DSM – eat your heart out!

I have to admit, before moving to Des Moines I had a lot of misconceptions about the city. As a self-professed fan of all things gourmet, finding great food was definitely on my shortlist. Coming from a city (Cleveland) that’s home to an Iron Chef (Michael Symon), I had high expectations, and Des Moines hasn’t let me down.  Here’s a few of my top picks so far…

1.  Gateway Market:  Just a short walk from DMU in the Sherman Hill neighborhood, Gateway is the brainchild of Centro/Django chef/owner George Formaro. It’s a specialty grocery store designed with the foodie in mind.  Looking for some Cave-Aged Gruyere for your Mac & Cheese?  Gateway’s got it. Want some freshly-baked bread with no preservatives?  They’ve got that too.  Have a craving for some quality Niman Ranch meat?  Gateway’s got it in spades. Have a bite at their Market Cafe, which has been featured twice on Bon Appetit, and all their dishes have been concocted by Formaro himself. They also offer regular cooking classes and wine and cheese tastings.  Make sure to sign up for their quarterly Good Food News, which is chock full of recipes and new foods to try. (2002 Woodland Ave., Des Moines; 515-243-1754)

2. A Dong:  Being a huge fan of Asian cuisine, I was excited to hear about this restaurant, also in Sherman Hill. Their main concentration is Vietnamese cuisine, with a huge menu boasting over 100 items, many of which are also vegetarian friendly. The spring rolls are gigantic and are to die for. (1511 High St., Des Moines; 515-284-5632)

3. Kwong Tung:  When I walked in for the first time, my initial observation was that their decor hasn’t changed since the day they opened. What they lack in atmosphere, they more than make up for with their food. Their Sweet & Sour Chicken is some of the best I’ve had. Their prices are extremely student-friendly, with lunch specials starting at $4.25 and dinner starting at $6. They recently started offering Dim Sum on Sundays; call or stop by for more details. Head next door to Zanzibar’s Coffee Adventure for an excellent post-meal latte. (2721 Ingersoll Ave., Des Moines; 515-244-8813)

4.  Old West Mexican Restaurant:  A newcomer to the Des Moines restaurant scene, Old West is definitely another restaurant that lacks in decor, but definitely compensates with their food. All the traditional favorites are on the rather large menu, and if you visit on the weekends, you’re likely to be serenaded by an impressive guitarist/singer. Trust me on this: try the Carnitas. If you need to work off what you just ate, head next door to Air Lanes for some bowling.  (4138 Fleur Dr., Des Moines; 515-285-2468)

5.  Culver’s:  I know what you’re thinking: “He’s a foodie, why is he talking about a burger joint?” One bite into their famous Butterburgers, and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Oh yeah, they’ve got yummy fried cheese curds and loads of frozen custard too.  (Numerous locations)

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