Sometimes the Bite of Minnesota blog goes on a little road trip to take a bite out of another state. This time it took a bite of Iowa; Des Moines, Iowa to be a little more specific.
A few years back I did a contract gig down in Des Moines and was fully prepared to hate it. Since the contract was on a tight deadline, my days consisted of walking from the hotel to the office via skyway and squeezing in generic meals for lunch and dinner. Somewhere along the way I started to break from routine and discovered a few gems like the skyway coffee shop that served amazingly rich biscuits and gravy and the downtown brewery that had late night food and drink specials. I also found that if I timed my Saturday breaks right, I could zoom down to the farmer’s market for a jar of jam or a bag of apples without anyone noticing I was gone.
Before I knew it, I fell in love with Des Moines and although my contract has long since ended, Des Moines is a regular getaway spot for me. Between the ever-evolving restaurant scene and the hipness (and hipsters) of the East Village, it reminds me of a mini-Minneapolis. The city is easily walkable, affordable, and has plenty to explore. Don’t believe me? Take the four-hour drive yourself and check out a few spots I visited in November.
Proof offers casual counter service for lunch and converts to a fancier white tablecloth prix fixe spot for dinner. Last time I visited for lunch and enjoyed the vegetable falafel sandwich made from chickpeas, potatoes, and carrots with a side of roasted tomato soup.
1301 Locust Street
Restaurateur George Formaro struck gold again with his newest restaurant, Zombie Burger + Drink Lab. I have long been a fan of his other concepts: Django, Union Bread Company, Centro, and Gateway Market and he continues to impress.
Zombie Burger has some of the most outrageous burger combinations (peanut butter, fried bananas and bacon anyone?) and also offers adult milkshakes if you’ve saved room for dessert. I tried the Walking Ched that has two mac & cheese croquettes instead of a bun and topped with more mac & cheese for good measure.
Zombie Burger + Drink Lab
300 E. Grand Avenue
If you’re looking for shopping, skip the mall and head to Domestica in the East Village. Owner Chrissy Jensen has made Etsy come to life in her recently expanded shop selling everything from cards to pillowcases to glassware.
321 East Walnut Street
Don’t miss walking through Pappajohn Sculpture Park, part of the Des Moines Art Center. Grab a coffee at nearby Ritual Café and wander through the park. It’s free, so visit again at night for a transformed visual experience.
Pappajohn Sculpture Park
13th and Grand Avenue
1301 Locust Street