AB Road Eats: Des Moines


Smokey Row Coffee: The whole town seemed to be here when I entered — which just means it’s about as local as I could possibly get. And the menu seems endless so there’s something here for everyone. I enjoyed a hot latte.


La Mie: If people weren’t at Smokey Row, they were having breakfast at La Mie. You have your choice of endless pastries or breakfast options like French toast and eggs. As you can imagine, I needed some greens in my diet so I opted for the veggie scramble, which was extremely satisfying.


The Cheese Shop: Just a couple doors down from La Mie, I stumbled upon The Cheese Shop. Filled with local cheeses, beers and wine, I stocked up on treats for the guys (and for my tour bus). I couldn’t leave without trying their pâté sandwich. I took more than a bite of that one.

B&B Grocery, Meat and Deli: I’m no dummy. I knew I needed to have pork tenderloin at some point in my day. So I headed to B&B for a pork tenderloin sandwich and also left with a Dad’s Killer, as well as an Italian Sandwich. Enough said.

Zombie Burger: I received an overwhelming response of: “You can’t leave Des Moines without having Zombie Burger.” And I didn’t want to disappoint. They’re serving good burgers and really good milkshakes. My personal favorite is the Zombie Joe (I know, shocking).


Fong’s Pizza: You ready for this? Fong’s Pizza is one of the coolest establishment’s I’ve ever been to. And I’m sad it’s not closer to Atlanta. Let me set the scene for you: Chinese decor, tiki drinks and serious pizza. Eating there with my crew was the most fun we’ve had on the tour yet. I’d recommend the Crab Rangoon (it was incredible), we also ordered the Beef and Broccoli, as well as a couple slices of the special Jalapeno Mac and Cheese pizza. I can’t wait to go back.

Images © Alton Brown, 2014


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  1. 1

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  2. 2
    Jason Reis

    AB and crew. Not sure what your crew is in the mood for so here’s some great options.

    Breakfast: Per Kup. Simple good food. Local to the bone.

    Lunch: Woody’s BBQ, Flaming mango BBQ, or Que’d
    Manhattan deli- try the wise guy..yum

    Dinner: Tomea and sons. Traditional great Italian fair by a sassy family of servers. Try a steak you’ll be happy you did.
    D’jango-high end French fair
    Centro-modern Italian/American

    Late Drinks and food: Blue Toro – Mexican & tequila
    Taco hangover
    Iowa Tap room – amazing sampling of local beers and good food
    El bait shop

  3. 4

    For a Midwest breakfast (meaning eggs, meat, and carbs) try the Waveland cafe (2 locations). Le Jardin for brunch is wonderful. (Dinner too). ZuZap is one of my favorite Thai restaurants in West Des Moines along with the more popular Cool Basil. Even my Indonesian sister-in-law approved. For bar food we do a place called Maxi’s. Nothing low-cal here but you can’t beat a Maxiburger with some great onion rings (pretty good steaks & fried chicken as well) or a little place called Coopers on 5th. They have wonderfully inventive egg rolls and though small the menu is interesting and tasty!! G-Migs on 5th is good for lunch. Mind you theses are just local hangouts like some of the neighborhood places in any city. we’ve come a long way in the 30 years I’ve been here (grew up in Chicago and lived for several years in Houston my kids live in NYC) so good food has always been important – not expensive but good. Doesn’t matter what it costs as long as each mouthful is enjoyed!

  4. 5

    You truly NEED to visit Tasty Tacos in Des Moines or Ankeny locations….Des Moines family owned…YOU WILL NEVER have a taco like this … EVER…. They are the best!!!! People come from all over the country to savor these “one-of-a-kind” taco!! And, I’m almost sure you would try to recreate these pilllowy bundles !!!

  5. 6

    Glad you started with Smokey Row and La Mie aa well as finished with Fong’s those are definitely the area’s strong showings. If you enjoy Vietnamese food, you should try another DM staple, A Dong, next time you’re in town.

  6. 11
    Denise McCullough

    Zmariks Noodle Zoo West Des Moines ….fast food prices for amazing pasta dishes. My bf loves buffalo mac, I love kirtharaki with feta cheese. They also make some pretty amazing salads including a Greek salad big enough to share. This is my go-to place since I work at the hospital across the street. Alton, you won’t be disappointed.

  7. 13
    Maureen Mitchell

    Harvey’s in Redfield.
    Goldie’s for Tenderloins and shakes (Prairie City)
    Table 128 for fancier dinner
    Manhattan Deli on Ingersol
    Tumea and Son ‘s

  8. 14
    Derrick Ramsey

    Big Al’s Bbq, and for a Bakery stop in at the Highland Park Bakery for some of the best donuts from a local aging bakery shop. Both of them located in Des Moines.

  9. 15

    HOME PLATE DINNER = bland they season nothing my dog would not eat there chicken < being serious / HY-VEE CATERING leaves there food on the line for 8 hours plus = soggy or dried and that's what they serve u in the café side HILL TOP DINNER has no taste and is over priced PERKINS = no service cold soggy or just to dried to eat BONANZA = food poisoning / dried out food / and worst buffet ever created but they do have good banana bread on buffet<
    NOORWOOD INN BAR AND GRILL = decent food love the hot sausage sandwich recommend everything on it no onion
    PERRY MEADOWS CASINO = nice buffet elegant dinning do leave food on line to long gets cold but decent food

  10. 17

    Jethros is good but my number one favorite food stop in the Des Moines area is 7 Stone Pizza in Waukee. A big wood fired brick oven and the mix of smells is divine. You have the food and the smell of a camp fire all in one. You would regret missing this.

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  17. 30
    Debra Salowitz

    So glad you enjoyed your time in Des Moines, though you missed out on the best cup of coffee in town at Zanzibar’s Coffee Adventure (free trade coffees roasted on site) – another community gathering place, which regularly features the work of local artists on the walls. Smoky Row may be known for many terrific things, but good coffee isn’t one of them. You also missed out on several wonderful dining experiences – chiefly Proof Restaurant in the Western Gateway and Alba in the East Village. Guess you need to make a return visit soon!

    • 31
      Rachel Baker

      I agree with Debra wholeheartedly! Although I would also add Ritual Cafe, which is right next to my favorite…. Proof Restaurant!

  18. 32

    Oh how homesick I am.. I have been teased by friends saying I could run a tourbus working my way around Des Moines according to my stomach. I agree with a former poster – The Northwestern Steak House in Mason City is THE premier place since 1920.. Pete always did a fantastic job with Iowa’s grass-fed beef.. Noah’s Ark is a landmark for Italian and their spumoni with rum sauce can’t be replicated anywhere. Tasty Tacos make their tacos deep frying the shell, it’s pretty awesome. I moved to Seattle, but can never wait til I get home to eat my very favorites.. pork tenderloins, the IOWA PORK CHOP @ the State Fair, Maidrites, which don’t exist west of Iowa I swear..

  19. 34

    I have to agree with others, Smokey D’s has great BBQ, and those chicken strips, yum! If you are willing to drive though, 45 minutes north of Des Moines in Ames, is the greatest little place. The Grove Cafe has the best pancakes I have ever eaten, with amazing homemade syrup to top them with.

  20. 35

    Glad you got to check out some of the local food scene In DSM Alton. Lots of good ideas already mentioned in the comments for your next visit. 801 Chophouse is a great place serving really amazing prime beef and a great wine list and Chicago Speakeasy is a 35 plus year tradition of variety of good food (from prime rib, fried chicken, ribs, spaghetti and sandwich plates also) and a nice salad bar. I might throw in Confluence Brewery or Court Avenue brewery for some local microbrews and food. And a couple of fast food places deserve a visit also, Tasty Tacos and Maid Rite are both classic Iowa fast food places.

  21. 36

    The Brickhouse Cafe in Johnston has a butter rum french toast and a breakfast Mac and Cheese. ti is to bad you did not have more time to explore more of our local places. Tacoacoplys, and Krunkwich are amazing too. Just keep adding to your list for next time.

  22. 38

    Next time in DSM here are some little shining gems to try … Baru 66 is untouchable for French food in DSM, Latin King is the local Italian place generations have eaten, Smokey D’s is a champion of BBQ (several Kingsford and Jack Daniels overall wins), Chicago beef at Taste of Italy is an amazing sandwich, Chef’s Kitchen has all of the comfort foods you could want, Waveland Café is the greasy spoon breakfast of champions, and A Dong has wonderful Vietnamese food.

  23. 39

    Love me some Fong’s, La Mie and the Cheese Shop. Zombie Burger gets a lot of hype and is just ok. Next time you find yourself in Des Moines, go into the East Village a few blocks further and hit up Tacopocalypse for lunch. Up the hill just a bit north and east, and have dinner at Alba. I’ve never had a bad meal at either. Someone else on here mentioned Cafe DiScala. YES. Their Beatles Brunches are the best. Hope you visit us in Des Moines again soon!

    • 41

      @alij I moved from Boulder to DM recently. I loved Boulder but am an Iowa boy. The food here is great except I miss the great Front Range Mexican, even Santiagos 2$ breakfast burritos. Esp. miss the parking lot tamales and Ephraims in Lafayette

  24. 42
    Dennis Epps

    Thank you so much! It was nice meeting you, and loved the show. Please come back anytime, glad to have you. We can work our way through the tiki menu, drink by drink.

  25. 44

    Actually Trostel’s Greenbriar in Johnston Iowa, a suburb on Des Moines north side has the best steaks in town. The Ribeye with a gunpowder crust leaves you stuffed yet wanting more. Their gunpowder seasoning is unbelievable to say the least and you can buy it for 10.00 a bottle. It’s a mix of seasonings all together and my wife and I grill steaks all year with it not to mention chicken, pork, burgers etc. Iowa beef steakhouse is ok for just a regular steak if you feel like going to a restaurant to cook your own or pay a few extra bucks to have them cook it. Their menu isn’t very big and for that type of Steakhouse Rubes in Desoto just west of Des Moines is the king. 801 Steak and Chop House downtown was also a great place for a fantastic steak. Greenbriar won best steak in Des Moines many years running and was just recently as last year beat out by Chicago Speakeasy which has a delicious steak and great food but the steak in my opinion is still 2nd to Greenbriar. Have someone ship you a bottle of Greenbriars seasoning and try it for yourself. I promise you it’ll be hard to eat a steak anywhere after eating a steak with their seasoning. If you send me an address to send it to I will gladly send you a bottle of it my treat. Or if you contact them they will send you a bottle of it too. For 10.00 and I’m sure a small shipping fee possibly.

  26. 45

    La Mie, The Cheese Shop, and Fong’s have long been favorites of mine, and I *really* miss them now that I don’t live there anymore. Especially Fong’s. You just can’t get pizza (or an experience) like that anywhere else.

  27. 46
    Neva Moss

    There’s a couple other places you have to try that are like no other… The Chefs Kitchen on Beaver Ave… They have a dish made in HEAVEN… Steak DeBurgho…
    It is to Die for!!! There’s only one other place anywhere that makes it…Johnny Italian Steakhouse…
    The argument is .. Who does it best???
    Iowa Beef Steakhouse has the BEST steaks anywhere, bar none…
    And then there’s an icon that everyone loves…
    Yonkers tea room style rarebit burgers…
    Yonkers tea room isn’t around anymore, so try Drake Diner,o r Ankeny Diner for one… They both use the authentic recipe…
    We have lots more fabulous restaurants… Just not enough time to tell you about all off them…
    Oh… Don’t forget too buy some Anderson Erickson Chocolate milk, egg big, Ice cream, and cottage cheese when you’re in town…Iowans that move away miss the quality… The chocolate milk has blend of four cocoasIn it… It’s my guilty pleasure…

    • 47

      Actually, Steak de Burgo is an extremely common way of preparing steaks–especially in Iowa. The place in Iowa that has been doing it the longest is The Northwestern Steakhouse in Mason City, established in 1920.

  28. 48
    Doug Mitchell

    I will be in Des Moines next week. Thanks for some great Ideas . Always enjoy your work, Ha Ha If you can call eating your way around the country work…. What fun….Thanks

  29. 50
    Austin parks

    if you are able next time you are back cafe Di Scala is locally owned and just down right amazing. My number one suggestion to everyone. Not discounting the many contenders.

  30. 52

    Come on back to Des Moines any time and often! We’ll meet you at Fong’s again. Thanks for being so gracious and letting us interrupt your after-show dinner and drinks.

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