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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. 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!

                    3. Ate at the 801 Steak & Chop house last night. Very very good steak, great, huge sides, top notch service, nice medium sized wine list. It was not cheap..everything is ala carte, so figure $60-75 plus drinks. Still, I felt like I got a decent value for the money.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: chrisinroch

                        Also forgot to mention.... they have a pretty serious reserve wine list with some large format bottles. Good place to take clients

                        1. re: chrisinroch

                          I love the Del Monico; it would probably be my "last meal" request.

                      2. Get sent back during the fair and get a pork chop on a stick from the Iowa Pork Council. Best thing I've ever eaten in Des Moines. George the Chili King is also good although, being Texan, I avoid anything there that has actual chili on it. His idea of chili is not my idea of chili.

                        I'm going to scope out El Bait Shop when we're there this summer! Yay, beer!

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: dalaimama

                          I'll agree, 801 was outstanding. Had the Del Monico, and it was among the best steaks i've had, though it was indeed expensive (ranked up their with NYC steakhouse prices!). But it was worth it, no complaints here. Cooked perfectly.

                          Also ate at Continental, which was pretty good. I did not think this was outstanding, though i liked the atmosphere pretty well.

                          Had a couple meals (and a lot of beer) at El Bait Shack. Pretty cool little place, though I found that many of the beer taps are "out of service" on any given night, so the actual number of different beers they offer is considerably less than what they actually have. But overall this place is great for having some cheap food and a nice selection of beers. Plus Mother Trucker one night was a good time....

                          Des Moines is a nice place, looking forward to the next trip.

                          1. re: clclark2000

                            does the Des Moines Club still exist? very old fashioned I know but in 1988 my father was relocated there (from australia) and that was one of the first places we were taken to. The outstanding memory is that it was the first time we had experienced caesar salad - made at the table from scratch (coddled egg and all). shortly after we returned to australia caesar salad was fashionable, but nothing ever tasted like that first one at the des moines club (and perhaps only a home made one using a vogue recipe came close)

                            1. re: kmh

                              The Des Moines club was merged with the other private club downtown and now they have a couple of locations. Haven't eaten there lately.

                              1. re: jwagnerdsm

                                The Des Moines Club and the Embassy Club are joined now which were the two old Des Moines private clubs. The food is traditional which is a way of saying it is ok. The service is good but I don't think it is and experience like it was in 1988. Ahh I remember those days of course they might be just a bit better because I wasn't pay the bill in those days. A membership to the club allows access to both clubs. I don't really understand how they can maintain both spaces. I hope they continue because I do think there is a need for this service. I have been to dinner on a Saturday night and only had two other tables. The people I brought with me were concerned about food turnover. I live in WDM so I don't take advantage of the week day breakfast or lunch which I suspect is the most popular. An additional fee allows you to dine at Glenn Oaks which I think has the best Sunday brunch.

                                Does anybody have any other recommendations on brunch? Since the Crystal Tree closed I think there is a gap. I went with a family to the West Des Moines Club which used to be great but it was horrible. Granite City has a decent brunch but my senior family members liked the water fountain to the big screen TVs. The Machine Shed also has a breakfast brunch. Any other ideas?

                                1. re: skyguy

                                  Centro Had a pretty good sunday brunch, but it was not a buffet if thats what you were looking for. Le Mia has a great brunch, great food all around, 42nd and school i believe. Michaels in Beaverdale has a good Sunday breakfast.

                              2. re: kmh

                                I went there for my high school prom in 1988 ... Thanks for reminding me about the caesar salad experience there!

                          2. The best restaurant in town is the Flying Mango on Hickman. I highly recommend the brisket. It is 15 min from down town and totally worth it. THe owner is their and he is running the smoker. I would call it a smoked bistro with cajun influence. Some Monday nights they have good live music and appetizers. Tasty Tacos is a Des Moines staple, get the Original Flower taco, in fact get two. Bistro Montage on 28th is a great spot for dinner, and it is just outside of Down Town, 28th and Ingersol, and Zanzibars is right across the street, a great coffee shop with wonderful egg sandwiches in the morning, fresh squeezed orange juice and great folks behind the counter. Manhattan Deli is right up the street and is arguably the best lunch spot in town, it has the Vito which is amazing. The Latin King is worth a stop, also another great lunch spot, good for dinner too, Chicken Spadini is out of this word.

                            37 Replies
                            1. re: coldcream

                              I adore the Flying Mango! If you step around to the back of the building, you can get a glimpse of their huge smoker. That is real bbq. My only gripe is that my cornbread was served stone cold. There was NO chance of the honey butter melting.

                              1. re: coldcream

                                Actually, you want the "flour" taco, although the other would be interesting. Flying Mango is a good recommendation and the steamed eggs at Zanzibar are terrific, too. I think you can do better than Manhattan as far as sandwiches are concerned. Just MHO.

                                1. re: coldcream

                                  Does Flying Mango have burnt ends? Please say they have burnt ends!

                                  1. re: sigerson57

                                    Unfortunately, I don't think they have burnt ends on the menu. But the brisket IS fantastic.

                                    1. re: sigerson57

                                      Smokey D's, just east of 2nd ave and about 1/4 mile North of I 80, I think it is N.54th st, has Des Moines only decent version of burnt ends that I have found.

                                      1. re: Bobfrmia

                                        I'll weigh in here. I've had the burnt ends at KC BBQ at Court and E. 14th and thought they were decent. Smokey D's are better though. Better yet (for me) Smokey D's just opened a place on the skywalk downtown. Don't tell anyone though - it's crazy busy already.

                                        1. re: dg2445

                                          You mean there are places within 120 miles of me that have burnt ends? I asked, figuring it was a shot in the dark, but this is great. Thank you.

                                          1. re: sigerson57

                                            I don't know where you're at, but if you aren't North of Des Moines, you should still just head to LC's, in Kansas City. The burnt ends there are beyond compare.
                                            KC BBQ on E.14th were pretty lame when I had them. I was pumped, as they were the first I'd found in Des Moines. I asked the pitmaster where he studied his craft, specifically Burnt Ends. He just told me Arthur Bryant invented them, and that he just made them better. Bold Statement. Totally false. Not really burnt. Very dry. Mediocre brisket cubes.

                                            1. re: Bobfrmia

                                              I live in Iowa City, but frequent KC and environs. Mention "burnt ends" to BBQ people outside KC and they have no idea what you're talking about.

                                              1. re: sigerson57

                                                A question I asked on a Kansas City thread. How does something so good, never spread beyond the city where it was invented? Nobody really knows.
                                                I now know of 3 places in Des Moines.
                                                KC BBQ = Pass,
                                                Smokey D's = will do until I can get to LC's
                                                Gateway Market = I'll let you know, just found out.

                                              2. re: Bobfrmia

                                                Really? I've had them twice there and liked them both times. Go figure.

                                                1. re: dg2445

                                                  I'm a L.A. poster going to Des Moines (husband is on business there) for an upcoming long weekend -- few questions:

                                                  What's a good but reasonably priced steak house? (under $100 for 2 people who aren't big drinkers).
                                                  Um, what are burnt ends? (forgive me!)
                                                  Confirming that if we're going to do one Italian and one barbeque dinner, Barrattas & Flying Mango would be good bets.

                                                  Def planning a sausage sandwich at Kelly's.

                                                  Any other recs would be greatly appreciated. We like going where the locals go and aren't looking for super upscale restaurants like Luca (since we have that in L.A). We're in our 30's and like kinda funky, authentic places --

                                                  Oh and sidebar here -- we're staying in Clive, what's the transpo like to get to downtown? (My husband has a rental car, but I will be without it on Friday).

                                                  Thanks everyone!

                                                  1. re: Silverlaker

                                                    Burnt ends are nothing with which you need to concern yourself in Des Moines. They are the part of the brisket that's considered too done and is cut away and not served, except in Kansas City. If there are other places on Planet Earth that serve them, I am not aware of those places. But I search on. And I dream.

                                                    1. re: Silverlaker

                                                      I'm gonna ramble a bit here.
                                                      A lot of people really like Iowa Beef Steakhouse. I think they charge about 20.00 for whatever steak you want. I don't have any recent firsthand knowledge, but it's been around forever. Check the link, see what you think.
                                                      Local steakhouse that is a Des Moines staple, Jesse's Embers on Ingersoll. Small, dark, place with a fiercely loyal following. Was there about a year ago. The ribeyes were great, sirloin was good. Prices reasonable.
                                                      There are numerous places that aren't steakhouses, per se, but serve damn fine steaks. Judge Roy Beans downtown served me one of the best sirloins I ever had. Depending on when you are here, lots of bars do steak fry's that can't be beat. TJ's on University, in Clive, has a Friday steak fry that gets you a 10 oz sirloin, baked potato, salad, garlic bread, for 9.99. Oh, and it's funky. Guy cooked a good steak a perfect medium rare. Not sure if they do it in the cold weather though.
                                                      Barrattas is fine, I like Latin King better. Flying Mango is decent BBQ for Des Moines, but once you've been to some of Kansas City's finest, it doesn't measure up.
                                                      While you say you enjoy funky, authentic places, I will tell you Kelly's, while serving one hell of a sandwich, is a lunch spot. Otherwise you will swear you walked into a scene from Deliverance.
                                                      If you have never enjoyed a breaded pork tenderloin sandwich, for a truly Midwest experience, you should. Michaels in Beaverdale makes about the best around.
                                                      sigerson is party right on the Burnt Ends. I would just say that if chances of getting to Kansas City in the future aren't good, Smokey D's are good. If you really like BBQ, you would wonder, as we do, why these aren't done everywhere. I would say if you liked them, figure Kansas City would be 3 times better. That alone might make you plan a trip.
                                                      There is more upscale dining than you would believe here, but I'm trying to stick to your request.
                                                      Oh, I've always wanted to get out west for an In and Out burger. People sure are passionate about them. B'bops is our little local chain. If you see one grab a burger and let me know how they stack up.
                                                      Don't know public transportation. The farthest suburb from the west side, to the farthest one on the east side, is about a 15 minute drive. Nothing in Des Moines is far away. I'll give you a link to our bus system.
                                                      Lastly, unsolicited, when you say funky and authentic, it just makes me think Blues on Grand. A true throwback to the old ( god forbid ) smokey, dark, kickass blues bars. If you're into that kinda thing, check out the schedule here.
                                                      Not a food place.
                                                      Let me know if you have any other questions. I will obviously have opinions.
                                                      Enjoy Des Moines. Bring some sun.

                                                      1. re: Bobfrmia

                                                        Has anyone mentioned Maid-Rite yet? Not my thing, but if you want to try something local...

                                                        Bob, this is a bit off-topic, but I found In and Out to be overrated.

                                                        1. re: sigerson57

                                                          Maid-Rite is certainly an Iowa classic, unfortunately I've been completely unimpressed with the stores here in Des Moines. I'd recommend a trip to Marshalltown for that.

                                                          1. re: dg2445

                                                            There is a Maid Rite in Valley Junction that is pretty good, if you can snag a seat.

                                                            My family has always sworn by the filet at Noah's but I've been informed recently that its gone a bit down hill.

                                                            The Continental in East Village is good for local and funky - its serves food along with being a bar. The portions aren't huge (my mom likes to say tapas aren't new -- we used to call them appetizers) but what I've had there is good. Its also near Luca so you can check it out.I

                                                            Also in Valley Junction is Simo's Cafestrino, which is a totally funk cajun-something else type place. Super small and open random hours but its good.

                                                            What kind of Italian are you looking for? I was born and raised in Des Moines but have never been to Barrattas (and we ate/eat Italian all the time). Classic red sauce type (which there are tons of DSM) include Noah's, Gino's, Latin King, Trattoria.

                                                            There is also Sam and Gabe's, which is now in Clive that is more upscale than just red sauce Italian. I also really like Cafe diScala, http://www.cafediscala.com/. Its in a neat old Victorian house in Des Moines.

                                                            In terms of local and funky, I don't know if you guys are into beer but you should check out El Bait Shop and the Hi Life Lounge -- to great bars right next to each other in downtown Des Moines.

                                                            Also, check out the Downtown farmers market -- its one of the best farmer's market I've been to in the US, especially considering that it is not a permanent structure.

                                                            I have no idea how you get from Clive to downtown Des Moines, without a car. :)

                                                            On a final note, I agree with the above poster that BBQ isn't really what Des Moines is known for, so feel free to post more questions and we'll come back to help!

                                                            And see http://travel.nytimes.com/2007/12/02/... (don't know if it was linked above)

                                                            1. re: dg2445

                                                              Still the best and only place in Iowa to get a great Maid-Rite. It's been owned by the same family for close to 80+ years. Only drawback is that Marshalltown is about an hours drive from Des Moines, but the road is all 4 lane which helps.

                                                          2. re: Bobfrmia

                                                            Bob -- thanks also for the Blues tip, we love the blues... looks right up our alley!

                                                            1. re: Bobfrmia

                                                              Does Blues on Grand ever do its big Cajun feeds anymore?

                                                              1. re: Bobfrmia


                                                                In case you haven't been to In-N-Out, yet, I will say B-Bop's and In-N-Out are not close.

                                                                I was disappointed my first trip to In-N-Out, given the hype. But, once I accepted it for what it is, I really like it. I won't try to describe it in detail, since others have done a better job.

                                                                My take is that In-N-Out serves the freshest "fast" food I've ever had. Although the bun is very plain, the ingredients are probably also the best among fast food places. Since pretty much everything is made to order, it isn't particularly fast. Among my complaints - lettuce can be excessively wet, and the food is on the saltier side. If you can appreciate simple, clean, and consistent - you might like it.

                                                                I'm not a big fast food fan, and B-Bops was just another one, to me. My burger had been cooked ahead of time, and was almost fully cooled. The fries were typical, heavily processed, restaurant fries. Maybe I'll give them another shot, someday when I'm starving and short on time.


                                                              2. re: Silverlaker

                                                                Unfortunately, Clive is just outside the bus routes. You could always call a cab!

                                                                1. re: spellweaver16

                                                                  Oh my gosh, thanks everyone for the wealth of information! I'm gonna have fun making my lists.

                                                                  To answer a few of your questions --

                                                                  -- for Italian, we'd love to go "old school/red sauce" (we have fancy trattorias in L.A.). Latin King or Di Scala sound good...

                                                                  -- sure, throw in some higher end restaurants (pls nothing over $100 for 2 pp). My husband is working here for three months and I'm going to be visiting a few times a month so maybe I can get in a fancy dinner...

                                                                  -- turns out, we are going to Kansas City for one of the weekends. I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT KC cuisine so feel free to fill me in and let me know where to go (yes, I will also do a search). I'm assuming bbq is the way to go.

                                                                  -- and yes BobFrmia: In & Out as well as Bob's Big Boys and Apple Pan are our top burger places in L.A. It's always a big treat to indulge in one of these places and you're never disappointed. In & Out is also in Arizona if you're ever out that way.

                                                                  Again, many thanks! I'm looking forward to my visit -- my husband tells me the locals are very friendly and helpful.

                                                                  -- also thanks for the transpo tips, I suspected as much. My husband will be at work on Friday so I might just have to take a cab or something to downtown.

                                                                  1. re: Silverlaker

                                                                    "We're in our 30's and like kinda funky, authentic places --"

                                                                    If breakfast is on your list, don't miss the Waveland Cafe on University. I think it will meet your wish.

                                                                    By the way Di Scala and Latin King are completely different styles of food. The King is owned by long time family owners and has more of a home style feel to its food. When Bobby Tursi meets you at the door tell him you're out of towners which will assure a good table and great service from long time staff.

                                                                    Di Scala is fun not only for the food but also for the neighborhood, old Victorians under restoration. If you have time take a walk or drive around Sherman Hill where it is located.


                                                                    Hope you have a good time and let us know what you think of your dining!

                                                                    1. re: DrWine

                                                                      You HAVE to try Gino's and get the Steak DeBurgo. Iowa has some new "trendy" places but Sam and Gabes is the real thing. I grew up there, I live in Denver now and am super into restaurants but that place - it has been there forever and it is the first place that I insist on going when i return. Please please try this place. Latin King is good, but really - Ginos is the best. I also like Sam and Gabes. Des Moines is changing quite a bit but what I miss the most is the true home cooking, not the new trendy places that try (and may succeed) in doing new cuisine, but truly I miss the the real cooking. If you are looking for authentic, go to Ginos.

                                                                      1. re: rockygus

                                                                        Rocky -- you get us. We're not looking for trendy, we're looking for authentic. So I'm confused... is Gino's Italian? And I take it Sam and Gabes is another restaurant???? If so, what type of food -- lordie, I'm getting lost here.

                                                                        Waveland Cafe sounds perfect for my husband who loves his breakfast (and, I think, his hotel is on University).

                                                                        1. re: Silverlaker

                                                                          Sam and Gabes is considered an "Italian Bistro". Highly regarded by many, and a little more varied then "Italian Bistro" would lead you to believe. Check out the prices and menu here.
                                                                          My son used to swear by the De Burgo, but he knew the owner, so he usually ate free.
                                                                          Steak De Burgo. It occurs to me that this is a dish rarely seen outside of Des Moines, or at least Central Iowa. Easy to forget as most places serve a version of it, so you see it so often around here. I believe it was invented at Johnny and Kays back in the 50's or 60's, but hey, history is not really my thing. Johnny and Kays has been gone for years, but De Burgo will live on forever.
                                                                          True versions are a Fillet covered with a butter garlic sauce. Lots of places put their own spin on it. Lots of the Italian places use Italian seasonings more than garlic, but I'm sure at some point you will see it on a menu. Done right, quite decadent, and very good. Fillets usually need some help, and this gives it to them.
                                                                          Gino's has been here forever. Thinking about it, there are countless family owned, Italian places that have been here forever. Obviously they all have their loyal followings. I'm hard pressed to recommend or not, as Italian is not usually my thing. At least when it comes to Pasta and Red sauce. My rec of Latin King is based on Fried Chicken, and Chicken Spedini(sp?).
                                                                          Barrattas, Noah's, Mama Laconas, Gino's, Chucks, Scornovacco's, the list goes on and on.
                                                                          I think you would get a good meal at any of them. Gino's sells their salad dressings in the local markets, and they are great.
                                                                          That's what I know of them. They pretty much all do a real good thin crust pizza. Noahs used to have a house specialty Porterhouse Steak with Colbert sauce that was My annual Anniversary meal, but I haven't done it for over 10 years, and don't know if it's even on the menu anymore. If Italian is something you really enjoy, sounds like you'll have a chance to try a few of them. Let us know how that goes.
                                                                          University runs all the way from the far East side, to the far West side. If you are in Clive, on University, you are far west. The Waveland is west side of Des Moines. You will be just North of I-235. You'll want to take it East to 63rd, 63rd north to University, University East about a mile +, just past the golf course. It will be on your right, at the lights, angle parking along the busy street, that will be full. Park behind, or on a side street. The hash browns are worth the effort.

                                                                          1. re: Bobfrmia

                                                                            Definitely try the DeBurgo. In fact, just thinking about it makes me hungry.God, of all the things we lost during the flood, I don't think there's anything I miss more than Johnny's Vets Club. That place was a treasure, at least in my mind's eye.

                                                                            I think El Bait Shop and the Miller High Life Lounge are both pretty good recommendations. I also like Hessen Haus and am partial to Locust Street Tap on Friday nights for the live music and true dive bar experience. And it's so close to some good restaurants in the East Village.

                                                                            I have also had some fine meals recently at Star Bar and would hope you'd give the Gateway Market's terrific little cafeteria a try. Best french fries on the planet and now they are doing Friday night wine tastings along with some nice appetizers. Problem is that no matter how hard you try, you can't forget that you are still in a grocery store.

                                                                            I'd encourage you to give our beautiful state capitol a quick look and check out the Salisbury House, a magnificent mansion near the intersection of 42nd and Grand. (Follow the signs). It's the sort of place that we'd drive hundreds of miles to see if we were in Europe but don't bother visiting since we assume it will always be here.

                                                                            1. re: jwagnerdsm

                                                                              All the others are right - steak deburgo is so amazing. Gino's is an old family-run restaurant, they are mostly italian but the steaks are the best. You get a choice of pasta or potatoes as a side, they are just my favorite. I'm so hungry reading these now. :-) You just have to try it...

                                                                              Sam and Gabes is a little more upscale but family run and I really love their veal or chicken asiago. Latin King is famous for their chicken spedini (sp) and Noah's has also been around forever, I just didn't think they were that special.

                                                                              Smitty's is great for traditional Iowa tenderloin sandwiches.

                                                                              If you are anywhere near the Amanas, you have to have their family style breakfast - it is so amazing. I believe the Machine Shed does the same thing but I have never eaten there so I cannot vouch for it. My aunt from Baltimore insisted on going there and she did like it.

                                                                              If you are also able to travel a bit - Grimes is a little town right outside of Des Moines and there is a restaurant called "the Corn Patch" that is TRUE Iowa home cooking. The owner is from Manilla, Iowa where my dad grew up. I love the old towns and it is crazy, Des Moines is growing so fast.

                                                                              I guess I think of Iowa food as homestyle - comfort foods, real ingredients - honestly like you have just been working at a farm. I know Des Moines is more metropolitan now but that is what I loved and very much miss about the food.

                                                                              I've heard of the Waverly Cafe and been there but can't remember it exactly, I do think it has been there forever and my friends that lived around the area went there often.

                                                                              1. re: rockygus

                                                                                I always hate to dispute another poster, but for pork tenderloins, Smitty's is below average. Frozen, likely a prefab product, they don't measure up anymore.

                                                                                1. re: rockygus

                                                                                  I can't imagine anyone saying Smitty's has a good tenderloin..don't waste your time going there...and I love Latin King...I live in Ankeny and I'm looking forward to Wig and Pen opening here!

                                                                                  1. re: cashmeer_

                                                                                    I recently went to Smitty's for the tenderloin. It is overpriced for an average size tenderloin ( $6.50) and the fries are overpriced as well. Service was good. There are better tenderloins out there than at Smitty's.

                                                                                2. re: jwagnerdsm

                                                                                  For my money Sam & Gabes has the best steak DeBurgo in town. I've seen some recipes around that have some cream in them but S&G just uses olive oil & herbs and perhaps a bit of garlic. Plus the tenderloin they use just melts in your mouth.

                                                                        2. re: Silverlaker

                                                                          The best red sauce in town is at Rochelli's(?) off of E. 14 and Indianola Ave.. The red sauce Barattas uses on their chicken or veal parmigiano is also super. Just had a super red sauce on the lasagna at Torocco(Urbandale) last week also.

                                                                          1. re: Iowaboy3

                                                                            Hey Des Moines Chows,

                                                                            A group of 10 of us are returning to Des Moines for our annual trip. We are looking for a great restaurant that can serve a large group with different price points. We have been to Django, Centro, Noah's Ark and Flying Mango. We go every year and like to find new spots. There are vegetarians in our group.


                                                                            1. re: chadradchad

                                                                              Mojo's, Sbrocco, or Alba. If you want to try Japanese/sushi, try Miyabi 9.

                                                      2. Do all of these Tasty Tacos offer the same menu? If so, which is closest to the freeway as I drive from St. Paul to Kansas City?
                                                        Thanks VERY much.

                                                        (515) 262-1100 - 2900 E Euclid Ave, Des Moines, IA 50317
                                                        (515) 285-1946 - 5847 SE 14th St, Des Moines, IA 50320
                                                        (515) 274-0884 - 3715 Douglas Ave, Des Moines, IA 50310
                                                        (515) 266-4242 - 1418 E Grand, Des Moines, IA 50307

                                                        18 Replies
                                                        1. re: soccermom13

                                                          Hmm, none are really close to the freeway. If you take I-235 through Des Moines, rather than around on I80 / I35, then you can get fairly close to the 2900 E Euclid store, or the 1418 E Grand store. As far as I know, they are all very similar on the menu, but there may be a few differences location to location.


                                                          Pretty informative website. I recommend the E Grand store. Assuming you are coming from the North, take I-235 through Des Moines. Get off at the E 14th Street exit and go South to Grand. Turn West on grand off of E-14th and it will be on your left side (north side of the road). May have to go through a light, can't recall for sure. Mapquest it and enjoy.


                                                          1. re: Inthewater

                                                            Inthewater---THANK YOU SO MUCH!

                                                            Any other suggestions for close-to-the-freeway stops? I'll be making the return trip in a few days. Is La Mie Bakery good?

                                                            Thanks again.

                                                            1. re: soccermom13

                                                              La Mie is very good, but not sure it is open all day. At night it becomes a very good French Bistro called Le Jardin.

                                                              How many places are you looking to stop at in or around the Des Moines area?

                                                              Also, I recommended Stroud's North of KC in another thread of yours. Well worth the trip off the interstate.

                                                              Still in the twin cities? Have you ever been to http://www.hellskitcheninc.com/ ?

                                                              Have only ever heard good or great things about the place. Its on my list of places I want to go.

                                                              1. re: Inthewater

                                                                wesome pizza place in Ames, which is just North of Des Moines. Not too far off the interstate.


                                                                :) Om-nom-nom.

                                                                1. re: Inthewater

                                                                  While I love Great Plains, Ames isn't "just north of Des Moines". It's a good 30 minute trip. If they're going that far out of their way, anyplace in Des Moines is closer.

                                                                  1. re: vitus979

                                                                    It's funny, because I tend to agree with you about Ames. Yet, I live in downtown Kansas City, and Overland Park can be a 30 minute drive (depending on where you go), and I consider it to be "just south" or "just west" - all relative I guess.

                                                                    1. re: vitus979

                                                                      @vitus979 - The person in question is coming from St. Paul heading to KC, which I believe she mentioned in the original post. Ames is just off of I-35 which is more than likely the route they will take.

                                                                      You are correct that it is 30-45 minutes from DSM, but in this case it would have worked for their trip. Perhaps reading the post that was replied to before correcting is in order here? Thanks.

                                                                      1. re: Inthewater

                                                                        On a nice day, I can do it in 20 minutes.
                                                                        Just kidding.

                                                                        1. re: Bobfrmia

                                                                          heh, no problem, Bob. It really depends where you are starting from in DSM, which as i am sure you know is sort of a sprawling town. Let's say you live down by Bordy's on the South Side. Gonna take you quite a bit longer to get to Ames.

                                                                          Anyway, hopefully soccermom had a good time on her trip and will be back.

                                                                          1. re: Inthewater

                                                                            If I lived near Bordy's, it would take longer due to the additional weight the car had to carry.

                                                                  2. re: Inthewater

                                                                    I ate at Tasty Taco yesterday---VERY good. I got there about 3:45 pm and I was the only one there but the place quickly became busy---at 4 pm! It was also clean and neat as a pin, which I like to see. Thanks for this great tip.

                                                                    If I pass through Des Moines at the right time on the way back, I will stop at La Mie. IIRC, I may have stopped there last year. Is this the place where they have French bread and butter and jam in the front area (where you order) and you can help yourself?

                                                                    p.s. Because I am directionally challenged, I took a wrong turn but the silver lining was that I got to see the Iowa state capitol up close and it was beautiful.

                                                                    p.s.s. I've only been to Hell's Kitchen once. I had the breakfast porridge, which is a wonderful wild rice-based porridge with lots of other good things in it. Your post reminds me that I should eat there again. I know they make their own peanut butter, and I am a fan of all things peanut butter, so I will try that next time, even if I have to order it as a side :0)

                                                                    (I'm posting this from Overland Park. I'll leave in a few hours for Dallas.)

                                                                    1. re: Inthewater

                                                                      went to hell's kitchen with my family. The girls l (9& 7) loved the band but the food was average. i've heard that breakfast is better. the tables were gross too, if anyone cares about that kind of thing.

                                                                      disappointed by lucca.

                                                                      and In & Out is great!- it's because the ground beef isn't frozen like other fast food chains.

                                                                      as for bbq, Arthur Bryant's & Oklahoma Joe's in K.C. is outstanding. i'm sure there are many more to choose from though.

                                                                      1. re: Bobfrmia

                                                                        La Mie closes at 4 in the afternoon and turns into a bistro with a different chef. Le Jardin opens at 5. A lot of the good stuff at La Mie is sold out early.

                                                                    2. re: Inthewater

                                                                      You mean turn left on E.Grand from E.14th. Then it will be on your left.

                                                                      1. re: Bobfrmia

                                                                        Ahh, yep. You want to head East on Grand, so turn left at Grand and E 14th st. Got turned around, rarely coming from that direction. :)

                                                                        Mapquest is your friend, don't listen to my half cocked directions.

                                                                        1. re: Inthewater

                                                                          I stopped at La Mie on the way home and got the best scone I have ever had in my life---wish I could remember what kind I got.

                                                                          We plan to visit Des Moines again this summer on our way to Kansas City, where we will begin a trip along the Missouri River. I'll be back to ask for more advice.

                                                                          Thanks so much for your help.

                                                                    3. re: soccermom13

                                                                      There is a new one in Ankeny, Iowa off of Interstate 35 [15 miles North of Des Moines].

                                                                    4. Had lunch at Tally's for the first time this week. Online reviews were great. Looks like they have a loyal following. I ordered the BLT on a grilled Ciabatta. Not fond of grilled but they don't have a toaster so I asked for lightly grilled with no butter. After all, I'm getting mayo on my sandwich! Several options for a side include fries, cottage cheese, fresh fruit, etc. I chose the fruit and was pleasantly surprised to get a generous cup of fresh pineapple, melon, grapes and strawberries. The sandwich was the real kicker. My "ciabatta" turned out to be two slices of italian bread cut abut 1 1/2" inches thick (each!!). The lettuce and tomatoes were fresh and there were at least 12 slices of bacon. The sandwich was at least 5 inches thick... not exagerating here. After dismantling the sandwich, removing 2/3rds of the bacon (I do want to live beyond 60 after all) and ditching one of the bread slices, I ate my open-faced sandwich and it tasted great! The chef (and maybe owner?) came out to see how were were doing. Nice guy and really seemed interested in my postive and constructive criticisms. I was there for a business lunch, wanted something I could actually eat without finding all the food on my chin or in my lap. My guest had the fish taco with fries and a cup of the lobster bisque. She said the fries were too salty. Never one to pass up a french fry, I tried several and thought they were great. A little crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. (Restaurants just don't do fries right... they never cook them long enough!!) They were "seasoned" fries which I would normally avoid but they were actually pretty good. The soup had no garnish which my partner commented on but I noticed her cup was empty. I would go back because the food was good and the prices were reasonable. I'll just be a little more high maintenance when I order so I get it the way I want it. Because, to me, it matters!

                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                      1. re: itmatters

                                                                        I've been consulting in Des Moines this year one week in three since January. I'd have to say my best meal was definitely at Alba (modern American bistro), in the East Village, E 6th and Grand. Shannon still had some Templeton behind the bar, too.

                                                                        Second best was lunch at Proof (also modern American, but with a particular emphasis on fresh flavors), on 13th between Locust and Grand. Proof is a great deal, fabulous food, clean no frills atmosphere, but only lunches except for Friday dinners.

                                                                        Third would be a tie between the contemporary Southern cuisine at Walnut & 4th and the crab rangoon pizza at Fong's across the street.

                                                                        The oysters at Splash are great, as is the beer selection at El Bait Shop, and I'm fond of the spent grain pretzels at the Court Ave. Brewing Company and the pork rillette at Django.

                                                                        Django Restaurant
                                                                        210 10th Street, Des Moines, IA 50309

                                                                        El Bait Shop
                                                                        200 SW 2nd St, Des Moines, IA 50309

                                                                        1. re: quislet

                                                                          Contemporary Southern Cuisine at Walnut & 4th? Which restaurant are you talking about, out of curiosity?

                                                                      2. I see someone mentioned Michaels in Beaverdale...the resteraunt is called Saints now...and the tenderloin I had was the very best in the Des Moines..moved here from the Twin Cities a couple years ago..and I ve searched for even a decent tenerloin with no luck, until I went to Saints...now if only some resteraunt could buy a "real" broaster for chicken...so I don't have to drive to the Adel Godfathers..would really be a great thing!

                                                                        21 Replies
                                                                        1. re: cashmeer_

                                                                          What are you comparing the loin from Saints Pub & Patio to, if I may ask? I had always put off trying it because the place is owned by some people who mostly operate trendy bars, but they do have good wings that are 50cents on weekends. Tully's across the street advertised a half pound loin, but like most of the stuff on the menu, it was poorly executed.

                                                                          For fried chicken, try the Q in West Des Moines.

                                                                          1. re: trza

                                                                            I ve been to many places...most of them were recommended by other people as having the best tenderloins...and I never went back a second time...I ll have to try kellys and the Q for chicken....if you've never had true broasted chicken your missing out on something wonderful...the Adel Godfathers is the only place in this entire area that has it..and they told me people drive a long way to eat there...

                                                                            1. re: cashmeer_

                                                                              The High Life Lounge in downtown Des Moines has Broasted Chicken.
                                                                              Kelly's is under new ownership. Haven't been since the changeover, but before I found the Tenderloin to be pounded very thin, and overwhelmed by the breading.

                                                                              High Life Lounge
                                                                              200 SW 2nd St, Des Moines, IA 50309

                                                                              1. re: Bobfrmia

                                                                                I ve had the chicken at the highlife lounge...its not from the "real" broaster that comes from Wisconsin...go to the Adel Godfathers and eat the chicken...then you ll understand..

                                                                                1. re: cashmeer_

                                                                                  It actually is from the Broaster that comes from Beloit Wisconsin.
                                                                                  The High Life is listed on the Broaster website as an official Broasted chicken seller. Godfathers in Adel is not.
                                                                                  I'm not trying to argue, just curious as to what's going on here.
                                                                                  I wonder if Godfathers changed something in the recipe that keeps them from being listed, and makes the chicken better.
                                                                                  I will have to go to Adel and try it. I love broasted chicken.

                                                                                  1. re: Bobfrmia

                                                                                    yes, please try it..and let me know the difference..because there was a huge difference...maybe the High Life needs to change their grease more often...I have no clue...thanks Bob for your info...I moved here from Hastings, Mn about 20 min from St. Paul...there is a place there that has broasted chicken like the chicken in Adel and between 5 and 6 pm...there is a line of people that goes out the door...just to wait for their turn to take it home...

                                                                                    1. re: cashmeer_

                                                                                      Bob..I went to the Broaster website...and saw a few Maid Rite places listed...those places do not have the same chicken as the Godfathers in Adel.....not sure whats going on ...

                                                                                2. re: Bobfrmia

                                                                                  Sunnyside Tap in Traer was the best broasted I've ever had, but I'll check out GF in Adel since it's a lot closer; thanks for the info!

                                                                                3. re: cashmeer_

                                                                                  Smitty's tenderloin on Army post road has the best tenderloin in DSM IMHO.

                                                                                  1. re: msb

                                                                                    I agree w/you about Smitty's so I'm not startin' any'ting, but Millie's, Porky's, George's and The Onion Ring, were darned good competitors. Jethro's has been my fave of late. If you haven't checked out Des Loines website, please do!

                                                                                    1. re: hamboney

                                                                                      Your the second person that's mentioned Jethro's...so that will be our next tenderloin stop...the first year we moved here..we went to Smittys and never went back...the tenderloin was big but I m not sure how they got it that thin..unless they drive over them a few times....but I hear people love them...

                                                                                      1. re: cashmeer_

                                                                                        My two adult sons and I went to Smitty's last year ( December 2010) and were not impressed. Tenderloins were OK but not that big and we thought the order of fries was kinda small for the price.
                                                                                        We are used to a local eatery in SE Iowa ( Rome) called Deano's Place that serves a HUGE tenderloin that covers the dinner plate along with a huge order of fries that all-together costs about $6.00. Wish I could post a pic of it.
                                                                                        If you are in SE Iowa stop in and try it. It's on Hwy 34 just west of Mt. Pleasant.

                                                                                        Smitty's Tenderloin Shop
                                                                                        1401 Army Post Rd, Des Moines, IA 50315

                                                                                        Deano's Bar
                                                                                        714 O St, Loup City, NE 68853

                                                                                    2. re: msb

                                                                                      IMO the B&B Grocery Stores tenderloins are better. It's not the size of a discus like Smitty's is, but it's thicker, and B&B is also a butcher, so they make the fresh every morning.

                                                                                      1. re: msb

                                                                                        Smitty's hasn't been decent since the mid-1980's IMHO ...

                                                                                        1. re: hawkeyeui93

                                                                                          Well our group is at it again. About 10-15 of us are coming in for vacation to Des Moines. Anything new and exciting on the dining scene since last year?

                                                                                          1. re: chadradchad

                                                                                            I'd suggest:
                                                                                            Baru 66 - French
                                                                                            El Chisme - Al pastor pizza (among other things)
                                                                                            Kirkwood Lounge
                                                                                            Zombie Burger - highly recommend the burgers and wedding cake shake

                                                                                            Jethro's Jambalaya opens beginning of December if you'll be here after then.

                                                                                            El Chisme
                                                                                            2920 Merle Hay Rd, Des Moines, IA 50310

                                                                                            1. re: jhojati

                                                                                              I'll give a +1 to the pizza at El Chisme. It got good reviews from both foodies and non-foodies the last time I took a group there.

                                                                                              El Chisme
                                                                                              2920 Merle Hay Rd, Des Moines, IA 50310

                                                                                              1. re: vitus979

                                                                                                Tartine is new, but its like a casual version of Baru.
                                                                                                Smokey D's north location is a model of BBQ and crowd control efficiency, they get nearly as many people as the Olive Garden in Ankeny.
                                                                                                Zombie Burger wins the "best online promotion" award for new restaurants in Des Moines this year. They ran out of food and had lines out the door when the place opened. All of this for burgers.
                                                                                                Americana downtown is new also.

                                                                                                1. re: trza

                                                                                                  >>Smokey D's north location is a model of BBQ and crowd control efficiency,

                                                                                                  I love love love Smokey D's, and have since it was just the original place in Ankeny with only the picnic tables for seating. And yes, they do put through a TON of people in a given day, but they shoot customers through the order line extremely quickly (especially for only having two cash registers). I prefer going in the mid-afternoon on Saturday or Sunday when it's quieter.

                                                                                                  >>Zombie Burger... and had lines out the door when the place opened.

                                                                                                  They still have lines out the door. I've tried going no less than 3 times. Once right when they opened, and then two other times widely spaced apart for lunch on the weekend. I've always left when I see the line. Busy Busy Busy. I just need to find a time when they're more empty, like a Saturday at 4pm.

                                                                                                  >>Tartine is new, but its like a casual version of Baru.

                                                                                                  That sounds intriguing. What's the pricing and the menu like? Casual like Django? Or casual like High Life Lounge? :)

                                                                                                  1. re: vitus979

                                                                                                    Tartine - casual like La Mie or Gateway Market, or if you're familiar outside of Iowa, Cosi.

                                                                                4. Came to visit a friend and celebrate her 90th birthday ...

                                                                                  Due to nat'l wrestling tournament, the hotels were slammed.
                                                                                  Friends suggested Pattee Hotel in Perry ... ~35 mins from
                                                                                  where we wanted to be. Thankfully, I found a hotel in West
                                                                                  Des Moines that would still honor my corp rate.

                                                                                  Drove to Perry to meet our friends for dinner at the Pattee
                                                                                  Hotel. A very interesting, olde restored bldg.

                                                                                  The restaurant/bar operation is not good. Three attempts at
                                                                                  a dirty martini all failed. Only two Sharp's in the bldg. Two
                                                                                  of the entree choices were not avail. Strip steak was nothing
                                                                                  special and poorly seasoned. The "garlic mashed" had no
                                                                                  garlic whatsoever. The lactose intolerant
                                                                                  member of
                                                                                  our party declined the ala mode option for her
                                                                                  dessert. Only to have it delivered, swimming in a pool
                                                                                  of melted ice cream. The only waitress was friendly
                                                                                  ... but not very knowledgeable about the menu. She was run
                                                                                  ragged, but probably 40% of her struggle was self-inflicted
                                                                                  due to poor organization. At one point, we appealed
                                                                                  to the bartender to keep our drinks refilled.

                                                                                  Our friends gripe'd about no in-room coffee. No lobby
                                                                                  coffee. No hot-water in their room. Another couple was
                                                                                  checking-out early due to 2-days without hot-water.

                                                                                  Fri lunch with the birthday girl and a few close friends at
                                                                                  Fire Creek. Attentive and knowledgeable service. The
                                                                                  reserved table was ready and we were seated immediately.
                                                                                  Sandwiches and salads all around. They provided the BD
                                                                                  cake and let us in to a corner pantry area to personalize and
                                                                                  decorate the cake ourselves. Kudos for the cooperation.

                                                                                  Sat dinner at the country club. Excellent meal. Seemed like
                                                                                  our party could've used another server ... as she was *really*
                                                                                  hustling and not fully able to keep up with reasonable service
                                                                                  requests. The BD girl was a bit disappointed that the private
                                                                                  dining room reserved for the celebration ... was not private.
                                                                                  (They began seat others in the room).

                                                                                  Sat brunch at PerKup Cafe. In a word: Excellent. Arrived
                                                                                  at 10:30 for brunch. Offered a tiny 2-top in a high traffic
                                                                                  area too close to the restrooms. Asked for the 4-top by the
                                                                                  window and were promptly seated without drama or fussing.

                                                                                  Coffee, OJ, "loaded" omelette & wheat toast were all
                                                                                  excellent. Attentive staff and server. Kind of an awkward
                                                                                  checkout ... the check did not include prices. Woman at
                                                                                  register did it on a calculator, then again using the register.
                                                                                  Odd/weird and slow. Surprised that I could not find it
                                                                                  mentioned here when I searched. That other site (Yawn),
                                                                                  gave us a good tip for a change.

                                                                                  1. Can anyone recommend a good cocktail bar downtown? We're staying at the Embassy Suites so something within a mile or so?

                                                                                    24 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: christy319

                                                                                      Here is the neighborhood where the Embassy Suites is situated: http://eastvillagedesmoines.com/
                                                                                      You will find some fun taverns, etc. in the area. The Lime Lounge is solid for cocktails and Blazing Saddles is fun.

                                                                                      Another fun place to eat and have a drink is here: http://www.zombieburgerdm.com ... The guy that created this place is a well-known chef that has several very good restaurants in downtown DSM [Centro, Django, Malo, etc].

                                                                                      Have a great visit to Iowa's capital.

                                                                                      1. re: christy319

                                                                                        Here's a local review of the restaurant in the Embassy Suites as well: http://archive.desmoinesregister.com/...

                                                                                        1. re: christy319

                                                                                          The Embassy Suites are right on Des Moines River. In addition to the East Village (which hwkeyeui93 mentioned), right across the river is an area known as Court Avenue, which is the street Court Avenue and a few side streets with a collection of bars and restaurants. I'm sorry to say I'm not familiar with the bars in the area, but I am with the restaurants.

                                                                                          If you're in town on Saturday you might check out the Farmers Market on Saturday morning, which is very large and takes up the roads in the Court Avenue area.

                                                                                          1. re: christy319

                                                                                            It may help if you could outline what specifically you're looking for. If you're looking for a craft cocktail, you'll have a hard time finding a great one in Des Moines (I've been trying for a couple years now, hoping for one to open). That said, the places that I think make the "better" cocktails in DSM are The Continental, Eatery A (had higher hopes for this place), Django, and Americana. George Formaro also looks like he's experimenting with some interesting things at Malo.

                                                                                            For martinis, I'd suggest Cosmopolitan Lounge at the Suites at 800 Locust.

                                                                                            Lots of great places for beer downtown Des Moines, from dives to microbreweries. My favorite places in DSM for that are any of the Full Court Press places - Royal Mile, Red Monk, Hessen Haus, El Bait Shop, and High Life Lounge.

                                                                                            1. re: jhojati

                                                                                              Thanks, I'll look at websites for all of these spots.

                                                                                              jhojati, it didn't necessarily have to be a craft cocktail bar, but someplace I could get a gin and tonic and not have to choose between only Tanqueray and Bombay Sapphire. I'm not sure if Iowa laws allow for local distilleries but if so, the kind of place that would have locally made liquor. Or a classic, old school spot is great, or a restaurant with a bar area--Lucca sounds nice. I'll look at the websites of the spots you mentioned--that's really just what I was hoping for, a list of places that make "better" cocktails.

                                                                                              I'll skip the breweries as beer is my drink of last resort, and anyway I live in Seattle and can't throw a rock without hitting a brewery. :)

                                                                                              1. re: christy319

                                                                                                Although it may be a little more than a mile [but still downtown] Centro's owner makes his own Lemoncello and one of the signature drinks there has Templeton Rye, which is an Iowa whiskey: http://www.centrodesmoines.com/drinks...

                                                                                                1. re: christy319

                                                                                                  If you're willing to do a bar at a restaurant, a lot of my friends have good things to say about the bar at Django, which is about 1 mile away from Embassy Suites. It's relatively close to the restaurant Centro that hawkeyeui93 suggested.

                                                                                                  1. re: christy319

                                                                                                    Haven't been to Lucca this summer but in the past, they infused their own vodka to make seasonal martinis.....chocolate chili martini in winter, lavender lemon martini in the summer....you get the idea. You might ask at the bar.....there are only a couple of tables in the bar area and about 5-6 stools on the side of the bar against the wall. If you are hungry, it is well worth a dinner reservation! Great spot!

                                                                                                    1. re: msb

                                                                                                      We're in town for a wedding and all of our meals are accounted for, between rehearsal dinner/wedding/husband reliving childhood favorite's ie George the chili king. But thanks.

                                                                                                        1. re: vitus979

                                                                                                          No childhood trip back to Des Moines is complete without Tasty Tacos .... and a tenderloin sandwich.

                                                                                                          1. re: hawkeyeui93

                                                                                                            Surprisingly, I haven't heard about Tasty Tacos...I know about Taco Pizza, and my relatives in eastern Iowa love what they call "walking tacos" which I find baffling on a number of levels (like, you can walk with a regular taco).

                                                                                                            1. re: christy319

                                                                                                              The first time I had the taco mess in a chip bag, it was in New Mexico [and called Frito Pie]. I guess it was not popular during my 1970's childhood in Des Moines ... The urban legend of taco pizza being invented in the Quad Cities [Happy Joe's] seems to have some validity.

                                                                                                              FYI: Tasty Tacos is a Des Moines institution. If you go, I recommend the regular flour taco and make sure to eat in and enjoy the homemade taco sauce, which is excellent. What makes them different is that the flour tortilla shell has been lightly fried. http://www.foodnetwork.com/restaurant...

                                                                                                              1. re: hawkeyeui93

                                                                                                                I do love Tasty Tacos Original Flour Taco. That link is kind of BS though. It says that Tasty's is statewide. If only. All of them are in the Des Moines Metro area, which means when I get back to DM I almost invariably go to Tasty's once to sate my craving.

                                                                                                                I still live in Iowa, and a good tenderloin is easy to find where I'm at, so I don't have to go to Tasty's AND B&B AND George the Chili King in one weekend. :)

                                                                                                                1. re: vitus979

                                                                                                                  Agreed about the article's assertion about TT being statewide [but found the description otherwise interesting]. I got lucky a few years ago with TT's expansion into Ankeny, which is closer to my home in Ames!

                                                                                                              2. re: christy319

                                                                                                                My husband never ate Tasty Tacos growing up and didn't really know about them. But I wish we'd gone there rather than GeorgeTCK because that was terrible. My husband was horrified to see them take a preformed, prebattered tenderloin out of the fridge and flop it on the grill--apparently they used to make it in front of him. I won't go into all the other ways it was terrible but wow, there was no effort whatsoever with anything (know it's supposed to be a dive and you might expect some sticky counters and attitude from servers, but they took this WAY too far). But after we went to Bauder's for ice cream sodas (and actually I got an egg salad too because my GTCK was so bad) and that was great. And the Des Moines Farmers Market was great, too, although the actual farmers seemed pretty lonely--it was the prepared foods that had the lines.

                                                                                                                1. re: christy319

                                                                                                                  Chili at the Chili King is still pretty good, as are the Onion Rings. Or at least they were last (?) year, the last time I was there.

                                                                                                                  I agree though. A lot of the menu seems to be straight from Sysco.

                                                                                                                  Though CK's lack of ambiance is kind of their thing. Most people assume it'll be some kitchy diner like Sonic's. It is not.

                                                                                                                  If you're looking for a good home-made tenderloin next time you're in Des Moines I suggest the B&B Grocery, Meat & Deli. It's a long running small grocer/butcher in south central Des Moines who has branched off into serving meals.

                                                                                                                  1. re: vitus979

                                                                                                                    I'll tell my husband about that place, we'll be back for another wedding soon. It would be nice for him to get a good version. I have no complaints about ambiance. But it was filthy. REALLY filthy. And I say that as someone that generally thinks a not so clean place is a sign of an authentic restaurant (this mostly applies to ethnic places). And the servers/cooks...I don't know if they were stoned or what, but they couldn't remember anything. There were five of us and we kept having to ask for other things we'd ordered, even though they'd written them down, and we'd just get this blank look, then they'd go over than dunk the fries in the oil or get the drink. But how can they forget to bring people their drinks and fries when the ordered the combo, until they'd finished the main thing? The onion rings were not special. It seemed like Sysco all the way.

                                                                                                                    1. re: christy319


                                                                                                                      Were you able to find a good cocktail?

                                                                                                                      1. re: hawkeyeui93

                                                                                                                        I feel a little sheepish admitting that we didn't go anywhere. My husband was dubious we'd have time before our first event and so I bought some Sun Liquor Gin on the plane (yay for Alaska Airlines for having liquor from small Seattle distilleries!) then ran down to the hotel's free happy hour thing they do for tonic and lime, and mixed the cocktail in my room. Then the event turned out to have an open bar (I thought it was going to be dry) so we didn't go out after. But we will be back soon so I do have more opportunities...

                                                                                                                        1. re: christy319

                                                                                                                          One of my favorite gins from your region is Victoria Gin [out of Vancouver, BC]. Let us know if you find a good cocktail in your future visits to DSM.

                                                                                                  2. re: christy319

                                                                                                    You are close to Lucca, a wonderful Italian restaurant with a small bar area. Very upscale place with minimal decor. We love it and enjoy their martinis......ask what special martinis they have. 420 E Locust St

                                                                                                    1. re: msb

                                                                                                      Well this time we did go to Lucca, which was nice (service was very good) albeit for dinner not cocktails; we could walk there from our hotel. We tried to go to Tasty Tacos but it was closed on Sunday (much is closed on Sundays there!). BUT as we were driving there we drove by a pupuseria, a taqueria/bakery and a taco truck and so had other options. Settled on the taqueria/bakery (it was just a few blocks from Tasty Tacos, on the same road and same side) and it was very solid. It was good to discover the Mexican (and Salvadorian) part of town.

                                                                                                      1. re: christy319

                                                                                                        Good deal and thanks for the update. I no longer live in Des Moines [I live 30 miles North], but would have enjoyed your Sunday finds.