Des Moines, Iowa. Yep, Iowa. Des Moines.

April 23, 2008 —

I have a magnificent case of writer’s block, which for anyone that truly knows me is absolutely amazing because I’m rarely at a loss for words! Des Moines, Iowa. Writer’s block. Why do I have writer’s block? I shouldn’t have writer’s block. I’ve been thinking about this blog entry for a few weeks. Every time I did something relatively interesting that did not involve grocery shopping, I thought, “I’m so blogging this.” Unfortunately, my mind is a jumbled mess. I apologize, dear reader, for the convoluted nature of this blog entry.

What is hip and cool in Iowa? Iowa? Right, I know, hip and cool were not the first two words I though of when I considered “Iowa” the first time. I doubt, dear reader, those are your first two words either. No, it’s more like corn, pig and silo. (If you’re politically inclined then it’s caucus.) So let me explain…

I’m not from Iowa. No, I’m from Northeast Ohio—the glorious Rust Belt, forever immortalized in pop culture by A Christmas Story and American Splendor. My cynical and yet profoundly optimistic mind—born of economic hardships, sports mediocrity, and pierogies—found the idea of moving to Des Moines, Iowa highly amusing and perplexing. Granted, the majority of my time would be consumed by lectures, studying, and fitful sleep before exams, but what about the other time. You know, the precious time. The time on such a beautiful day as this when I shouldn’t be in front of the computer or television. What was I to do in a state, in a city, which I had imagined as uncool?

It started with food. I love food. I love everything about food—the smell, the taste, the texture, the presentation, the undiscovered hole-in-the-wall, etc.—so I started there in my discovery of Des Moines. I was sure, when I arrived, I would only find such bold culinary delights as Applebee’s and Old Country Buffet, but my prejudiced mind was quickly transformed and it did not take an ABC After School Special to do it.

Tasty Tacos. I feel as if all I need to say is, “Tasty Tacos,” and all will be known, but I’m writing and my tone about the gravity of Tasty Tacos cannot properly be conveyed. These are not the tacos of Taco Bell, dear reader. I cannot begin compare the fluffy flour tortilla filled with copious amounts of enticing beans, chicken, or steak and mouth watering homemade salsa to anything one could find in a fast food restaurant. They must be tasted for the knowledge of these serious tacos to be learned.

Court Avenue, in downtown Des Moines, also provided me with culinary surprises. I was shocked to experience some of the best alligator outside of the South at Buzzard Billy’s, and sauerbraten with red cabbage at Hessen Haus. Court Avenue includes more restaurants on that little strip of road for all tastes. These restaurants are great places to stop after a night at the Des Moines Symphony (which, as students we can buy “rush tickets” for $10—a fantastic night on the town, indeed) or the Civic Center for a play (I just saw The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee—and I cannot convey in such a short blog entry my enthusiasm for this musical).

Des Moines is full of restaurants to suit any taste—Mexican, Greek, Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Indian and the mom and pop burger joint to name a few. Why go to the overly priced Cheesecake Factory when Des Moines has Flarah’s? A locally owned shop, great place for lunch and tiny cheesecakes at reasonable prices.

Enjoy some entertainment with your food? Look no further than an Iowa Cubs game! This triple-A ball team offers $1 hotdog promotional night. If hotdogs are not your thing, throughout the year Des Moines offers numerous festivals: Celebrasian, the Asian Heritage Festival, Jewish Food Fair, Greek Food Fair, Festa Italiana, Latino Heritage Festival and Oktoberfest. Of course, I could not conclude this entry without mention of the Iowa State Fair, which occurs in Des Moines every August. However, this humble entry could not contain the sheer wonder and enormity that is the Iowa State Fair. It must be experienced. I recommend the pork chop on a stick.

My writer’s block has lifted (obviously) and I feel as though I have a thousand things to say on the subject of food and Des Moines. I feel as if I’ve cheated you by not discussing picnicking at the parks or the specialty markets in Des Moines. I haven’t even delved into the world of vintage shopping, the music scene or art! As you can read, after actually living in Des Moines I’m no longer perplexed at the lack of things to do, but perplexed at how much there is to do here and how to describe it in a brief blog entry.

- Jennifer Gerres, CPMS Class of 2010

P.s., here’s a few helpful links not mentioned in this entry:
DSM info

The local alt. weekly publishes a “Best of” issue that contains the best Des Moines has to offer as voted by readership. A great way to get a feel for the town and what there is to do.