Des Moines 2017 Restaurant “To Go” List

I know I’m a little slow on posting this considering we’re already 4 months into the year, but in my defense that just means the list is a little shorter than if I posted it earlier! This is a list of the restaurants in Des Moines I want/need to visit- a wish list. Currently I have 15 on my list and a few are a hold over from the 2016 list (shame on me).

The fiancé and I did count all the restaurants we’ve been to in Des Moines and we’re at 95 in 2-3 years so we’re making good progress. Some of the restaurants you may be surprised are on here considering they’re all over the “top places to eat in Des Moines” articles, but that also means they can cost a pretty penny. We’re hoping we can finally get to some of these places this year and break the 100 mark!

For 2017 the restaurants are in order- not by quality, but by desire to visit. I’m only going to highlight the top 3 and list the rest (up to 10).

  1. Reed’s Hollow– The owner and head chef, Zach Gutweiler, had been at Hole in the Wall on the side of Gaslamp on 15th & Grand (where Black Cat ice cream now is), and I heard great things about that little space, but never got a chance to visit before they closed! I’m not going to miss my chance again. I would order the brussels sprouts to start and the bone marrow for my main.
  2. Big Al’s BBQ– I belong to a group on Facebook called “Des Moines Food Lovers” and for about 2-3 weeks the only thing people raved about was this place! I’m not a big BBQ person, but my appreciation has grown as I’ve gotten older and after being exposed to Smokey D’s. As much as I love Smokey’s- it’s my parent’s 1st choice every time we go out to dinner- I want to see what else is out there BBQ wise! Big Al’s seems like a great start. I want to try the fried okra and the Carolina (pulled pork) sandwich.
  3. Alba– This one might be a surprise since it seems like everyone and their grandma have been here since it’s one of the Des Moines staples I mentioned earlier. Now I want go, not due to the hype, but because I’ve seen the pictures and read the reviews, which have been completely complimentary. Also, their head chef- only known as Joe on their website- was nominated for the James Beard best new chef award in 2016. I would have the fritters and short rib stroganoff.
  4. Angry Goldfish
  5. Table 128
  6. Nachos Tequilas
  7. Aposto
  8. Chicago Dog
  9. D’jango
  10. Barntown Brewing

Have you been to any of these restaurants? Did you like it? If so, what should I order? Also, is some place on the list not worth the trip? Let me know!

Madhouse Sours

I swear I drink other beers that are not sours. Believe it or not some people have a certain distain for sours. A friend of mine thinks it’s a disgrace to actual beer since “mankind has been refining yeast strains for a millennia and now we decide to use wild strains to undo everything we’ve worked to achieve!” But you know what? I don’t care. I love sours and now that the weather is warming up they are coming into season again.

Madhouse-FlightTo kick off spring Madhouse Brewing had a Mexican themed party and released two new sours: Paradise Found and Galaxy Haze. We got a flight of sours which had those two, but also the Black & Blue and the Satori Saison (the fifth beer was El Jefe [not a sour]). My favorite was the Paradise Found. Madhouse describes it as possessing flavors similar to a margarita and I could definitely taste the lime! Very tart and refreshing. My least favorite was the Black & Blue. The beer had this artificial candy smell to it! I spent a good time just sniffing it (probably looked like a psycho), because I could not figure out what it reminded me of. Once I tasted it I put two and two together. It tasted like a commercially made blueberry pie- the sickly sweet hyper blue filling.

There’s going to be more craft beer posts coming in the future. The market has really exploded in Iowa and our beer map with 53 breweries is already outdated. The Iowa Brewers Guild has a new map with 70 breweries listed so we really need to catch up!

Also, if you didn’t catch from my previous posts, I’m getting married in less than 2 months! But, for my bachelorette party we’re heading up to Minnesota, which was rated a top craft beer state, to see how they compare. It’s the 2017 Brew Tour- Minneapolis Edition. So get excited for that!

Peace Tree Brewing Co.

As you know my fiancé and I are huge craft beer fanatics so ever since the second Peace Tree location opened in East Village I was dying to get there. The Des Moines location opened on News Year’s day and the same day I made the foolish resolution to avoid alcohol. So I waited. I didn’t have a set time for my deprivation, but once I felt well enough (and was off antibiotics) from having pneumonia, you better believe this was the first place we went to!


Before Peace Tree opened the second location they were already popular in Des Moines despite their base being in Knoxville. Almost everyone here has heard of Blonde Fatale and it’s become a staple beer at music, art, and any other cultural festival. This Belgian style blonde is a sneaky 8.5% and is my favorite Peace Tree brew. I visited the original outpost in Knoxville about 2 years ago and so I was curious to see the new beers the Des Moines location carried and if I would have a new favorite.

When we arrived on a late Saturday afternoon there was already a good crowd. This was back when the weather was uncharacteristically nice and all the cyclist were out to play. In the parking lot was Miss Molly’s Jamaican Patty food truck, which we came to find out like most taprooms they don’t serve food. No worries, we came for the beer anyway and once inside we ordered the way we always do in a taproom: a flight each.

The taproom is industrial looking with tall ceilings and a wall of windows facing the capitol. The room is divided by stacked wooden barrels (as pictured above) and the perimeter is lined with comfy black chairs. We sat at a table against the barrels with the view of the capitol, and all the increasingly inebriated cyclists, which made for fun people watching.


Pictured in order is the Brett Simcoe, Orange Gose (pronounced go-sa), Templeton Saison Blanche, Rye Porter, and Blondish. For some reason I didn’t save the picture I took of Curtis’s flight, but he had the Dark Sour, Cherry Gose, Ohh! Pale Lager, Red Rambler, and the Jalapeño Pineapple Kombucha. The Orange Gose was a highlight. The beer was fragrant with citrus notes and though sour it was not punishingly so. Another delight was the Blondish, a subtler version of the Blonde Fatale (as you would expect), but just as flavorful. The one beer that I was disappointed about was the Cherry Gose. It was a too sour for my liking (and I used to drink vinegar straight), and had a medicinal flavor I couldn’t get past.

Overall it was a great experience and though Blonde Fatale has yet to be usurped, it was fun trying. Have you been to Peace Tree’s Des Moines branch? What was your impression? Any beer I missed you think I need to try? Let me know!

2016 Year in Review

Though 2016 has been a disaster in many ways at least we ate well! This year my fiancé and I each had a list of restaurants and breweries to visit and really tried to push ourselves to try new things. Also, it was great to see how much Des Moines (and Iowa) in general has to offer. This post is a round up of all the great foodie experiences we’ve had this year.


We went for Valentine’s day and I still cannot get that sumac pork out of my head. I am going to try and recreate it so look for that in 2017!

Eatery A
I definitely underestimated this restaurant by only visiting on happy hour and ordering pizza. Don’t get me wrong the pizza is good, but they have so many more great dishes other than pizza. One night in October my fiancé and I went there for dinner with his family and we sampled so many dishes all of them good and unique. Fried gnocchi was a favorite, eggnog creme brûlée, and two dishes which were so good that we tried recreating- curried sweet potato soup, and mushrooms over polenta. Next time you visit I challenge you to order something other than the pizza.

Taste Place
If you’re a regular follower on the blog you’ll recognize this name as one of the places on my “Restaurants to go list.” We went on our 4 year anniversary and were not disappointed. I really wanted to try this place for the hot pot- a dish where you get a pot of hot stock and cook your food in the boiling stock. We had a spicy one with beef, wood ear mushrooms, rice noodles, and cabbage. The stock was so spicy that after our first bite we both started coughing and the regulars were laughing at us. The meal was a great experience though and I can’t wait to get back and try more dishes.

3B Grill
My good friend (and bridesmaid) introduced me to Bosnian gyros- they’re very similar to Greek gyros except the bread is thin and buttery. The place where I originally had one had closed and so we had gone on a quest for a replacement. 3B Grill is a small unassuming restaurant on Merle Hay. I had gotten one to go and the portion was huge and the bread so so so so good.

And for a restaurant outside of Iowa…

The Turkish dumplings were silky and creamy and though I had never had the dish before it had a comforting effect which reminded me of home even though we were in Toronto!

Honorable Mentions

Krunkwich–  99 tot’s are tator tots (an Iowa staple) with a Korean twist.

Scenic Route–  turmeric latte was subtle with a hint of spice.

The fiancé and I are huge craft beer fans so much so we even went on a craft beer crawl earlier this year! Also, we each wrote down all of the beers we have ever had and we were both in the 200s! A lot of those are thanks to the many flights we’ve had from Iowa breweries.

These are some of my favorites in no particular order

Kalona– Start Up Stout
Lion Bridge– Workman’s Comp
Confluence– Blue Corn Lager
Exile– Beatnik Sour
Fox– Fox Tail (Irish red)
Twisted Vine– Madison County Saison
And for one non-Iowa brew
Oskar Blues– Death by Coconut

As I reflect over 2016 and re-read the highlights all I can think is how great of a year it’s been in terms of food and eating! It’s going to be a hard (and fun) challenge to top these experiences in 2017. Happy new year and here’s to trying!


Restaurant “to go” list

Keeping a “to do” list is not uncommon for most people, but unlike most people I have a restaurant “to go” to list. I keep it on my phone so when someone says “where should we go?” I’ll be ready and won’t get stuck in a restaurant rut. I thought I’d start out with a little sample of 5 places.

1.        Scenic  Route
Address: 350 E Locust Suite 104
Known For: French onion soup sandwich

This coffee shop/ bakery nestled in East Village is the closest thing Des Moines has to a college campus coffee house. If coffee isn’t your thing they also serve beer, wine, and lunch options including a french onion sandwich made with roast beef, swiss, caramelized onions on white. Mr. Fancy Pants made with rosemary/apricot chutney, brie, honey drizzle on white also caught my tastebud’s attention.

2.    Wong’s Chopsticks
Address: 5500 Merle Hay Rd, Johnston
Known For: dim sum

This restaurant has flown under the radar, but can offer Des Moines residents something other chinese restaurants cannot: dim sum. Dim sum can be likened to tapas: small plates served with tea. This Chinese speciality serves a host of different flavors and textures it’s no surprise their popularity has risen exponentially in the states. This is a novelty to me and I want to see what the hype is about. Dim Sum is served on Sundays 9am-2pm.

3.        Strudl Haus
Address: 1951 Indianola Ave

With a name like Strudl Haus it’s hard not to think about wursts and dutch letters, both of which they sell! According to the website you can buy bratwursts by the pound something I want to try. Other than that I was really hoping there would be pretzels, but it doesn’t look like it so I’ll happily settle for a lindzt pastry and espresso.

4.        Taste Place
Address: 2512 Lincoln Way, Ames

Though this is not in the metro I felt I needed to include it or I would be doing a great disservice. I love spicy food, the spicier the better– even if it makes you cry and your nose run.  Szechwan food is supposed to be some of the spiciest food in the world, which is exactly the type of food this restaurant serves. One commenter on Yelp said this is the most authentic food she’s had in Iowa since she returned from living in China. I really want to try the beef spicy hot pot. They don’t have a website, but I’ve included a link to their menu.


5.        El Rincon Catracho
Address: 3310 E 14th St.
Known for: fried tilapia with fried green plantains
Website: none

I love that Des Moines has hidden gems like these. Not a lot of frill or pomp is involved since the focus is on the food. These diamonds in the rough serve the most authentic foods with the greatest hospitality. Cityview did a raving review confirming my suspicions that this place is great.

Been to one of these restaurants? Tell me about your experience in the comments!


***This photos are from the Yelp website and I do not own the rights to these photos.