POLISHED CASUAL DINING

Americana Restaurant and Lounge

1312 Locust St.; 515-283-1312
americanadsm.com

With storefront windows, this handsome two-story restaurant occupies a historic former car dealership. Bright World War II-themed murals pay tribute to the midcentury cocktail generation, and the bar follows suit, with handcrafted libations. While the menu opens to American bar-grill favorites (steaks, burgers, pasta and small plates), many are tweaked with au courant culinary buzzwords—truffle fries, seared tuna with wasabi, and miso noodles.

Bubba—Southern Comforts

200 10th St; 515-257-4744
BubbaDSM.com

Christopher Diebel’s downtown hot spot exudes grandeur, poise and polish; the lounge, especially, feels like a graceful update on the Southern parlor setting. When you head to your table for dinner, loosen your belt for hefty-portioned comfort food (fried chicken, chicken-fried steak and a Kentucky hot brown—an open-face turkey-bacon sandwich smothered in Swiss cheese sauce and broiled). Or, go for something more refined, like a crab cake salad or the shrimp and grits, topped with a delicate dice of sparkling collard greens and grilled vegetables and rimmed with chili oil.

Django

210 10th St.; 515-288-0268
djangodesmoines.com

This always-buzzing brasserie-style restaurant merrily trots out crowd-pleasing French favorites (pâtés and charcuterie platters, coq au vin, boeuf bourguignon, a duck confit/breast duo and the like). Also find more casual fare, such as burgers, macaroni gratins, main-dish salads and crepes. To reinforce its good-time vibe, the restaurant allows patrons to bring their own wine, with no corkage fees ever.

Eatery A

2932 Ingersoll Ave.; 515-282-8085
eateryadsm.com

When he opened Eatery A in 2014, restaurateur Jason Simon tricked out an Ingersoll eyesore with dash, verve and an Iowa barn’s worth of gleaming reclaimed wood. Inside, the lively menu focuses on wood-fired pizzas and a dynamic array of appetizers, salads and entrees with a Mediterranean focus. The menu changes frequently, but look for energetic and eclectic choices, such as harissa-charred octopus with kale pesto or hangar steak with parsnip puree, chimichurri, bulgur and castelvetrano olives.

Goldfinch

316 Court Ave.; 515-282-2995
goldfinchdsm.com

The farm-to-table spirit infuses this eatery, starting with the modern birchwood-white and natural wood interior that recalls the fresh, breezy feel of a whitewashed farmstead in spring. Favorite proteins such as beef, chicken and pan-seared salmon arrive prominently sided with a fresh and thoughtful locally sourced veggie or two. For more casual nights, the sandwiches, tacos and main-dish salads will hit the spot.

Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse

JOHNNY’S ITALIAN STEAKHOUSE – Settle into plush, soft seating at the Altoona location’s expansive lakefront patio.

6800 Fleur Drive, Des Moines; 515-287- 0848
6075 Mills Civic Parkway, West Des Moines; 515-333-5665
550 Bass Pro Drive N.W., Altoona; 515-957-9600
johnnysitaliansteakhouse.com

If there’s any place that proves “a good time never goes out of style,” it’s the retro-swell Johnny’s, which has three locations in the area. The newest, in Altoona, offers a 3,600-square-foot lakefront patio, complete with plush, soft seating. The Johnny’s concept tips its hat to the legacy of two fondly remembered Des Moines supper clubs—Johnnie’s Vets Club and Johnny & Kay’s. It’s a place to enjoy updated versions of enduring and endearing steak and pasta classics in spiffy surroundings.

Le Jardin

2815 Beaver Ave; 515-255-5787
lejardindsm.com

Cuisine de tous les jours—that is, the casual yet life-enhancing everyday cooking of France—is the draw at this easygoing French neighborhood bistro. While salads, flatbreads and omelets are always on chef-owner Tag Grandgeorge’s menu, also keep an eye out for globally inspired dinner features that change each week. Recent offerings included a Korean-grilled pork collar with buttermilk grits cake and garlic-hoisin green beans, as well as mustard-crusted chicken with sweet potato, rosemary and peppered-bacon hash. P.S.: Prices are among the lowest in town for this kind of quality, chef-driven fare.

Miyabi 9

512 E. Grand Ave.; 515-288-8885
Miyabi9.com

Chef-owner Miyabi “Mike” Yamamoto brings over 50 years of culinary experience to this cream-of-the-crop sushi spot. Enjoy expert versions of classic sushi and sashimi, but also order signature creations with confidence: Yamamoto does complex modern sushi without ever going over the top. Thanks to the energetic East Village ambiance—with its neo-urban unfinished look—the cool factor soars plenty high here, too, which is to say that you can enjoy both great sushi and a happening scene.

Reed’s Hollow

REED’S HALLOW – The creative agnolotti features homemade pasta squares filled with a shitake bisque, while the shitake mushrooms and vegetables sit atop the ravioli.

2712 Beaver Ave.; 515-777-3625
facebook.com/reedshollow

Fine-tuned food in a hyper-relaxed atmosphere is now trending in the world, and Chef Zach Gutweiler has nailed the formula. So expect a somewhat random and slipshod ambiance—local art amid cement floors and cinderblock/corrugated tin walls—and revel in the sometimes whimsical, always-elevated food. The menu changes often, but Gutweiler’s avant-garde approach remains constant. A recent menu brought choices like corn dog-battered frog legs and a dish called “rabbit food,” with rabbit belly, rabbit loin, rabbit rillettes, hay-roasted carrots and harissa chèvre.

RōCA

208 Court Ave.; 515-282-3663
rocadsm.com

At this buzzing Court Avenue spot, executive chef Aaron Holt crosses hearty foods with refined touches for his menu of shared plates (e.g., smoked mac-and-cheese, crab croquettes, pork-belly tacos and hoisin rib-eye skewers), flatbreads (mushroom and goat cheese, spinach-artichoke), charcuterie boards, sliders (root beer-braised pork, crab cake) and a handful of large plates (beef tenderloin, stuffed chops). While the wine and beer lists are impressive, the immensely gratifying and fine-tuned craft cocktails are a must-have here.

St. Kilda

300 S.W. Fifth St.; 515-369-7854
stkildadsm.com

Surprisingly few places in Des Moines bring a full bar, an extensive kitchen and bakery, dedicated table service, and expert espresso drinks together under one roof. This places does it all in the pleasing midcentury-modern setting of a recently rehabbed furniture warehouse. Look for healthy, fresh and up-to-date breakfast and lunches. Toasts—quality toasted whole-grain or sourdough bread slices topped with bright, enticing ingredients, such as beet and hummus or ricotta and honey—are a specialty here. As of press time, dinner service was in the works. +


Also Consider…

Range Grill + Golf

This elevated take on the sports bar serves up-to-date bar-grill favorites in a suave dining room that’s lined with seven large televisions. In temperate months, enjoy the screened-in three-season patio. A separate space offers indoor golf simulators that entice golf enthusiasts year-round.

11865 Hickman Road, Urbandale; 515-252-7500;
rangedesmoines.com

Trostel’s Greenbriar Restaurant and Bar

Think you know Trostel’s Greenbriar? Take another look. Though this venue’s been around since 1987, and still offers a selection of enduring fine-dining classics (prime rib, beef Oscar, seared scallops with risotto), today’s vibe and decor swing more polished-casual than formal. There’s plenty on the menu that follows suit, including pizzas, burgers and sliders.

5810 Merle Hay Road, Johnston; 515-253-0124;
greenbriartrostels.com

Vivian’s Diner + Drinks

Located in downtown’s historic Kirkwood Building, and tricked out with a sparkly and sleek-modern decor, this uplifting venue brings the American diner solidly into the 21st century. Many dishes cross hearty diner food with gourmet twists—e.g., a turkey burger with Brie and smoked bacon-onion jam.

400 Walnut St.; 515-282-8936;
viviansdm.com

Wasabi Tao

WASABI TAO – Sushi and one-of-a-kind rolls are the draw at this downtown spot.

Tuck into one-of-a-kind rolls featuring off-the-beaten-path combinations and sip jewel-toned signature cocktails at this downtown sushi lounge. The red-and-black décor, will a towering Buddha presiding over all, helps create an urban-cool vibe.

400 Walnut St.; 515-777-3636;
wasabitao.com