Inspired by trips to the state's northwestern lakes, Okoboji Grill conjures the wayfaring spirit of summer vacation with hearty American comfort food. Chefs marinate chicken strips in beer before hand-breading them in a secret blend of spices, crown crispy onion strings with Iowa-raised pork chops, and stack thin-sliced meats into towering club sandwiches and edible replicas of the Chrysler Building. Okoboji Grill also culls recipes from international cuisines, adding an American take to greek gyros, housemade tzatziki sauce, and italian bruschetta and pastas.
The culinary fusionists at Yanni's Grill & Vineyards meld vivacious flavors of Greek and Italian cuisine in cozy rooms adorned with murals and sparkly white lights. Peruse a bilingual dinner menu, and untangle hunger pains over uncomplicated plates of buttery garlic knots ($3.95/10 pieces). Sip carafes of wine while servers engage in culinary pyrotechnics with flaming plates of signature saganaki ($5.95). Yanni's signature penne careens down throat canals, gliding along thanks to a tomato-cream sauce and accompanied by sidecars of sweet peas, mushrooms, and ham ($12.95). The chef's coastal lineup of fresh fish ($15.95–$17.95) tempts seafaring folks, who may jump back on shore at the sight of the signature steak Deburgo and its 10-ounce crown of beef medallions bejeweled in wine, mushroom, and basil sauce.
Catering to sports fans and dining delegates, Sam’s Bar has been slinging king-sized helpings of both since opening its doors in 2010. Sam’s menu perfects bite-sized treats by offering barroom favs like jalapeño poppers ($7.95), a pound of wings ($8.95) and breaded dill pickle spears ($6.95). It’s tough to celebrate team championships and lunar drag racing victories without sharing pizza and Sam’s plentiful pies are sliced up with tantalizing toppings ranging from Italian sausage to red onion (12” cheese for $12 with $1 additional per topping). Attending to the attention demands of buns, the bar and grill slips an impressive array of treats between needy breads, like the hand-breaded pork tenderloin sandwich ($8.95). Those looking to sit down and tuck a napkin into their collar, will revel in Sam’s entrée menu, featuring steaks and chicken, but also the house specialty, Cavatelli ($9.95) and features pasta smothered in homemade sauce, baked to cheesy perfection. Aiming to please parched palettes, Sam’s also offers a full bar and fire hose for quenching dusty drink holes.
Midwest Black Angus beef, free of hormones or antibiotics, joins with creative ingredients such as A.1. sauce and chipotle aioli to create more than 15 unique burgers at Legends American Grill. These burgers embody a variety and thirst for excitement that radiates throughout each of the grill's central-Iowa locations. There, nestled amid deep-umber booths or brick walls, diners watch sports flicker across flat-screen televisions, rooting on their team and showing disdain for the ref’s decision to wear white pants after Labor Day. But if the score is disheartening, fans can dig into the menu to cheer themselves up. Hand-cut Creekstone Farms steaks offset surf entrees such as salmon in béarnaise sauce or grilled mahi-mahi in a sweet-and-spicy thai sauce. Comfort-food favorites such as meatloaf and fried chicken also make an appearance, pairing with cocktails and beers served by the bottle and pint.
Metromix ranked Claxon’s Smokehouse and Grill as one of the five best barbecue spots in Des Moines—but that’s just the start. More than a decade's worth of accolades trail behind the restaurant like drops of warm barbecue sauce, leading all the way back to 2002, when a perfectly cooked pork loin nabbed the eatery first place at the World Pork Expo. Today, grill maestros Adam, Andy, and Ronald helm the kitchen, hand-rubbing turkey, chicken, and baby-back ribs in their signature black gold rub before slow-smoking each succulent cut over hickory, oak, and smoldering cook books. Claxon's open dining room, complete with a mammoth stacked-stone fireplace, surrounds guests as they tear into ham, sausage, and tender brisket. Modern lights hang above the full bar, casting plates of pan-seared shrimp and fried pub pickles in a tobasco-colored glow, while umbrellas shield diners from the sun and rain on the outdoor patio.
Serving up contemporary French dishes Tuesdays through Saturdays, Bistro Montage's Executive Chef Enosh Kelley, a Best Chef nominee for the Midwest in the 2009 James Beard Awards, oversees a frequently changing menu forged from the freshest seasonal ingredients. Start out with a classic tuna niçoise salad (up to $16), made with house-canned ahi tuna and topped with hard-boiled quail eggs, ensuring that hard-boiled quail biker gangs never roam the streets. Turophiles can dine on dairy goodness with a cheese plate available as an appetizer or as a dessert (both $15). Main courses include liver and onions ($20), sidekicked with caramelized onions, potato rosti, and fava beans, and the organic Peking duck breast ($26), paired with fig compote-stuffed turnips eager to be eaten into obscurity.