Restaurants in Des Moines

Is Des Moines, Iowa, cool? If you're not from here, you may be surprised that Des Moines is as cool as it is (although, it is the fastest growing city in the Midwest so it really shouldn’t be a huge surprise). But if you are from here, you've seen the changes the city has gone through, especially in regards to its food scene. And it's not surprising that Des Moines restaurants are as good as they are. From an eatery run by a two-time James Beard Award semifinalist to a diner beloved by Drake students, these are the best Des Moines restaurants.


When the esteemed James Beard Foundation nominates you as the Best Chef: Midwest not once, but twice, you’re obviously doing something right. That something? Small vegetable-focused plates, such as haikuri turnips grilled over Thai fruit wood. Harbinger’s chef and co-owner Joe Tripp creates these gorgeous Instagram-worthy plates using local Iowa produce. His veggies are the star here, but he appeals to carnivores too with things like dry aged beef tartare in a bone marrow mousse.


The Walnut

Fans of the former The Spot food truck can take comfort knowing that their favorite restaurant on wheels still serves up some of the best food in town, albeit at a more permanent location in one of Des Moines trendiest neighborhoods. And the new space in downtown’s Western Gateway doesn't disappoint. It's located inside a former tire company complete with exposed brick and expansive windows that let in loads of light. The Walnut also has an expanded menu featuring  kalua pig sliders, loco moco rice bowls, and Chilean street-food sandwiches. It’s a bit of a mishmash, but there’s a reason it’s one of the best downtown Des Moines restaurants.

Read This Before You Take That Food Picture  

Chef Roque Heidler, the resident plating expert at The Chalkboard, an elegant New American restaurant in Tulsa, has posted gorgeous Instagram images of food over the years. Here are his five tips to crafting a drool-worthy photo:


  1. Find the best lighting. Natural lighting is key.
  2. Shoot on neutral backgrounds. Chef Heidler has gray tables at work, but he recommends shooting on “anything black or white—that’s always going to give another element to your photo.”
  3. Vary up the textures in your images. Varying textures form the most interesting compositions.
  4. Add some acid to boost the colors. If you’re shooting a dish you cooked yourself, through in some lemon juice or white vinegar to bring out “those bright, vibrant colors everybody tries to achieve.”
  5. Vary up your angles. “Take a step around, even if it’s like, I don’t know, 6 inches from where you were just at. You might capture a cooler way.”

Eggs and Jam


One of the more unique West Des Moines restaurants, the ’90s hip-hop-themed Eggs and Jam serves up creative breakfast eats with fun names. For instance, there’s the Mimosa Chicken and Waffles (fried chicken and a waffle smeared with orange mimosa marmalade) and the Slim Shady (salmon cakes paired with poached eggs, wilted spinach, and dill cream).

Mad Meatball


Mad Meatball is a favorite spot in the East Village, especially for our customers. Here’s what some of them have said:


  • “We have never had a bad meal or breakfast buffet at Mad Meatball! This is the first year for the buffet and each week they seem to improve an aspect of the experience. Always family friendly too. MM is a family favorite for us!” – Rachel M.
  • “I took my son and his girlfriend there for his birthday. It was for the brunch and we all enjoyed it very much.” – Lynn M.
  • “Delicious food and friendly staff!” – Tonisha T.

Fong’s Pizza


“OK, you have to understand that my favorite restaurant in the world is in Des Moines. I discovered it the last time I was there, and I will be back this time. I will be at Fong's Pizza.” That’s what celebrity chef Alton Brown told the Des Moines Register when he visited the city.

That’s right, Food Network star Alton Brown adores this Chinese-Italian fusion eatery with serious pizza, Chinese decor, and tiki drinks. He even called it “one of the coolest establishment’s I’ve ever been to,” and lamented that it was not closer to him in Atlanta.

Drake Diner

If you’re visiting Drake you almost have to stop at Drake Diner. The ’50s-style diner has been catering to students and their visiting friends and relatives since 1987, serving up hearty breakfasts and greasy drunk food. Do yourself a favor and indulge in the burger smothered in a spicy cheddar cheese sauce.

What to Know to "Kill It" at Your First Murder Mystery Dinner

Michael O'Hair, who founded The Murder Mystery Company, offers a few helpful tips:


  • Dress the part. The murder mystery dinner show usually will have a theme, often 1920s, and you're usually encouraged to dressed in accordance with it.
  • Play along. Chances are, you’ll be asked to play along, and you may even be asked to play a main role. You might even be the killer, but you probably won’t know if you are.
  • Be a supporting player, not the star. "Random blurting is OK," Michael says. "We want people to have fun and really be a part of the show. But don't try to drive the show to a certain point." After all, the show’s creators have designed it to be fun for everyone, not just a few select dinner guests.

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