Smashburger isn't just the name—it's the way chefs, otherwise known as Burger Smashers, cook every burger. First, they form never-frozen, 100% Certified Angus Beef into a giant meatball. Then they season it, place it on a butter-glazed grill, and smash it into a patty. The process caramelizes the beef, locking in flavor while keeping the meat juicy and tender. Each slab is then sandwiched in an artisan bun and is turned into one of an array of standard burgers or locally inspired specialties unique to each market.
This handcrafting approach typifies everything else the restaurant does, from blending handspun shakes to hand painting Smashburger's logo onto every beverage cup. Letting its food stand for itself and relying mostly on word of mouth for advertising, the Smashburger franchise expanded from one restaurant in 2007 to 220 today, with its swift growth from zero to 100 stores making it one of the nation's fastest-growing restaurant companies. This rapid development even caught the attention of Forbes and Inc. along the way.
Chefs flex their culinary skills in Cosi Cucina Italian Grill's kitchen, churning out piping-hot pizzas, sizzling steaks, and pastas drenched in sauce alongside a wealth of vegetarian and gluten-free dishes. The romantic enclave boasts a menu of more than 36 wines available by the glass, letting diners find the perfect harmony for their meal's delicate flavors and pitchy singing voice. Outside of its amorous atmosphere, Cosi Cucina Italian Grill shares its house-made dishes with the masses, catering salads, pastas, and saucy chicken entrees for all manner of peckish partygoer.
When George Rivera-Davis first tasted coffee from beans grown on his uncle’s farm in Panama, he was amazed—it tasted nothing like the brown liquid he’d been taught to call coffee in Des Moines. Inspired by the delicious brew, he ventured into the coffee business. Now, George and his wife, Jan—herself a certified tea blender—grow their own coffee in Panama with the aid of their family, bringing gourmet brews to Des Moines through their award-winning coffee shop and café, Grounds for Celebration. Grounds for Celebration’s coffee connoisseurs roast beans onsite before brewing fresh cups of java, blending espresso creations, and flavoring lattes with Monin syrup and Ghirardelli chocolate. Thirsty patrons can also opt for yerba mate, chai, and smoothies, or venture into Jan’s area of expertise and gulp tea in varieties that range from gunpowder green to ginger peach.
While sipping from steaming mugs, patrons can also munch croissants and cinnamon rolls baked fresh each day. At midday, they fortify themselves for afternoon paperclip jousts with lunch sandwiches, salads, and wraps. Some take their time to savor natural, from-scratch gelato while sitting amid the café’s local art and connecting devices to free WiFi.
A family-friendly eatery, Tacos Andreas dishes up Mexican favorites in a laid-back atmosphere. The massive menu options range from tamales to seafood enchiladas, with burritos, tacos, and quesadillas also served à la carte for mixing and matching favorite dishes. A large outdoor patio area and bar make for plenty of options to keep the dining experience interesting.
Bombay Bicycle Club, a vintage rock 'n' roll bar, fills up starved stomachs and eardrums alike with its decadent menu and floor-stomping live musical acts. Hum along to an eternally rotating roster of blues, punk, and country artists through a crunchy mouthful of deep-fried pizza dunked in homemade batter ($5) or pickle chips served with chipotle ranch ($3.50). Rhythmically wash down decadent eats with a cascade of one of 30 tap beers ($3–6) or a brown paper bag-clad 40-ounce brew ($8). Nose-ringed nostalgists can relive their mohawked childhoods with the After School Special, a deep-fried peanut butter and jelly ($4), while famished impersonators can use the peanut butter and bananas of the deep-fried Elvis sandwich ($5) to smear gourmet sideburns on their cheeks.
Like Sunday dinners and Friday game nights, the atmosphere at a Sam & Louie's restaurant revolves around family, and has done so since its first location opened in 1994 in Omaha, Nebraska. Today, at each of the eatery's 22 locations, families bond over great conversation and an eclectic mix of casual cuisine from a menu inspired by traditional New York–style pizzerias. Eighteen specialty pizzas are hand tossed into thin-crust pies before being decorated with more than 35 toppings such as creamy alfredo sauce, Philly-style steak, and canadian bacon. The same daily made dough is used to construct calzones and strombolis, which ooze with mozzarella cheese and marinara sauce. Specialty dough can be whipped up to create gluten-free pizzas. The menu culminates in five 1/3 lb. Black Angus burgers and eight types of pastas.
Irina’s Restaurant and Bar combines American ingenuity with Russian hardiness in a way not seen since the purchase of Alaska. The eatery’s menu is a melting pot of culinary influences, made evident in the Moscow fillet, a cut of beef stuffed with mushrooms, onions, spinach, and a photograph of Ellis Island. Other examples include Russian pork shashlik skewers or beef stroganoff with Angus beef, peppers, and mushrooms. To wash down meals, the bar—which stretches out across the floor like an elongated wooden horseshoe—is stocked with Russian beers and a lineup of vodkas, served by a trusty barkeep or by your fellow patrons during Immature Bartender Night, held every evening after 9 p.m.