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!

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!


Crispy Chicken Paillard

If I were to be completely truthful I didn’t know what paillard was until I watched Andrew Zimmern on Spoon University (Food Network snap story). He made this beautiful grilled chicken paillard with a fresh spring salad. The fact that he could make this entire meal in around 8 mins also had me intrigued.


Paillard refers to the way the meat is prepared- which is pounded until thin. I decided to make my own chicken paillard, but a crispy version and it was as easy as it looked.


  • 2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 4 eggs
  • milk
  • 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup arugula
  • cherry tomatoes
  • shredded carrots
  • parmesan dressing
  • salt & pepper
  • cayenne
  • olive oil


Halve the chicken breast and place each halve between two sheets of plastic wrap. Pound the chicken with a meat mallet or heavy skillet/ pan until it’s about 1/4″ thick. Refrigerate for 10mins to dry out and so they hold up better while frying.

After the chicken has been flattened set up a breading station with the eggs (whisked with a splash of milk), flour, and panko. Season each with salt and pepper and add a pinch of cayenne to the panko.

Warm a saute pan or skillet with 2 tbsp of olive oil. Once warmed run the chicken through the station and place the chicken in the pan. I recommend only doing one chicken breast at a time since multiple will crowd the pan and lower the temperature thus taking longer to cook and making your chicken absorb more oil, which makes it soggy. Cook 2- 3 mins on each side and place the cooked paillard on a paper towel lined plate. Repeat until all the chicken has gone through the process, adding oil to the pan as needed.

To prepare the salad add 1 cup of arugula, a few cherry tomatoes, a tbsp shredded carrots, and a tsp of dressing to a bowl and mix until each component is coated. Then serve the salad on top of one of the chicken paillards. That’s it! It probably took you longer to read this post than it would to actually make the dish.

Also, for warming up leftovers I recommend baking them since it’ll maintain the crispy coat.



Pineapple Ginger Mojito

You guys! I’m sorry I’ve been AWOL for over a month! It started the week I went wedding dress shopping, which was followed by father’s day, the fiancé’s family reunion, and a bridal shower (not mine).

I did find a gorgeous vintage-looking wedding dress. Of course it was over budget and nothing like I initially had in mind when I started looking; but there’s such a romantic feel to it. I’m sad I have to wait almost a year to wear it!

The family reunion also went well and I got to meet my fiancé’s extended family on his mother’s side. Included in that is his uncle who’s officiating our wedding. They were all very kind and made me feel like part of the family already.

As summer gets busy and hectic sometimes all you want is to relax with a tasty refreshing drink. There’s just a little extra legwork to do beforehand, but nothing too time consuming. Also, once the simple syrup is made you can store it in a cool dark place for almost two weeks. If you don’t use it all that is!



  • Thumb size piece of fresh ginger
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • Pineapple juice
  • White rum
  • Lime
  • Fresh mint
  • Soda water

Directions for the simple syrup

To make the simple syrup slice 3-4 paper thins slices of ginger to a sauce pan with the water and sugar. Bring to a boil stirring the entire time, otherwise the sugar will burn. Then remove from heat and allow to cool. The syrup should be clear and not cloudy meaning the sugar has dissolved. Once cooled remove the ginger slices, otherwise the syrup will not keep as long.

To prepare the drink

Muddle a few mint leaves, a wedge of lime juice and the rind, and a shot of white rum in a shaker. Side note: if you want more of a spicy ginger flavor you can muddle fresh ginger slices with the mint, lime, and rum- it gives the drink a nice kick. Add a handful of ice, a shot’s worth of pineapple juice, and 3 tsp of the simple syrup. Shake for 20 seconds and strain into a glass with fresh ice. Top the mixture off with soda and give a quick stir to combine.



Iowa Brew Tour 2016

This past Memorial Day weekend the fiancé, Curtis, and I took a little trip around Iowa to visit some breweries. We originally had 9 breweries on the list to visit in 2 days. As you can probably guess 9 was waaay too much beer and so we only went to 5.

Brew Tour Buddy

Even though we cut our trip short we ended up sampling 35 beers! Since there’s so many I’m only going to highlight my favorite from each place. Our route was mostly in eastern Iowa and on the way back we were going to go to the local breweries like 515 Brewing, Twisted Vine, Madhouse, etc., so those are still on our list.

First Stop: 3rd Base Brewery


Favorite Beers: Pink Lady- a sour, tasted like grapefruit and the Black Cobra- an oatmeal stout.


Address: 500 Blairs Ferry Road Northeast, Cedar Rapids, IA


Comments: They gave a sampler wheel with 8 beers for $16, uhh yes please!

Second Stop: Lion Bridge Brewing Company


Favorite Beers: Workman’s Comp- dark beer with hints of toffee, also won the gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival in 2014. Curtis liked the Coffee Kolsh which had Peruvian light roast added before kegging.


Address: 59 16th Ave SW, Czech Village, Cedar Rapids, IA 52404


Comments: They had one of the most unique beers, which I didn’t have the guts to try- Oyster Disaster: a mushroom stout. I like mushrooms, but I don’t know if I’d like it mixed with my beer. Also, they’re located in the Czech Village in Cedar Rapids, a charming area with shops, restaurants, and bakeries, which I didn’t even know existed.

Third Stop: Another Road Brewing


Favorite Beers: Columbus Didn’t Discover America Pale Ale.

Address: 1175 8th Ave, Marion IA


Comments: When we visited they were out of their dark beers (insert frown-y face), so we mostly had lighter beers & IPAs. I think if the Chocolate Cherry Stout was available we would have been a fan. The bartender here was so nice and knowledgeable, not only about the beers on tap, but the surrounding breweries. He was even kind enough to give us an IA Beer Trails map, which made us realize there’s 53 breweries in IA and we’re so far behind!

Fourth Stop: Big Grove Brewery

Big Grove1

Big Grove3

Favorite Beer: Que Onda Roja- flemish red, sour. Curtis liked Nitro Coffee Stout.

Address: 101 West Main Street, Solon, IA


Comments: Big Grove seemed more like a restaurant than brewery, and you could tell it was popular since it was so busy! Despite the busyness our waiter was great and explained the drinks to us without rush.

Fifth Stop: Kalona Brewing Company


Favorite Beer: Start-up- Coffee Stout & Sheer Madness – Wheat Ale. Curtis liked the Double Whammy Imperial Stout and the Dubbel Night Vision.


Address: 405 B Avenue, Kalona, IA


Comments: If I had to pick a favorite, Kalona Brewing Company would be it. All of the beers had a great finish to them despite the alcohol content. The Start-Up beer mentioned earlier? Yeah that was 7.6% and you would never know since it goes down so smooth. Same with the Coconut Abbey- 9.2%, which has a great subtle coconut flavor that doesn’t overwhelm the beer. The brewery is also located in Amish Country, which was really cool to see. We stopped at a general store and got Amish made dill and garlic cheese… But, back to the brewery their mission statement talks about wanting to be the living room of the town, where everyone can meet up and socialize. I love that idea!

Side Notes: Though this was a brew tour we did eat pretty well along the way. We wanted to counter all the alcohol with some food so we ordered something at every place- southwest egg rolls, pork nachos, dumplings, and hummus. I don’t think we would have safely survived without it!

Also, Curtis took some footage so there may be a short film in the works about the trip so stay tuned for that! Lastly, as you now know five breweries are just the tip of the iceberg in Iowa so I think we might continue the tour and I’ll keep you posted all along the ride!

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.