• Follow us

Travel

Des Moines is on the move with an emerging food and cocktail scene | The Star

I didn’t exactly go to Des Moines, Iowa, expecting cornfields, but I didn’t want to miss them, either. One night in the capital city this summer, I drove 30 minutes northeast of Des Moines and joined a weekly bike ride in the rural town of Maxwell. Our small group pedalled along quiet farm roads, past corn and soybean fields and over idyllic rolling hills, just as I had pictured. A small plane buzzed overhead, playfully looping and rolling, and I slowed to see grazing cows and a small cemetery. We finished our ride as the fiery sun set. Only then was I ready for the big city.

Des Moines, or DSM to locals, is a laid-back, easily navigable city with an impressive network of bike trails, one of the most beautiful and interesting capitol buildings I’ve toured and an emerging food and cocktail scene. Locals I met were kind and welcoming, probably more informed about presidential candidates than many of my Washington, D.C., neighbours and proud to host the country’s first caucuses during election season. Next year, the city will unveil the largest skate park in the country (with an 80-foot-long, totally skateable “WOW” sculpture) and host its first Ironman competition. It also plans to create a white-water destination on the river with a surfing simulator for extreme paddlers.

Des Moines is on the move. Go now, while it still enjoys the charms and convenience of a small town. Go before winter hits. Go while there’s still corn.

Go

Local faves

The Downtown Farmers Market in Des Moines attracts up to 40,000 people each weekend through October with 300 vendors, live music, street performers and a bike valet.

The colder the winter in a city, the more joyful the summer market-goers. I haven’t substantiated this claim, but in Des Moines, folks are downright gleeful about the Downtown Farmers Market, which attracts 25,000 to 40,000 people each weekend through October with 300 vendors, live music, street performers and a bike valet. The Saturday market, criticized by some for selling too much non-local produce and Wisconsin cheeses, still sells plenty of Iowa sweet corn, local jam and hot sauce. But the scene itself is the biggest draw. Go for people-watching, and eat your way through the market (pupusas, juices) or hit a nearby brunch spot.

If you’re fired up for the 2020 Olympic Games but don’t have the coin for Tokyo, preview the competition at the Drake Relays. Track and field is to Iowa what college football is to the South, and nowhere are the contests more exciting than around the blue oval at Drake Stadium. Next April, Drake will host the 111th annual relays, one of the country’s most celebrated high school, college and elite track and field events. It’s a week-long celebration, including pole vaulting in a downtown office building and one of the nation’s largest one-mile road races. Past competitors include Wilma Rudolph, Bruce (now Caitlyn) Jenner, Michael Johnson, Carl Lewis, Jesse Owens, Frank Shorter and Gwen Torrence. Drake recently hosted the USA Track & Field Outdoor Championship and next May will host the Iowa high school state championship.

Guidebook musts

YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN...

Driving into town with the majestic five-domed Iowa State Capitol on the horizon, I thought I was approaching a kingdom. Come to find out, this kingdom is magical, with free parking and free temporary tattoos. On a tour, I learned that the ornate building was completed in 1886, constructed over 15 years by day labourers. It originally housed all three branches of government and was built without electricity — which was thought to be a fad. The gold leaf on the dome, the guide told us, is as thin as ash. The highlight was a marble-walled, five-level law library with white wrought iron railings, spiral staircases and a spectacular view of downtown. It houses more than 100,000 books, including titles on the state’s railroad, prairie plants and baseball. When the secretary of state is in town, he invites visitors into his office to see his model car collection and the Iowa constitution.

“You might hear people say, ‘Des Moines punches above its weight,’” a local told me. “The Des Moines Art Center is a big example of how.” For starters, the museum — a complex of three designer buildings (Eliel Saarinen, 1948; I.M. Pei, 1968; Richard Meir, 1985) — is showing “Queer Abstraction” (until Sept. 8), the first exhibition in the centre’s 70-year history to focus exclusively on queer sexuality and gender identity. The permanent collection includes modern and contemporary masterpieces by Francis Bacon, Alberto Giacometti, Henri Matisse, Georgia O’Keeffe, Mark Rothko and Andy Warhol and the “New Shelton Wet/Dry Triple Decker” from Jeff Koons’s hermetically sealed vacuum series. Stop at the restaurant, Tangerine, and the museum’s fantastic four-acre sculpture garden park downtown. Museum and park admission are free.

Eat

Local faves

Steamed buns at Harbinger, an anti-meat-and-potatoes restaurant, that focuses on Southeast Asian flavors.

The avocado toast craze has hit Des Moines, and judging from the orders at St. Kilda, locals are all in. The small, two-year-old cafe offers breakfast, lunch, coffee and cocktails with full table service. It looks a little Brooklyn, with its industrial vibe, and tastes a little Aussie, with fresh, colourful and creatively blended ingredients. The avo toast rocks charred corn and tomato salsa, the salmon and eggs come with roasted zucchini, and the stone fruit and fresh burrata salad is as good as summer gets. Top it off with a blueberry coconut smoothie or take it up a notch with a raspberry mimosa. Aussie restaurateur Alexander Hall and his wife, Whitney, recently opened a second location downtown and a surf and turf spot in East Village (where the tacos are topped with house-pickled radishes and fish and chips means fish grilled, not fried) and will open a large farm to table restaurant in Valley Junction next spring.

I loved Hello, Marjorie even before I learned it was named after one of the owner’s grandmothers, who drank sloe gin by the glass and smoked cigarettes by the pack. My own 99-year-old Grandma Marjorie enjoys her cocktails and would feel right at home amid the bar’s mid-century mod furniture. Located in the former Des Moines Register building and designed to look like your great aunt’s house (gold velvet curtains, brass clock collection), Hello, Marjorie is the city’s go-to cocktail bar. Liquor is stored in mirrored cabinets, and the 10-item cocktail menu includes the Editor’s Note, a riff on an Old-Fashioned, and the Dinner Party, a tequila drink with mascarpone cream cheese. Tuesdays, old fashioneds, martinis and Manhattans are $6. Get a selfie by the giant neon Jack Kerouac quote, “The prettiest girls in the world live in Des Moines.” For other themed watering holes, try El Bait Shop, with hundreds of craft beers on tap; Iowa Tap Room, which specializes in Iowa beers; and High Life Lounge, a doppelganger of your ’60s rec room, where patrons inexplicably enjoy Spam and egg sandwiches with Miller High Life and Schlitz.

A neon sign reads, "The prettiest girls in the world live in Des Moines" at Hello, Marjorie.

Guidebook musts

“Locals’ palates are getting more adventurous,” said Joe Tripp, co-owner and chef at Harbinger, and that’s good news for the rest of us. The popular Ingersoll neighbourhood dinner and brunch spot is the anti-meat-and-potatoes restaurant, focusing on Southeast Asian flavors and vegetable-based small plates like steamed buns (also available with pork or chicken), locally grown shiitake mushroom tempura, buckwheat, kale and popped groats tarts and Hakurei turnips with local chevre. Tripp, a four-time James Beard Award nominee who ran the kitchen at Alba, shops at the Downtown Farmers Market and preserves massive amounts of produce so winter diners can enjoy treats like fermented ramps and strawberry relish. Nearby: Cheese Bar, dive bar Greenwood Lounge and Eatery A, the city’s best happy hour if you dig pizza and wine.

If you love greasy spoon diners, politics and servers who call you “Sweetie,” Waveland Cafe will make your ticker tick just a little faster. One morning, I sat at the bar with a bowl of oatmeal and savoured the squeak of the swinging doors to the kitchen. A childlike painting on the front window reads, “Eggsellent as Always,” and the diner next to me attacked an omelet that draped over the sides of his plate. Owner David Stone likes to reminisce about when CNN and Tom Brokaw hosted shows from the diner during primary season and pointed out signatures on the wall — Ron Paul, Joe Biden and John Edwards. If Waveland’s not your jam, you can’t go wrong at beloved La Mie, where the spread of house-baked breads and pastries is so vast it’ll force your calorie-counter app into submission.

YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN...

Shop

Get more travel in your inbox

Get great destination information for your next vacation with our Travel newsletter.

Sign Up Now

Local faves

Men who hate shopping, Fontenelle Supply Co. may turn you. Built by guys who blog about camping and motorcycle trips and made for guys who appreciate well-made (read: pricey) items that they’ll never KonMari out of their lives, the shop opened three years ago with an in-house custom leather shop. The owners craft leather wallets and totes with a lifetime guarantee and make their own candles (in Marlboro Man scents like whiskey and leather, timber and coffee). You can also find Japanese selvage denim, Filson shirts and jackets, work boots that look like they’ll last a generation, safety glasses for hazardous manly activities, restored and hand-sharpened vintage axes and motorcycle helmets. For more moto and vintage, visit Dream Company on Ingersoll.

Valley Junction in West Des Moines has been down on its luck in recent years, but the buzz and lure of new retailers and restaurants is making this eight-block shopping strip DSM’s Comeback Kid. Once known for its dozens of antique and vintage shops, the compact neighbourhood (about five miles west of downtown) still has some old-school survivors, like Atomic Garage (polyester pants, disco dresses and go-go boots) and sister shop A OK Antiques (jukebox, mid-century furniture). And there’s new blood. In June, designer John Bosley, formerly with Raygun, opened Bozz Prints (posters, shirts, mugs); home and gift shop MōMere recently moved to a bright, larger space; and an acai bowl cafe has joined the mix. In the spring, St. Kilda will open a large restaurant in an old Ford dealership. Parking’s free and plentiful. Visit every Thursday evening through September for the farmers market and live music.

Guidebook musts

When I met Raygun founder and local Mike Draper, he wore a T-shirt with Olympic rings that read, “Des Moines 2024.” If you think that’s funny, you’ll love his flagship store in the East Village neighbourhood, a giant, high-ceilinged printing and retail space filled with clever and politically charged shirts, sweatshirts, mugs, temporary tattoos, stickers, postcards and tote bags. There are blank journals titled, “How I’ll survive the zombie apocalypse,” RBG air fresheners, Nancy Pelosi socks and $1 postcards (”Iowa: 75 percent vowels, 100 percent awesome”). And the T-shirts: “Iowa. Terrifying dirt roads. No almond milk anywhere. Extremely well-informed caucusgoers” and “The Squad: Why don’t they go back to America.” If you can’t find a fun gift here, you might need new friends.

Popularized by HGTV’s “West End Salvage” reality show, West End Architectural Salvage is a treasure-hunter’s paradise, with inventory from across the nation and four floors of fabulous finds. On the ground floor, grab coffee (or a Bloody Mary, if it’s that kind of morning). Strolling around the century-old building, you’ll find an old amusement park car and carousel animal, a barrel of old yardsticks, vintage metal lockers, Underwood and Smith Corona typewriters, stained glass, a metal cowboy bathtub, old motel signs, a bench from the Des Moines airport, tin ceiling tiles and doors, license plates, a bench made from the back door of a flatbed truck and window grates from an Iowa jail. You’ll also find beautiful tables made from reclaimed barn lumber. At the nearby Art Terrarium, sidle up to the potting bar to make your own succulent garden.

Stay

Local fave

Des Lux Hotel has 51 uniquely decorated rooms.

Going first class was never so affordable. Des Lux Hotel, a downtown boutique property in a century-old building a block from the sculpture park, is a local favorite because of the martinis and a guest favorite because, well, who doesn’t like a little class? Along with a grand piano and a wall of mismatched mirrors, the common area features a gorgeous lounge with blue velvet bar chairs and a re-purposed stained glass communal table. In the lobby bathrooms, you’ll find gold swan faucet handles and gold peacock wallpaper. Amenities include a sauna, steam room and hot tub, a 3,000-square foot gym and 51 uniquely decorated rooms. Complementary made-to-order breakfast and a free airport/East Village shuttle are also available. All this, starting at $189. Guests often dine nearby at some of the city’s most upscale restaurants, including 801 Chophouse, one of Iowa’s top steak houses, and Proof, considered the foodiest restaurant in town.

Guidebook must

Revel Hotel opened this summer in Urbandale, about 15 minutes west of downtown and within walking distance of the 500-acre Living History Farms, an interactive outdoor museum focusing on Midwestern rural life experiences. The 112-room hotel, part of Hilton’s Tapestry Collection, plays up the farm theme with tasteful modern farm murals, large black-and-white cowboy photos and lobby pillows with pig and horse faces. Revel’s restaurant has a pool table and a full bar with local beers on tap. Its gym should satisfy iron-pumpers, rowers and yogis alike. Rooms start at $174. Next door is its sister property, Hotel Renovo, a little family and budget-friendlier, with a pool, weekly live music and a small lobby bar.

Explore

Local fave

A mural welcomes visitors to the city's East Village neighbourhood.

Bike, run, walk or skip across the High Trestle Trail Bridge, about 30 minutes north of downtown. At 13 stories above the Des Moines River, the half-mile, award-winning bridge is one of the tallest trail bridges in the world. But the main attraction is the display of 41 artistic steel frames rising over the path, lit a brilliant blue starting at sunset. The 25-mile trail runs through five towns; rent bikes at Pingora Outdoors, 50 feet off the trail in Ankeny, or Trailside Rentals in Madrid (pronounced MADrid), a block from the trail and a few miles from the bridge. Also in Madrid, hit the Filling Station for shakes and malts and Flat Tire Lounge in a Quonset hut for beer; Firetrucker Brewery is a cyclist-friendly spot in Ankeny. Iowa’s bike trail system is robust, and social cycling is legendary here, thanks in part to RAGBRAI, the week-long summer ride across the state. Join the masses on a smaller scale, pedaling eight miles south of Des Moines on the Great Western Trail to Cumming Tap for Taco Tuesday.

Guidebook must

In East Village, east of the Des Moines River, you’ll still find some of the old characters, like an 86-year-old plumbing supply shop, but you’ll also discover independent retailers that channel more of the other East Village: Raygun, Fontenelle, Domestica (jewelry, totes, tees), Eden (bath and home boutique with insanely soft animals from London’s Jellycat), Marv’s Music (vinyl), the Permanent Collection Letterpress + Design Studio (classy cards), Honey Dot Baby Shop (posh toddler threads) and Kitchen Collage (that sorbet-colored Smeg water kettle you’ve been eyeing). Also check out Gong Fu Tea, Zombie Burger + Drink Lab (locals recommend the Walking Ched burger with deep fried macaroni), Black Sheep (underground satanic tequila bar) and Alba, which has a long, winding concrete bar, open kitchen and veggie gnocchi to write home about.

Read More



Leave A Comment

More News

Top Travel stories

Kingston woman acquitted in BDSM child case New! 2019-09-17 19:57:01A judge has acquitted a Kingston woman, who was formerly a man, of allegations that she sexually abused the teenage daughter of a BDSM sex partner. &l

Foreign currency swindler jailed 9 years, ordered to New! 2019-09-17 19:17:31Toronto businessman Steven Nowack used to portray himself as a skilled, knowledgeable foreign currency trader whose account boasted $146 million, cour

EPL FREE KICKS: Just how big and unlikely New! 2019-09-17 18:49:22DAN BILICKI Toronto Sun It’s being called one of the biggest upsets in league history and it’s easy to see why. On one side, you had the r

BARNES: Things between Kaillie Humphries, Bobsleigh Canada can New! 2019-09-17 18:33:37Kaillie Humphries is both asset and liability for Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton, and that surely complicates their potential next steps. The 34-year-old d

Cannabis-loving comedy duo Cheech & Chong head out New! 2019-09-17 18:05:05Like the name of one of their albums, Where There’s Smoke, there’s Cheech & Chong. The Cannabis-loving comedy duo made up of American-

LILLEY: Trudeau offers false hope and empty promises New! 2019-09-17 18:00:42Jonathan Davis should have been in school Monday morning, instead the 17-year-old was being mourned by his family. Davis was an innocent bystander in

GOLDSTEIN: Feds scrapped 100 years of data on New! 2019-09-17 17:32:27Canadians already suspicious of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s carbon tax are likely be even more suspicious given a report by Ottawa-based Bla

Funds being raised to bury machete murder victim New! 2019-09-17 17:31:49Friends of a woman murdered in a machete attack are raising funds so she can be buried in her home country of Sri Lanka. Tharshika Jeganathan, 27, was

GUEST COLUMN: Will the cost of housing swing New! 2019-09-17 17:18:23By Tim Ross, Special to Postmedia Network Recent polls have shown that the number one ballot issue for Canadians is the cost of living. To no one&rsqu

MULCAIR: Federal leaders need the moral courage to New! 2019-09-17 17:01:47Quebec Premier Francois Legault has told federal party leaders to butt out of his province’s discriminatory Bill 21 that targets religious minor

EDITORIAL: Anti-noise blitz silent on cars  New! 2019-09-17 15:12:43As we noted in our Sunday editorial, we believe Mayor John Tory and council have their hearts in the right place in trying to lower the volume on life

EISEN: Promoting economic freedom in Ontario  New! 2019-09-17 14:38:29Recently, the Fraser Institute published its annual Economic Freedom of the World report. The study measures the extent that policies in countries aro

Canada Travel - The

Jeremy Dutcher Has A Message For Maxime Bernier: New! 2019-09-17 15:18:42OTTAWA — Indigenous singer-songwriter Jeremy Dutcher is done with People’s Party of Canada (PPC) Leader Maxime Bernier. The 2018 Pola

What The Parties Are Promising Parents In The New! 2019-09-17 15:13:39Campaign season for Canada’s 2019 federal election is well underway, and the parties have started releasing their platforms. The Oct. 21 el

Drake Built Giant Fences Around His Mansion To New! 2019-09-17 15:00:50Drake is fed up. Well, he’s most always fed up — “distressed, exasperated and over it” is kind of his milieu —

Singh: Bernier Is Being Given Platform To Promote New! 2019-09-17 14:58:01Allowing Maxime Bernier to participate in the official federal leaders’ debates will give the People’s Party leader a stage to promote hat

Alex Trebek Has Resumed Chemotherapy: 'Cancer Is Mysterious' New! 2019-09-17 14:08:28Alex Trebek is going through another round of chemotherapy after a troubling discovery from his doctors.The “Jeopardy!” host told &ld

Breaking Down The Differences Between Flu Shots New! 2019-09-17 13:17:58It’s everybody’s favourite time of year: flu-shot season! Did you know there are actually two different kinds of flu vaccines? Here’

Tories Offer Families More Help With College, University New! 2019-09-17 11:44:55WINNIPEG — Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says he would help parents save up to send their children to college or university by increasing th

Hate Graffiti Has Tainted Candidate Election Signs In New! 2019-09-17 11:11:12When Liberal candidate Karen Ludwig learned that someone had painted black swastikas across one of her roadside election signs, she was not only shock

NDP Promises To Build 500,000 Affordable Homes Across New! 2019-09-17 11:09:01OTTAWA — The NDP is promising to build 500,000 new affordable homes across the country in 10 years, if elected.NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh didn&rsq

Trudeau Liberals Target Parents With Pledge To Boost New! 2019-09-17 09:28:33OTTAWA — The Liberals promised Tuesday that if re-elected, they will boost the Canada Child Benefit for children under age one and make maternit

Andrew Scheer Says Liberals Are Plotting New Tax, 2019-09-17 08:45:16OTTAWA — Andrew Scheer is making no apologies for insisting that a re-elected Liberal government would impose a capital-gains tax of up to 50 pe

Haviah Mighty Captures Prestigious Polaris Music Prize 2019-09-17 07:07:07TORONTO — Haviah Mighty has won the 2019 Polaris Music Prize for her album “13th Floor.”The project was selected by an 11-member jur

Breaking Travel News

News: Saint Lucia Tourism Authority hosts annual UK 2019-09-17 05:32:34The Saint Lucia Tourism Authority has hosted its ninth annual showcase, this year welcoming more than 200 UK travel industry specialists. The aim of t

News: Stay at Downton Abbey with Airbnb 2019-09-17 05:06:12For one night only, Highclere Castle will open its doors to two guests, giving super fans an opportunity to immerse themselves in the iconic location

News: JW Marriott Maldives Resort to open in 2019-09-17 04:57:29Headed up by general manager Marc Gussing, the beautiful property will feature 60 spacious villas starting at an enormous 234 square metres, all with

Focus: How to apply for a Visa to 2019-09-17 04:51:27Egypt is a fascinating Arab country that is situated in Northeast Africa. If you’re looking to catch a lovely tan and explore a country that is

News: Bolt to invest a €10 million in 2019-09-17 04:39:29Bolt will seek to make journeys taken using its platform in Europe carbon neutral by offsetting emissions. The Estonia-headquartered company is making

News: Norwegian wins financial space as bondholders agree 2019-09-17 04:28:56Bondholders at low-cost carrier Norwegian have accepted a plea to postpone payment of up to US$380 million by up to two years. Having offered lucrativ

News: Native Manchester welcomes first guests in north 2019-09-17 04:07:13Located in the newly transformed Ducie Street Warehouse on the edge of Manchester’s Northern Quarter, boutique aparthotel brand Native has just

News: Algarve seeks to broaden beach holiday reputation 2019-09-17 03:54:07Algarve tourism chiefs have argued the region must diversify and build on its renowned beach holiday brand in order to benefit from the rapidly evolvi

News: Rowlett to lead newly-created incident analysis group 2019-09-17 03:21:50Carnival Corporation has appointed Sandra Rowlett as vice president of a newly created incident analysis group. She reports directly to Peter Anderson

News: Cunard to launch first cinema ad alongside 2019-09-17 03:13:31The advert, which has been created by Cunard’s retained agency Alpha Century, draws from the emotions evoked from travelling on the world’

News: Leonardo Hotels launches Rena spa brand in 2019-09-17 02:33:49An urban sanctuary that allows visitors to escape the stresses of the city, Rena Spa is open to guests and non-guests and provides the perfect environ

News: AHIF delegates to run alongside world champion 2019-09-17 01:49:05Delegates at the Africa Hotel Investment Forum will have the chance to go running with the Ethiopian Olympic gold medallist and four-time World Champi

TORONTO STAR | LIFE | TRAVEL

Bird watchers, nature lovers find sanctuary at oasis 2019-09-12 23:15:26The Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary, located in the heart of Greater Victoria’s urban landscape, is home to up to four dozen native fl

Wide-eyed in Zambia: Great Migration offers the greatest 2019-09-12 12:47:00Exhilarated. Over the moon. And cautious. A safari lodge is a thousand times better than any zoo, but you — not the animals — are the ones

Fishing for a more genuine experience in Portugal? 2019-09-12 12:21:17Not only is Setubal more affordable than Lisbon, its mix of seafood delights and sightseeing is ‘more authentic and close to nature’.

Vestlandet, Norway, is ‘oh, my god’ country 2019-09-12 11:05:15Norway is a solo traveller’s playground: with no one to appease, make decisions on the fly and savour the revelatory moments.

Alberta wilderness park making comeback from 2017 Kenow 2019-09-11 23:36:08The Waterton fires wiped out 38,000 hectares of land, but the park on the Alberta-Montana border is now healing.

Ontario museum offers 3D tour of large Indigenous 2019-09-05 12:31:23Visitors to the museum in Whitchurch-Stouffville can experience a virtual reality tour of the archeological site that’s described as a significa

‘Unpretentious’ Philadelphia offers history, food, culture and Rocky 2019-09-05 11:51:22The city, founded in 1682 by William Penn, a Quaker from England, remains a beacon for history and art buffs wanting to look into the past.

Virgin Galactic gives inside look to new spaceport 2019-09-04 22:11:07On display were two floors dedicated to space flight operations but also customer spaces. The company said the facility is now operational.

Dirty little secrets of doing hand laundry on 2019-09-04 22:00:07Too cheap to send out my laundry, too time-strapped to sit in a self-service laundry, I resorted to the sink, cool water and a Tide detergent pod.

Five tips for scoring housesitting gigs that will 2019-09-04 21:53:07If you’re looking for an inexpensive way to travel, and don’t mind picking up a few responsibilities in exchange, here’s advice from

For Nordic charm across the Baltic Sea, try 2019-09-04 21:47:06Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, which regained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, is as Nordic as it gets without being a Scandinavian c

Seven Florida boat tours: The classic way to 2019-09-04 21:19:06On a floating getaway, you can reach places where there are no roads and catch views you can’t see any other way. Some of the boats themselves a


Disclaimer and Notice:WorldProNews.com is not responsible of these news or any information published on this website.