2925 Ingersoll Ave., 515-277-7828
With casual and communal farmhouse-style seating, 30 craft beers on tap and an unwavering devotion to purveying the world’s best artisanal cheeses and cured meats, this is Ingersoll Avenue’s own slice of hipster Brooklyn (and we mean that admiringly!). Enjoy masterfully wrought sandwiches, including smörgs (Scandinavian-style open-face sandwiches) and artful grilled cheeses; beautifully presented charcuterie and cheese plates; and fondue and raclette (Alpine cheese over crisp potatoes with bacon and cornichons).
1250 86th St., Clive; 515-225-8111
Look for your favorite Thai classics, from creamy curries and multifaceted noodle dishes to sparkling stir-fries and more. And here’s a lesser-known secret: The kitchen does a great job with Chinese classics as well. Enjoy it all in comfortable yet dinner-out-worthy ambiance.
Flying Mango Restaurant and Catering
4345 Hickman Road.; 515-255-4111
Great barbecue abounds in this town, but head to this spot in the Beaverdale neighborhood when you’re hankering for a complete dining experience: specialty cocktails, passionately purveyed beers and wine, a jazzy atmosphere, and committed service—all this while remaining true to the casual nature of barbecue. In addition to Memphis-style ribs and smoked brisket, you’ll also find Cajun, Creole and Caribbean specialties.
Gilroy’s Kitchen + Pub + Patio
1238 Eighth St., West Des Moines; 515-809-1727
When the immensely popular 1980s-’90s-era Jimmy’s American Cafe closed at this location back in 2000, it left a gaping hole on West Des Moines’ Eighth Street dining corridor, where many ill-fated venues came and went. Finally, restaurateur Scott Carlson, owner of Court Avenue Brewing Company and Americana Restaurant and Lounge, overhauled the place, and the venue has become a neighborhood go-to choice for any-night dining. Enjoy burgers, sandwiches, comfort-food entrees (e.g., roasted chicken, baked mac-and-cheese) and a buoyant bar and patio scene.
Gusto Pizza Co.
1905 Ingersoll Ave.; 515-244-8786
8950 University Ave., Suite 105,
West Des Moines; 515-216-2198
8705 Chambery Blvd., Suite 100, Johnston; 515-334-3000
Here, a pizza is more than just cheap eats: The thin-crust pies provide the vehicle for a great ride of thoughtful combinations (e.g., the Duke, with barbecue sauce, smoked brisket, Colby jack cheese, red onion and cilantro). In fact, it’s hard to stick to a tried-and-true favorite at Gusto, because tempting new pies debut often from the never-a-dull-moment kitchen. Another plus: A good craft beer list is offered, and wine prices start at $4 a glass.
900 Mulberry St.; 515-244-5000
Located in the former downtown fire station and the current headquarters of the Des Moines Social Club, Malo is another see-and-be-seen hot spot in the George Formaro/Orchestrate Management empire. With pisco sours, mojitos and a daiquiri-style sip that pays homage to Hemingway’s time in Cuba, the drink menu celebrates the cocktail culture of Latin America. The food menu showcases Mexican favorites, including tacos made from fresh-pressed tortillas and slow-braised meats. Also find signature dishes, ranging from the refined (pumpkin-seed-crusted chicken) to the irreverent (Tot’chos—tots loaded up, nacho-style). +
A local favorite for Vietnamese specialties, including a rich selection of vegetarian options.
1511 High St.; 515-284-5632
Court Avenue Restaurant and Brewing Company
More than 20 years ago, CABCo helped usher in the craft-brewery scene, and it remains an enduring favorite, thanks to quality beers, brewpub fare and a pleasant vibe that mixes neo-urban energy with the appeal of a historic downtown building.
309 Court Ave.; 515-282-2739;
Big City Burgers and Greens
A casual downtown spot for a satisfying weekday lunch. Find a thoughtful array of well-composed salads and admirable burgers and sandwiches—with nothing priced over $7.50.
400 Locust St.; 537-8433;
Chef’s Palette/Art Center Cafe
Look for a limited but fresh and thoughtful lunch menu. Choose from a soup, salad, sandwich or pasta feature that changes each week.
4700 Grand Ave.; 515-271-0332;
Chef George Migliero traded in a near-two-decade stint as the executive chef at a local country club to open this ultra-casual spot serving ultra-high-quality casual food. For example, burgers are made from ground prime rib, and the pastrami is taken very seriously (Migliero is originally from Boston).
128 Fifth St., West Des Moines; 515-255-4550;
A former rail car barn has been transformed into a 280-seat modern beer hall, with a 140-seat outdoor beer garden. Food comes from a rotating roster of food trucks, with four at a time in residence. In addition to craft beer, the bar also serves wine and craft cocktails. Community tables encourage you to make new friends.
111 S. 11th St., Suite 200, West Des Moines; 515-608-4100;
This barbecue empire boasts six locations in Greater Des Moines (plus one in Ames). While you can find barbecue at any of them, each has its own added focus, from smoked steaks in Altoona to Creole and Cajun offerings in Waukee. Check the website for specific locations.
At this upbeat lunch spot, the colorful, plant-based creations fit well within the surroundings of the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden; also find meaty options, such as pasta and sandwiches.
909 Robert D. Ray Drive; 515-323-6288;