I’ve been in Des Moines pretty consistently for about two and a half years now, and that’s given me some time to find great places to hang out and eat around the city.
Des Moines is on the rise, and even though it’s a pretty small city, there’s still some fun things to do, especially downtown. So I’ve compiled a list of the favorite places I’ve been to, as well as a few places I haven’t been to.
A Dong – This is, hands down, my favorite restaurant in Des Moines. They have a huge menu, including an extensive vegetarian section. Their food is Vietnamese, and my favorite dish is their vermicelli bowls. You also have to try their popular pho, coffee, egg rolls or shrimp puffs.
Location: 1511 High St.
Fong’s – Fong’s has some interesting pizza combinations, but personally I think the crab rangoon pizza is the best (sounds strange, but it’s actually really good). The honey garlic is also a great choice.
Location: 223 4th St.
Zombie Burger – Honestly, Zombie Burger is something I can only do once in a while, since their burgers and helpings of fries are pretty big. But Zombie Burger is a good spot for lunch or dinner, especially if it’s your first time in Des Moines, since it’s more of a novelty restaurant than anything else. Their milkshakes are, in my opinion, the best thing on the menu (I recommend the nutella one).
Location: 300 E Grand Ave.
Malo – Another one of my favorite restaurants. They have great tacos, and their food isn’t that expensive, especially if you go on a day they’re having deals.
Location: 900 Mulberry St.
Scenic Route Bakery – I love Scenic Route because there’s so much natural light inside, and you can easily stay there for a long time, especially if you have good company. I’ve only gotten coffee there, but there’s food as well. I recommend trying the honeybee.
Location: 350 E Locust St #104
Mars Cafe – Mars is also a good place to sit and just work on whatever you need to. I sat here for a couple of hours one time, working on my first book. I don’t recommend their cappuccinos, but everything else is good, and while you’re there you might as well try the mozzarella and tomato panini.
Location: 2318 University Ave.
Smokey Row Coffee- Probably my favorite place to go out of these three. I usually go to Smokey Row when I really need to get work done. Their food is good, but their coffee (and milkshakes) is great.
Location: 1910 Cottage Grove Ave.
Plain Talk Books & Coffee – I haven’t been here, but I’ve heard great things about it. It’s a used bookstore and coffee shop all in one, so it’s definitely on my list of places to go.
Location: 602 E Grand Ave.
Fun Things to Do
Go see a minor league game – Although we may not have any major league teams, the minor league games are still a lot of fun and way cheaper. Check out tickets for basketball, hockey or baseball.
Waterworks Park – Waterworks Park is a great place to go when it’s nice out, and is especially pretty during the spring, because all of the trees are in bloom. It also makes for a pretty backdrop for photos.
Location: 2201 George Flagg Pkwy.
Go find some street art – I’ve been meaning to take pictures in front of all of the cool murals we have around here, and I’m just waiting for it to get warm so I can take my camera and go. You can find pictures and locations of some Des Moines street art here.
Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden – Since I love plants, I love pretty much anywhere outside. The botanical garden is inside a dome (there’s outdoor parts too), which is great because you can go any time of the year. It’s a great way to escape the bitter winter cold – it’s always around 75 degrees inside.
Location: 909 Robert D. Ray Dr.
Farmers market – I freakin’ love the farmers market. I’ve gone a ton of times, and it’s just a great way to spend your Saturday morning, especially when it’s nice and sunny out.
Location: Historic Court District
Pappajohn Sculpture Park – Another good place to go when it’s nice out and you’re looking for something to do. It doesn’t take horribly long to get through all of the sculptures, and is a fun place to spend some time outside and downtown.
Location: 1330 Grand Ave
Pink Print and/or Permanent Collection – Since I’ve came to Des Moines, I’ve come to appreciate letterpress printing a lot more, and these two shops definitely have great selection for cards, posters and other small things.
Pink Print Location: 350 E Locust St.
Permanent Collection Location: 520 E 6th St.
Raygun – Their t-shirts are admittedly overpriced but they have a lot of fun ones, and a lot of other smaller items such as mugs and postcards with the same sayings. If you’re looking for a gift for someone or for yourself while in Des Moines, this isn’t a bad place to look. Regardless if you’re buying something or not, this is a cool store to check out.
Location: 505 E Grand Ave.
Des Moines Art Center – I haven’t been here, but this could be another cool thing to do on the weekend. It’s an art museum, so there has to some interesting stuff in there.
Location: 4700 Grand Ave.
So, there you have it. I’m sure there’s a ton of other great places around Des Moines that I just couldn’t think of, or don’t know about. But I hope this list helps with your next visit to Des Moines!
Let me know of any other great places you might’ve been to in Des Moines in the comments.