown," I've got to recommend Lucca in the East Village. You'll need to hike a few blocks & go across the river to get there, but for Des Moines, it's a pretty aggressive spot with well-executed (if pricey) food.

      I have heard it described as Italian, & I guess so, although it always strikes me more as European in general -- perhaps? Either way, it offers up something pretty different for Des Moines... a limited menu with oral presentation, cheese course for dessert (unless they run out, which happens), small portions even for entrees but prepared like fine art, egg dishes for "course two," a deliberately slow pace, etc.

      The wine list is decent if not my particular style, plus pricey & somewhat limited if you're drinking by the glass, decor is stark & modern & VERY noisy, because of the hard-walled & hard-floored interior. Service is skilled & well-trained & very educated -- something that even "finer" restaurants in this area have been lacking of late.

      Give it a try. It's not the kind of place I'd want to go to every week -- I don't necessarily want to commit to a 3-hour dinner on a regular basis! -- but the food is superb, & it is somewhere that's really about GOING, if you know what I mean.


      1 Reply
      1. re: SmallCap

        Lucca is certainly NOT expensive.

        420 E Locust St, Des Moines, IA 50309

      2. El Bait shop has over 100 beers on tap. If you are a beer lover, you have to go. Everything including Delirium Tremens, Alpha King, Two Hearted, it is a beer lovers paradise. Except the crowds. Weeknights are easier.
        The Red Monk is on top of the Royal Mile. Huge selection of Belgian Imports, including Trappist beers and Lambics.
        Good food at 43. 10th and Walnut. I like Judge Roy Beans, on Court Ave. Casual,good food. Be sure to check out Raccoon River brew pub on Monday night. Decent food, and Monday night is Jazz Night. Listen to some of Des Moines finest, and I'm not biased just because my future son in law is on sax.
        If you get the urge to slum it a bit, while sampling some local fare, a short drive east on Grand to E.17th will take you to Kelly's Little Nipper. A true dive bar that will put out a Graziano's Italian Sausage sandwich that goes over a pound. Smothered in sauce, cheese, and peppers on a half a loaf of fresh french bread. Truly a thing of beauty.
        Grazianos sausage is a reason to move to Des Moines.
        The Continental in the East Village is well thought of. Tapas style happy hour. Intimate interior(small).
        If you're looking for anythig specific, let us know.
        Enjoy Des Moines. It is possible.

        12 Replies
        1. re: Bobfrmia


          Excellent suggestions. I always laugh at the comments from folks who worry about starving in Des Moines. When we entertain business clients from the coast it's always gratifying to hear the positive comments about the city's restaurant scene. Lucca and Continental are both excellent suggestions, although I am sometimes surprised by just how small the, er, small plates are at Continental. Charge me a few more bucks but give me more than three bacon-wrapped asparagus. I didn't mention Centro although I think it's starting to become a cliche of itself. The food there is still very good.

          It's been years since I visited Kelly's but I think it's an adventurous choice. The sausage sandwich is beautiful, and you can also his a taco stand outside for an appetizer.

          1. re: jwagnerdsm

            I find most people from "big cities" are blown away by the quality of food at the prices here.
            Haven't been to Kelly's for about a year myself. You seriously have to limit the lbs of sausage you consume in a year. But having thought about it, it will happen at some point this weekend.

            1. re: Bobfrmia

              Thanks for all these great recommendations. I'm looking forward to trying out a few of these places.

            2. re: jwagnerdsm

              Based on all the reviews from this site, we stopped and Kelly's and picked up a sausage sandwich and the pork tenderloin sandwich. Both of them were out of this world. We will make a point of driving this way just for the sausage sandwich, best ordered with mixed peppers. Best we ever ate. Just the right amount of cheese, the service was friendly and it was easy to get to from the highway.

              Kelly's Little Nipper
              1701 E Grand Ave, Des Moines, IA 50316

              1. re: sauce101a

                Glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for the report. Sometimes the best things are found at the most unlikely looking places.

            3. re: Bobfrmia

              Can you recommend any little wine bar type places? Is local Iowan wine any good?

              1. re: foursquarebar

                There will be a lot of opinions on Iowa wine. I think it's gotten better but still has a ways to go. I think some of the stuff from the Jasper County Winery is interesting. I'm a red wine person. Lucca in the East Village features a nice selection of wine and the Continental -- though a little bit overpriced in my opinion -- has good small plates and a decent wine selection.

                1. re: foursquarebar

                  The Wine Experience in Younkers at the Jordan Creek Mall is nice.
                  Sage, in Windsor Heights, also has a bar area with small plates and one of the best wine selections in the city.
                  From what I've read, Iowa has some good wines, and they are getting better. My experience is limited mostly to some Amana wines that were unimpressive.
                  I'm sure any of the places mentioned would be able to steer you to the better selections.
                  Let us know if you try something you really enjoy.

                  1. re: Bobfrmia

                    I will be going to the Farmer's Market and notice that lots of wine is available there. I forgot to say that I will be staying in the city at the Hotel Fort Des Moines and will be without a car, but it looks like DM is very walkable, and how about those skywalks! I love dry fruity reds and dry minerally whites but love to take in local culture by trying anything really. I see lots of Maytag cheese on menus, which delights me. Thanks for the fast responses!

                    1. re: foursquarebar

                      I have not been, but here's a place you might check out.

                      Village Market, 325 E. 5th St, (515) 243-5400

                      Monday-Friday, 6:30 a.m.-8 p.m., Saturday, 8 a.m.-8 p.m., Sunday, noon-5 p.m.

                      The Village Market packs a lot into a small space, offering a selection of wine, beer and spirits, flowers, produce, meats and cheeses, bread, dry goods and everyday necessities. The market also has a small lunch menu featuring made-to-order deli sandwiches, specialty sandwiches and a few heat-and-eat entrees. Plus, you can find special treats like Chocolate Storybook candies and Basil Prosperi breads in one location.

                      1. re: Bobfrmia

                        Ok one more. No, two.
                        You are right by Centro. Not the greatest selection by the glass, but here is a link where you can see the list.
                        You're also right next to Raccoon River brewpub. Good food. If you tire of wine, try the Bandit IPA.

                2. re: Bobfrmia

                  I feel like I'm hopping on all of Bobfrmia's posts, but I wouldn't recommend the Continental. I've been there lots and I have to say its just fair. Portions (even for tapas) are small, the service for the most part, is just not good - for those prices. Lucca is excellent day or night. If you don't have time for the full treatment, get a taste at lunch. One of my all-time favorites. I'd also like to second the sausage comment and thank Bob for the suggestion, there.

                3. The original comment has been removed
                  1. When I was living in Des Moines Basil Prosperi's was wonderful. Their Friday and Saturday night Prix Fix servings at the east store were great and the lunches at the 801 Grand store are good too.

                    If you're a picky eater you may not enjoy the Prix Fix nights. The selection each week is *very* limited, and the final choices aren't usually available through phone calls till nearly suppertime on Friday. That said, the food is excellent. I haven't been disappointed yet. There's a recent review in the Des Moines Register if you're interested in a more in-depth take.

                    The wife of the owner also makes a great cheesecake if you're lucky and the mood has struck her to do desserts. Make a beeline for it if it's the one with caramel drizzling and caramelized apples on top.

                    The East shop is just off downtown so both shops are very close to where you're going to be. The shop at 801 grand (central downtown) is probably the best lunch downtown if you're running on a schedule and can't take your time. Lunches are usually limited to various pastas depending on the season (spring will have the 3 mushroom pasta that's really good).

                    The Marriot downtown has 3 restaurants in it. There's a bar, a mid-level restaraunt that my coworkers really liked but I found forgettable, and a place called Quinnel's (sp?) that I really liked but couldn't afford on a day-to-day basis. If you're on a decent expense account this is another place that would be good for a lunch, especially a business lunch.

                    I would avoid Palmer's Deli, not because its bad (it is actually pretty good), but because the downtown shop was always swamped with people when I was working downtown. If you're taking lunch at an off-time then this is another option. Their selection of desserts is suprisingly large. Try the pumpkin bars if they're still making them.

                    Also downtown are the restaurants on Court Ave. Judge Roy Beans is decent American, Buzzard Billy's is Cajun, and Court Ave. Brewing is an upscale micro-brew with an ok menu. When I'm with friends we like going to the Hessen Haus, which is German and just off Court Ave. Downtown.

                    If you're willing to go out of downtown you should get a Chicago style pizza or an Italian Sausage sandwich from Felix and Oscar's. Another favorite when I'm home with friends. This location is on this list specifically for the food. The ambiance is minimal.

                    Even more minimal is "George the Chili King" a greasy spoon in North North West Des Moines. There is no ambiance, you walk up to the counter, the cook turns 180 degrees and gets your order, turns around and fries it up. Good onion rings and chili, and decent burgers. Very much in the eye of the beholder, my mom is very finicky and propper but adores the place, but my friend who has a cast iron stomach and will eat nearly anywhere refuses to enter because he says he hasn't gotten a tetanus shot in too long.

                    "Barrattas" is a family Italian place south of downtown in a residential area. GET A CAB if you're not from Des Moines. It's a bit of a twisty path to get there and a lot of people get lost the first couple times they go. If you're looking for decent pasta some night you're in Des Moines this is a very good selection.

                    One thing to note: I don't/can't drink so I know NOTHING about the wine lists at any of these places.

                    EDIT: wow, that came out quite a bit larger than I anticipated.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: vitus979

                      Not sure if Basil still offers its prix fixe dinners since they owners also operate Lucca.

                      1. re: jwagnerdsm

                        Huh, I'd heard something about the East shop being shut down. I'll be in Des Moines in a couple weekends so I'll have to try out Lucca then.

                        Thanks for the update. :)

                      2. re: vitus979

                        Sad to report but our beloved Buzzard Billys was lost in the floods a couple years back. Too bad too - they had great cajun food!