Des Moines was named the fastest growing Midwest city. That means its restaurant scene just got better.
Des Moines, Iowa is booming. We’ve always known it’s one of the best places to visit in all 50 states. Last year the state’s capital added roughly 33 residents to its population a day. That makes Des Moines the fastest growing city in the Midwest in 2018, according to the Census Bureau. In the same year, U.S. News & World Report listed Des Moines fourth in its Best Places rankings. When a city’s population grows, everything else about it does too. That includes its hotels, arts scene, and of course, its restaurants. The best restaurants in Des Moines are not difficult to find. They are, however, difficult to choose from.
We’re not the only ones who are noticing the Des Moines restaurant scene. This year, Food & Wine magazine highlighted everything from Des Moines wines to their convenience store pizza. The beloved Cheese Bar was even named one of America’s favorite Neighborhood Restaurants by Bon Appetit magazine.
If you’re a foodie preparing for a trip to Des Moines, Iowa, get excited. We’re here to help you find the best restaurants in Des Moines to fill up on during your trip.
1. St. Kilda
Credit: St. Kilda
St. Kilda’s vibrant menu helped establish this restaurant as a “must visit” in Des Moines. Its modern decor complements its modern, Instagram-friendly menu. This Australian-style café and bakery is known as one of the best restaurants in Des Moines for its healthy, beautifully plated dishes, fresh-baked pastries, artisanal coffee, and delicious craft cocktails.
The owner formerly operated restaurants in New York, so you can expect that big-city restaurant vibe when you enter. Locals and tourists alike love St. Kilda for the unique twists it takes on modern day meals. The Saint is a favorite on the menu. It takes a fried egg with bacon, avocado, red onion, and arugula and tops it off with homemade tomato jam and ginger sausage on a house made sesame seed bun.
The food at St. Kilda’s is beautiful, fresh, and delicious. Visit their website to learn more.
2. The Walnut
Credit: The Walnut
For a more casual vibe, head on over to The Walnut. This beloved Des Moines sports bar and grill was established in 2013 as the city’s first modern food truck. Today, it is known as one of the best restaurants in Des Moines among locals.
The atmosphere is laid back and friendly, the service is on top of their game, and the food is to die for. This is a great restaurant to go to watch the game on a Sunday or catch up with a group of friends. The Walnut is a no-frills grill that impresses its diners with its classic, though slightly more up-scale, bar food. You will come for the Kalua Pig Sliders and stay for the Lemongrass Chicken Soup and Rueben Sandwich.
This is one of the best restaurants in Des Moines for diners looking to kick back with a great beer, great food, and great conversation. Visit their website to learn more.
Credit: Harbinger Facebook
Gourmet vegetable-focused small plate dishes? In Des Moines, Iowa? You betcha. Harbinger was inspired by the Chef Joe Tripp’s journeys through Southeast Asia. The vegetable-focused small dishes are made with locally-sourced ingredients and products. Harbinger is renowned as one of the best restaurants in Des Moines for its creativity and flavorful menu.
You can dine in Harbinger every week and always be surprised by a new dish or ingredient Chef Tripp is trying out. Its urban, romantic decor makes this a great date spot in Des Moines. The vibe is as intimate as the tasting experience, and the imaginative dishes are sure to transport you halfway across the globe.
This is a must-visit restaurant during your stay in Des Moines, Iowa. Visit their website to learn more.
4. Cheese Bar
Credit: Cheese Bar DSM
We’ve already mentioned it once before. If we’re mentioning it again, you know it must be good. Cheese Bar is one of the best restaurants in Des Moines, Iowa, hands down. Locals love it for its menu of, well, cheeses, cheese-related dishes, charcuterie boards. and the complementing beers on tap.
This restaurant doesn’t try to be anything that it’s not. And that’s why the locals love it so much. If you’re looking for an intimate setting, however, this isn’t the place to go. Cheese Bar has community seating and encourages guests to get to know one another. Go ahead and share your cheese board with the stranger a few seats down. They’ll likely reciprocate with a slice of salami off their charcuterie order. What’s not to love about that?
Cheese Bar is a great place to go for slightly-noisy, conversation filled, buzzed evening with friends, new and old. Visit their website to learn more.
5. Horizon Line Coffee
Credit: Horizon Line Coffee
If you’re in need of a caffeine fix, look no further. Horizon Line Coffee is one of the best restaurants in Des Moines for its cutting edge brews and delicious pastries. Located in the Western Gateway neighborhood in downtown Des Moines, Horizon Line was founded by two friends from Southern California. Their vision for the coffee shop was simple: “serve good coffee and care about others.”
The founders strive to do this by sourcing high quality and ethical coffees while cultivating an inclusive community people can call home. Because the space is minimal and instantly welcoming, it’s also one of the city’s most stylish dining spots. So if you’re searching for a great spot to take a photo for the ‘Gram, Horizon Line has got you covered.
Spend your morning at Horizon Line to start your day right. Visit their website to learn more.
6. Peace Tree Brewing Co.
Credit: Peace Tree Brewing Co.
Megan McKay, the owner, and Joe Kesteloot, the brewmaster, gifted Iowa with one of the best breweries and best restaurants in Des Moines. Peace Tree Brewing Co. bring “handcrafted, full-flavored” beers to the great people of Des Moines. McKay and Kesteloot are passionate about serving quality beer and knowing where it came from. Their dedication to curating only the finest, most ethical products further adds to the greatness of this restaurant.
Locals also love Peace Tree because it finally brought a great brewery to the area. Previously the closet brewery was 45 minutes away in Knoxville. Today, all locals and tourists have to do is head down the road to Peace Tree for a delicious brew.
If you are a beer fanatic, Peace Tree is the place for you. Visit their website to learn more.
7. Casey’s General Store
Credit: Casey’s General Store
Yeah yeah, we know what you’re thinking. A convenience store is the best place to get pizza in Des Moines, Iowa? Absolutely. There are nearly 2,000 Casey’s General Stores across the Midwest. Therefore this is also one of the most convenient places to go for a slice in Des Moines and the surrounding area. Some Des Moines locals will argue that this is the only place to go in town for a takeout meal.
Casey’s thin crust and and creamy tomato sauce is mouther water, fresh, and delicious. The store keeps a rotating heated display of pizza at all hours of the day. Therefore no matter what time you’re driving through Des Moines, if you get a hankering for a slice of pizza, Casey’s got you covered.
Casey’s pizza is now easy to order through a smartphone app. Plus, it’s served at a reasonable price. Visit their website to learn more.
If you’re craving good Southern cookin’ during your stay in the Midwest, look no further. Bubba is different from everything else you’ll find in downtown Des Moines. The restaurants rugged and refined story began in 1993. The Diebel family moved to Des Moines from Texas and soon after set up shop in honor of their Southern roots. Bubba is passionate about bringing a “little Dixie” to Des Moines with classic Southern meals.
Fan-favorites include the Shrimp & Grits, Po’ Boys, Fried Green Tomatoes, Fried Chicken – the list goes on. When you enter this cozy restaurant, you will instantly feel at home. And that’s what good Southern cuisine is all about. This is one of the best restaurants in Des Moines for diners looking for authentic, no-frills comfort food and a comfortable vibe to go with it.
If you go to Bubba’s, do us a favor and order the Nashville Hot Chicken.. and the Bananas Foster… and the Lemon Cake! Trust us – you won’t regret any of it. Visit their website to learn more.
9. The Ritual Café
Credit: Ritual Cafe
Not only is Ritual Cafe one of the coffee shops and best restaurants in Des Moines, it’s also one of the best places to experience live art. This locally-owned and operated coffee shop is located in the Western Gateway neighborhood. They serve everything from classic pour overs to hemp-nut smoothies to wine.
The Ritual Cafe is one of the best restaurants in Des Moines for non-meat eaters, as the entire menu is vegetarian. There are plenty of vegan options, as well. Its intimate, cozy interior makes for a great setting to watch performances. Ritual Cafe puts a variety of shows, including live music, poetry readings, theater, and more.
If you enjoy exploring off the beaten path, Ritual Cafe is one of the best restaurants in Des Moines for you. You are sure to get an authentic, Des Moines exclusive experience when you dine here. Visit their website to learn more.
Centro is one of the best Italian restaurants in Des Moines, Iowa. What sets Centro apart from other Italian restaurants is their innovative take on classic meals. They of course serve the traditional homemade pasta, fresh fish, artisan breads, and piping hot espressos. In addition to all of these Italian staples, however, Centro is really known for its pizza. All of their pies are cooked in an authentic, New York-style brick oven. Every slice comes out crispy, smokey, and fresh.
If Casey’s is the best place to go for pizza in the Midwest, then Centro is the best place to go for pizza in Des Moines exclusively. Additionally, the restaurant’s extensive deli make makes it a great spot for lunch.
Centro’s cozy ambience makes it one of the best date spots in downtown Des Moines. This restaurant it is also a great versatile spot to take coworkers or to dress up for a wine night with your close friends. Visit their website to learn more.
11. Fireside Winery
Credit: Fireside Winery
In case you didn’t know, Iowa wine is kind of a big deal. If you’re in search of a great winery during your stay in Des Moines, then Fireside Winery is a must. The winery was founded on the principle that “life is short” – and it’s definitely too short to drink cheap wine! That’s why Founders/Winos Bill and Rona Wyant only serve the best wine to their customers.
This winery is best known for its fine blend of estate Marquette grapes and California Cabernet. Its ambience is welcoming to all. This is one of the best restaurants in Des Moines for groups of friends and families looking for a relaxed evening. Fireside Winery enhances its community feel with events like its grape-stomping gatherings, wine tastings, live music shows, and more.
This is one of the best restaurants in Des Moines for wine enthusiasts and foodies alike. Visit their website to learn more.
12. Black Cat Ice Cream
Credit: Black Cat Ice Cream
We couldn’t make a list of the best restaurants in Des Moines, Iowa, and not include at least one dessert place. Black Cat Ice Cream is the best ice cream shop in the Midwest. Black Cat’s goal is simple: “to make the best ice cream on earth.” In our opinion, they’ve succeeded at doing so. We love Black Cat because it is creative, friendly, and affordable. All of the ingredients and dairy products are organic and locally-sourced. Black Cat is proud of it’s “old-fashioned” ice cream products, though they certainly aren’t afraid to take bold twists on classic flavors.
You will always be surprised by some delicious new ice cream, as flavors change weekly. Maybe you’ll be served up some Red Velvet. Or perhaps an Oreo & Brown Butter Cookie Dough scoop. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to Black Cat when they’re serving up seasonal flavors like Gingerbread Man or Cocoa & Marshmallow!
It is impossible to go to Black Cat and not leave a happier person. This is hands down one of the best restaurants in Des Moines. Visit their website to learn more.
13. 801 Chophouse
Credit: 801 Chophouse
801 Chophouse is named for its location, the historic 801 Grand building in downtown Des Moines. Its prime location is just one of the many reasons 801 Chophouse is one of the best restaurants in Des Moines, Iowa. The restaurant serves only prime USDA steaks paired with “innovative side dishes” and an award-winning wine selection. If you’re looking for an upscale Des Moines dining experience, 801 Chophouse is the place to go.
The moment you walk through the doors you will feel as though you were transported to a 1920s steakhouse. All menu items are a la carte, therefore this is a great place to go to try a bit of everything. You can’t go wrong with the Chophouse’s Prime Rib and King Crab Legs. To start your meal out right, order the Oysters Rockefeller for an appetizer.
From small batch bourbons to fresh fish, 801 Chophouse has something for everyone. This is truly one of the best restaurants in Des Moines for ordering an exceptional meal. Visit their website to learn more.
14. Jesse’s Embers
Dining at Jesse’s Embers is truly an authentic Des Moines experience. Open since the 1960s, Jesse’s Embers has remained one of the most beloved and best restaurants in Des Moines. The traditional menu serves mainly steak and seafood. But don’t let the simplicity and casual vibe fool you. Jesse’s Embers could give even 801 Chophouse a run for its money.
Jesse’s Embers has nothing to hide, as its open kitchen allows guests to see their steaks being prepared. All of their soups are homemade and the bread it baked fresh daily. This is the kind of restaurant you go to to immediately be put at ease. The comfortable, cozy, family-friendly atmosphere welcomes everyone with open arms. It’s the kind of place that you will want to revisit every night.
There is a reason this restaurant has been open for so long. For a uniquely Des Moines dining experience, Jesse’s Embers should be at the top of your list. Visit their website to learn more.
For the best brunch in Des Moines, head on over to Americana. This steakhouse and tapas bar will never disappoint. America’s menu is a melting pot cultures with an Americanized twist. You will find that their seared ahi tuna is just as delicious as their mac n’ cheese and bacon wrapped meatloaf. Or maybe you’ll be more amazed by their miso needles and crab Rangoon dip. Seriously, there is something for everyone to enjoy off of this menu.
Americana is one of the best restaurants in Des Moines because its menu is so much less limited than a typical American restaurant. We love the influences Americana pulls from other countries and cultures to curate a menu that is uniquely their own.
We highly recommend checking out Americana if you’re interested in exploring the best restaurants in Des Moines. Visit their website to learn more.
16. Aposto at the Scala House
Aposto, meaning “everything is right,” lives up to its name. Located in a beautiful 1880 Victorian mansion in Sherman Hill, this one-of-a-kind restaurant serves delicious and modern classical cuisine.
One reason we think Aposto is one of the best restaurants in Des Moines is due to its pop-up events. Owner Anthony Lemmo and Chef Cory Wendel work together to schedule special dinners and events, like the Autumn Flavors Pop Up they had this fall. This is an opportunity for friends to come together and get a different taste out of Aposto’s award-winning kitchen. Past menu themes have included “Morel Season”, “A Vegan Journey via Italy”, “Sonoma Wine Country” and beer dinners in collaboration with local breweries. The menu is always changing and always delicious.
For a dining venture you can get no where else, check out Aposto. The experience is just as good as the food that will be served. Visit their website to learn more.
17. Buzzard Billy’s
Credit: Buzzard Billy’s
There’s no need to go to Louisiana to get an authentic Cajun and Creole meal. Simply go to Buzzard Billy’s in downtown Des Moines for one of the best dining experiences of your life. This New Orleans-style restaurant is one of the only places in town where you can order farm-raised Louisiana alligator tail. It’s sliced into thin, hand-breaded, deep-fried strips that is reason enough to check this spot out.
The portions at Buzzard Billy’s are huge, so be prepared to come with an appetite. The interior has a laid back, sports bar vibe that is well-liked by all. You will find plenty of locals enjoying Creole snacks here. And if the locals love it, you know it’s gotta be one of the best restaurants in Des Moines. The restaurant has also been named the Official GameDay Headquarters for the Iowa Wild. So get ready, NHL fans. This place is for you.
For greasy, delicious, New Orleans grub, go to Buzzard Billy’s. Visit their website to learn more.
18. El Bait Shop
Credit: El Bait Shop
Do you ever find yourself craving burritos and burgers for the same meal? Say no more. El Bait Shop has got you covered on all things Mexican and American food. Did we mention they also have more than 200 beers on tap? That alone makes this one of the best restaurants in Des Moines, Iowa, hands down.
If you go, you best try the El Bait Shop’s house speciality: a smother burrito with your choice of seasoned ground beef or chicken, beans, and rice rolled up in a flour tortilla. It’s the topped with Monterey Jack cheese sauce, lettuce, tomatoes, jalapeños, and green onion. Your arteries might not love you for it, but your tastebuds sure will. It’s more than the food that makes El Bait Shop one of the best restaurants in Des Moines.
In addition to its jam-packed menu, El Bait Shop is an event hub in downtown Des Moines. The facility is regularly putting on social events that make for great weekend outings with friends. Visit their website to learn more.
19. Gateway Market & Cafe
Credit: Gateway Market
Gateway Market & Cafe isn’t your typical gourmet grocery store. This spot is also one of the best cafes in all of Des Moines. It’s a great place to go for a simple, delicious lunch, freshly made waffles, or simply to sip on a warm cup of joe. The market is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and is always buzzing with friendly conversation and good vibes.
The menu is surprisingly diverse. You have the option of a classic egg sandwich, noodle bowls, cranberry-walnut salads, baked goods, desserts… At Gateway Market & Cafe, the world is your oyster. If you’re going there for the first time, however, we suggest trying out the deli. Sometimes you just can’t beat a good sandwich. Gateway Market & Cafe gets that, which is why it’s ranked one of the best restaurants in Des Moines, Iowa.
Other than its friendly service and delicious food, we suggest every tourist visits Gateway Market & Cafe because it’s an authentically Iowa spot. Visit their website to learn more.
20. Flying Mango
Credit: Flying Mango
Flying Mango is Iowa’s best spot for barbecue. It’s also easily one of the best restaurants in Des Moines. Flying Mango takes a Caribbean twist on their classic BBQ dishes to create a dining experience unlike any other. You can of course find barbecue classics, like a full rack of ribs and pulled pork.
Additionally, Flying Mango serves up some pretty unique dishes. Go ahead and try the Red Neck Surf-n-Turf or Lime and Garlic Shrimp with Mango Salsa for something new! Flying Mango has been a favorite restaurant for locals since it opened in 1997. This barbecue spot is also a great place to enjoy some live music in Des Moines.
With its laid-back atmosphere, great food, and chill vibes, it’s impossible to go wrong at Flying Mango. Visit their website to learn more.
The best restaurants in Des Moines are just another reason why this city is so great.
Didn’t we tell you Des Moines, Iowa is pretty great? It’s impossible to be disappointed by this Midwest city’s restaurant scene. It seems every single spot is more delicious than the last. We carefully selected these best restaurants in Des Moines due to their diverse menus, carrying types of atmospheres, and because locals love them best. We said it before and we’ll say it again: finding good food in Des Moines isn’t hard. Choosing between all these great restaurants, however, is a different story.
Are you a Des Moines local with a favorite restaurant to share? Give us a shout! We’re always looking for the next best restaurant to try out.
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