I am sure I know what you’re thinking… “Iowa?” Yes – Iowa. Born and raised in this amazing state it holds a very dear place in my heart. Being in LA for so long I have actually developed more love for it than I could have imagined over the years. This trip will be a bit different from all my other trips as two of my best friends from LA will be joining me.
My friends told me they imagined “nothing but farm land and corn fields.” This cannot be further from the truth in some places. Do corn fields and farms exist in Des Moines, of course, but it is still very much a city so they were pleasantly surprised to find that out.
I land on a Saturday in Des Moines, grab my rental car and go to meet my mom. After spending some nice time with her and my new niece and nephew we head to dinner. First stop, Lucca, located in East Village.
Surprisingly a lot of my friends in Des Moines are not familiar with this place, but it is hands down my favorite restaurant in the city. I actually had two dinners here while I was visiting and I was not even close to being mad about it. When you walk in expect to feel like you are in New York City instead of Des Moines. It is exposed red brick walls with white and clear lights all around. Be sure to grab a cocktail and walk up the stairs in the back to see their event space which they just recently built, very adorable. Expect dinner to be “$$$” as seen on yelp and lunch to be “$$”. Dinner is a prix fixed menu of three courses. An appetizer, a pasta and a main dish for $40. Trust me when I say, nothing is bad on the menu – nothing! Porri bruschetta, gnocchi, sausage risotto, salmon, and ribeye were the choices we opted for (yes I tried all of these that night, remember when I mentioned I was a foodie… here is proof.) As we wrapped up dinner we headed to the airport to pick up my friends from the airport. We head downtown and hit the city for a night out on the town!
Sunday was a bit of a rough morning given the evening we had, but it being my grandma’s 85th birthday there was no time to sit and sulk. I woke my friends with a piece of casey’s breakfast pizza “$” to take the edge off and they could hardly believe how good it was. Ignore the fact that this pizza comes out of a gas station because it is simply amazing, seriously, just try it and tell me you don’t love it. Following the pizza break I drove off to Ames (where Iowa State University is located) to meet them for brunch. My friends went back downtown to a place called Americana, “$$”. They have a killer brunch with a bloody mary bar and bottomless mimosas. This is one of the only places in Des Moines with bottomless so if that is your thing be sure to give this a shot. Across the street from Americana is the downtown Art Park and views of the capital. Very easy to kill an hour here walking around to the different sculptures. After touring downtown they went to Cambridge, Iowa where they did a corn pool (yes, corn pool), saw farm animals, a corn maze, and even milked a fake cow (this is the Iowa they were expecting, haha.)
Dinner is approaching and it is a home cooked meal kind of night. On the menu is T-bone steak, smashed red potatoes, a salad (consisting of watermelon, tomato, mint, onion, and feta), and of course Iowa sweet corn. We even had fresh Alaskan Halibut that my dad caught while fishing in Alaska. Luckily my brother is a chef and made a wonderful halibut sashimi with lemon and basil for us as well. It was to die for!
If there is one thing you need to know about Iowa it is we have some of the freshest ingredients and food you can get. Everything from dairy, corn, beef, and pork so do not be shy about eating too much, we all understand. 🙂
Fortunately Monday was a little less running around. My mom and step dad are lucky enough to own a vineyard and winery in the town of Waukee, it is absolutely stunning.
After countless hours of staring at the beautiful scenery around us and eating home cooked brunch and dinner it was time to go out again. This time was West Glen. West Glen is the newer development on the West side of Des Moines which is a lot more spread out and less crowded than downtown scene especially as it was Labor Day and there were only like six people in each bar.
After yet again another late night we are headed to lunch to meet up with my dad. Lunch spot, The Cheese Shop on 42nd street, “$$”. This place is a true gem.
They are not open on Sundays and Mondays so be sure to factor that in, but this place is definitely a must. Everything from the macaroni and cheese, the toasts with prosciutto, and the cheese and salami plate were to die for. Wine was excellent and can you really turn down a $16/bottle of wine? No, you can’t.
Right next door you will find Vom Fass which has olive oil and vinegar tastings as well as whiskey and scotch. Unlike LA you do not have to pay for tastings here, but of course it is nice to purchase something to take with you to enjoy.
If you want delicious bread to go with your new olive oil and vinegar, or delicious deserts and pastries just walk to the next door and you have the amazing bakery called La Mie.
Another great spot to note is El Bait Shop in downtown, “$” and The Miller High Life, “$”. This is definitely a must if you are a beer drinker, just look at all these taps…
I know Des Moines is not usually on people’s list of places to visit, but should you ever find yourself there I promise if you throw a couple of these recommendations into your trip you won’t be disappointed!