Restaurant Week 2016

RW16-CoverDine at Greater Des Moines’ top restaurants Aug. 19-28 for just $28 for two lunches or one three-course dinner. The metro area’s innovative and talented chefs will create special fixed-price menus that will showcase their palate-pleasing cuisine at pocketbook-pleasing prices. The fabulous fare undoubtedly will have you going back for more!


Have a cozy lunch for two—or one three-course dinner—for just $28 during Restaurant Week. Spring a little extra for a nice wine, as this couple did at Eatery A, and you have a meal to remember.

Have a cozy lunch for two—or one three-course dinner—for just $28 during Restaurant Week. Spring a little extra for a nice wine, as this couple did at Eatery A, and you have a meal to remember.

If you’re following some zany, rigid diet, plan to skip town Aug. 19-28, because this year’s Restaurant Week is going to be irresistible.

Thirty-six of the city’s favorite eateries are bringing you this around-town festival of food. Restaurant Week is so big, in fact, it doesn’t fit in a week! It’s ten days of opportunity for memorable meals.

Here’s the scoop: Each participating restaurant will offer specials on the same bargain terms: two lunches or one three-course dinner for just $28. This is our ninth year of celebrating affordable fare with flair, presented by dsm magazine in partnership with the Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau.

And what’s an event without prizes? The CVB plans to award a grand prize package of meal deals worth about $600, including gift cards for opportunities all over town. Turn to page 15 in this section for details.

To learn more, check out the website and follow the fun on Facebook and Instagram (#dsmrw2016). There’s also a handy app (search “dsm restaurant week”) and space in the Twittersphere (@DMRestaurantWk). Participating restaurants are listed on the website, and their Restaurant Week menus will be added during the first week of August.

Restaurant Week participants

Compiled and Updated by Wini Moranville
Photography by Duane Tinkey

AJ’s Steakhouse
1 Prairie Meadows Drive, Altoona
Located inside the Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino complex, this venue offers a handsome white-tablecloth fine-dining atmosphere. Find classic steakhouse cuts, including bone-in rib-eyes, prime rib, strips, filet mignon and, of course, that Iowa go-to: steak de burgo. You also can enjoy pasta dishes, such as deep-dish manicotti, chicken parmesan and baked rigatoni.

524 E. Sixth St., 515-244-0261
Vintage wooden doors suspended from the ceiling and the streetscape outside the curved bank of windows lend an animated setting to the energetic cuisine of executive chef Joe Tripp. A farm-to-fork leader in town, Tripp often crosses deep, complex flavors with bright, garden-plucked touches. Also count on Tripp to introduce us to new-to-our-scene flavors, ingredients and concepts; he travels far afield (recently returning from Vietnam, for example) to inspire his cooking, introducing us to the likes of sake lees ice cream and crispy
pig’s ears.

Americana Restaurant and Lounge
1312 Locust St.; 515-283-1312
With windows framing the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park, this stylish, two-story restaurant occupies a historic former car dealership on Locust Street. Bright World War II-themed murals pay tribute to the midcentury cocktail generation, and the bar follows suit with handcrafted libations, including both historic and signature creations. The menu opens to American bar-grill favorites (steaks, burgers, pasta and small plates); most dishes are tweaked with polished-contemporary buzzwords. To wit: truffle fries, Brussels sprouts with bacon, seared tuna with wasabi, duck confit tacos, miso-glazed salmon and Cajun-chicken gnocchi.

644 18th St; 515-244-1353
Tony Lemmo closed his Cafe di Scala, a longtime Sherman Hill favorite, late last year and later reopened the romantic 1880s mansion as Aposto. The new venue serves private parties, themed Mediterranean dinners on the first Saturday of each month and brunch on the first Sunday of each month. Fans of the romantic setting—and of former Café di Scala chef Phil Shires’ cooking—will be glad to know that Aposto plans to open to the public Aug. 19-20 and Aug. 26-28 during Restaurant Week.

Baru 66
6587 University Ave., Windsor Heights
Six years ago, Chef David Baruthio, a native of Alsace, France, introduced contemporary high-end French cuisine to our city. In doing so, he raised the bar on the fine-dining scene by proving that Des Moines would understand and support food as art. With trend-setting kitchen equipment like the Pacojet, he turns out daring and divine foams, soups, sauces and ice creams. If you’re not sure whether gastronomy is your style, Restaurant Week is a great opportunity to get a taste of what this chef is all about.

Bistro Montage
2724 Ingersoll Ave.; 515-557-1924
Among the generous handful of French restaurants in this town, Bistro Montage distinguishes itself by getting to the heart of the cozy-yet-energetic corner-bistro experience. Here’s where to head for cuisine traditionnelle, such as French onion soup, charcuterie, steak frites and skate wing in browned butter. Such classics are never done by rote; for example, the stocks and sauces are homemade, the fries are hand-cut. Traveling beyond the tried-and-true, chef-owner Enosh Kelley and team also plate seasonal features and one-of-a-kind creations. This past spring, for example, brought a house-made pasta tossed with seasonal mushrooms, fresh fava beans, peas and fresh herbs in a mushroom truffle broth-butter sauce.

Blue Tomato Kitchen
860 First St., West Des Moines; 515-277-7785
Under the David Baruthio umbrella, Blue Tomato Kitchen is a more family-focused, casual offshoot of Baru 66. The menu focuses on Italian favorites, including house-made sauces and sausages, seasonal pasta features, farm-fresh vegetables and local La Quercia products, all served in a bustling, open-kitchen setting. The pizza features a thin, crispy crust topped with European-inspired ingredients, such as goat cheese, Bolognese and nduja.

Bonefish Grill
650 S. Prairie View Drive, West Des Moines
Bonefish Grill is a Florida-based restaurant business that has grown from three locations in 2006, when it was acquired by Bloomin’ Brands, to nearly 160 now. The company accomplished that growth by serving market-fresh fish cooked over wood-burning fires. Regulars on the menu include ahi tuna, Chilean sea bass, rainbow trout and salmon, served with a choice of sauce, including lime tomato garlic, mango salsa, herb pesto, pan-Asian sauce and lemon butter. For a more casual dining experience, check out the “Handhelds” section of the menu for a Kobe beef burger, tacos or fish and chips.



Chicken & Waffle
Bubba—Southern Comforts

Bubba executive chef Jammie Monahan will use Restaurant Week to introduce Des Moines to the new restaurant’s Southern fried chicken. Brined 24 hours, then soaked in buttermilk, the chicken is dredged through a seasoned flour. The trick, says Monahan, is in massaging the flour into the chicken. “Ever have fried chicken where the breading just crumbles off?” he asked. “Mine won’t crumble off.”

For Monahan’s take on chicken and waffle, the fried chicken gets sauced with a purée of guajillo peppers, herbs, garlic, salt, pepper and honey. The savory waffle is spiked with jalapeños and white cheddar, resulting in a spiced-up version of a down-home favorite.

Bubba—Southern Comforts
200 10th St.
(phone not available at press time)
As of press time, PR-wizard-cum-restaurateur Christopher Diebel was set to open his downtown venue in late July. His vision for the decor: an updated Southern parlor setting, replete with nailhead-trimmed upholstered dining chairs, and 6-foot chandeliers framed by swag-draped windows. The menu will feature some of the South’s greatest culinary hits, from the shrimp-and-grits of the low country, to Louisiana-style po’ boys, to the chicken-fried steak of Diebel’s native Texas. Bubba’s Restaurant Week menu will include Tennessee-style fried chicken and waffle; turn to page 8 in this section to learn more.

1003 Locust St.; 515-248-1780
More than a decade ago, Centro energized the downtown Des Moines dining scene with urban-chic ambiance and grand-scale ambition. Its appeal endures: On any given night, the room swells with the animated buzz of a contented crowd. Some pile in for restaurateur-chef George Formaro and executive chef Derek Eidson’s satisfying and sincere takes on Italian-American food (Mama’s meatballs, onion rings, sausage rigatoni, red-sauced cavatelli and the like). Others seek out the more refined side of the menu, such as seared sea scallops with potato gnocchi.

Chef’s Kitchen
1903 Beaver Ave.; 515-255-4411
These days, you can find sports bars and fine-dining spots all over the place. What’s harder to hit upon is that sweet spot in between: a place you can go for that casual Tuesday-night meal that’s as thoughtfully prepared as a Saturday-night splurge. Chef’s Kitchen is exactly that. On red-letter days, try the steak de burgo, shrimp scampi or Bistecca alla Fiorentina (grilled steak finished in olive oil, garlic and herbs). For a more casual bite, go for burgers, sandwiches, pizza or their signature mac and cheese. True to its family-friendly ethos, Chef’s also has a popular kids’ menu.

City Center Lounge—Des Moines Marriott Downtown
700 Grand Ave.; 515-245-5500, ext. 5708;
Go early for a pre-dinner cocktail—settling into the plush, soft seating of this colorful and contemporary lounge lets you live large in your own hometown. The menu offers American favorites such as quesadillas, wings, steaks, burgers and salmon, and many are niced-up Iowa-style with local ingredients, such as Graziano’s sausage (in the pasta Bolognese), Cedar Ridge bourbon (on the Berkwood Farms Iowa pork chop), and La Quercia prosciutto (on a prosciutto, fig jam and goat cheese flatbread).

Cosi Cucina Italian Grill
1975 N.W. 86th St., Clive; 515-278-8148
When Cosi opened in 1993, the metro area was introduced to several new things: wood-oven pizza, roasted garlic with chèvre and roasted peppers, wood-grilled fish and a distinctive wine list. Now back in the hands of the original owners, the wood ovens are turning out pies of distinction, and the wood grill is searing grouper and salmon to perfection. The list of 15-plus pasta dishes is among the most extensive in Des Moines. Find anything from a light fresh tomato linguini to an indulgent cream-sauced mushroom lasagna.

210 10th St.; 515-288-0268
All hail Django for helping Des Moines understand that there’s nothing inherently snobbish about French food. The always-buzzing brasserie-style restaurant merrily trots out crowd-pleasing French favorites (pâtés and charcuterie platters, coq au vin, boeuf bourguignon and the like), alongside more casual fare, such as burgers, macaroni and cheese, main-dish salads and crêpes. To reinforce its good-time vibe, the restaurant encourages patrons to bring their own wine, with no corkage fees ever.

Eatery A
2932 Ingersoll Ave.; 515-282-8085
When he opened Eatery A two years ago, restaurateur Jason Simon brought grand-scale ambition to the casual dining scene. He started by tricking out an Ingersoll eyesore with dash, verve and gleaming reclaimed wood. Inside, executive chef Nic Gonwa’s 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 the hanger steak with charred onion and Romesco sauce is an ever-popular standby.

Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar
150 S. Jordan Creek Parkway
West Des Moines; 515-457-2916
While a handful of seafood, pork and chicken entrees dot the menu, it’s nearly impossible to pass up the steaks: lusty prime-grade beef, seared at 1,600 degrees and served on burn-your-fingers-hot plates. Equally irresistible are the opulent sides, such as creamed spinach and jalepeño-sparked scalloped potatoes. Without exception, Fleming’s does wine right: Whether you want to splurge on a high-end bottle or go easy with an under-$10 glass, it’s nice to know that all wines are always served in peak condition.

Gilroy’s Kitchen + Pub + Patio
1238 Eighth St., West Des Moines;
When the immensely popular ’80s/’90s-era Jimmy’s American Café closed at this location back in 2000, it left a gaping hole on West Des Moines’s Eighth Street dining corridor. Finally, restaurateur Scott Carlson overhauled the place, and the new venue seems set to become the go-to hotspot for polished-casual dining. Enjoy burgers, sandwiches, comfort-food entrees (meatloaf, potpie and salmon fish-and-chips), a handful of steaks and salads, and a buoyant bar and patio scene.

303 E. Fifth St.; 515-244-1213
Suman and Cynthia Hoque’s airy and bright East Village bistro leads the farm-to-fork movement in Des Moines. The menu, which changes almost daily depending upon what is available, employs grass-fed beef and lamb and free-range chickens and duck. All are raised without hormones, antibiotics, steroids or cages. Butter and cream come from grass-fed cows, and seafood is sustainably sourced. The majority of the menu is gluten-free, and coffee is fair-trade and locally roasted.

Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse
6800 Fleur Drive, Des Moines
6075 Mills Civic Parkway, West Des Moines 515-333-5665
550 Bass Pro Drive N.W., Altoona
If there’s any place that proves “a good time never goes out of style,” it’s the retro-snazzy 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 plush and spiffy surroundings.



Smoked Tomato Spaetzle with Shrimp and Sausage
Le Jardin

Think fresh and local, and images of Iowa’s farms generally come to mind. For this dish, chef Tag Grandgeorge snags his tomatoes even closer to home: Dogpatch Urban Gardens, a thriving quarter-acre market garden located in the northern Beaverdale area.

Grandgeorge smokes the hyper-local tomatoes with onions and herbs, then purées them into an intriguing sauce for his homemade spaetzle (a dumpling-like pasta). Graziano sausage, shrimp and zucchini—plus a little Chablis, cream and Parmesan—complete this worldly ode to a local harvest.

Le Jardin
2815 Beaver Ave., Suite 101; 515-255-5787
The casual yet life-enhancing everyday cooking of France is the draw at this French bistro. Chef-owner Tag Grandgeorge’s signature plates include rabbit meatloaf, lush pâtés and dinner-worthy omelets. But pay attention to what’s new, too: Grandgeorge energizes the menu seasonally, with dishes like black garlic Alaskan halibut. Not only does Grandgeorge source local produce, he’s also taken to nose-to-tail cooking, buying entire animals from local farmers and using most all the cuts in his creations. For Restaurant Week, Le Jardin will offer smoked tomato spaetzle with shrimp and sausage (see page 4 in this section) as one of the featured dishes.

Louie’s Wine Dive
4040 University Ave., Suite A, Des Moines 515-777-3416
Don’t be fooled by the word “dive” in the name. Though the simple decor of soft banquette seating, handsome high-top tables, and a chalkboard of daily wine deals create a casual vibe, you’ll also find refined shared plates, elevated comfort food and well-purveyed sips. Envision, for example, sipping a sparkling Spanish rosé with your Champagne and rice-flour battered fish and chips, served with kohlrabi slaw. In warm weather, opt for the lively patio.

Machine Shed
11151 Hickman Road, Urbandale
With the mantra “dedicated to the American farmer,” Machine Shed is appropriately housed in a structure near Living History Farms that recalls a barn. Generous portions and home-style cooking are the restaurant’s hallmarks. Favorites such as the roasted stuffed pork chops, Haybaler top sirloin, pan-fried chicken, old-fashioned meatloaf and homemade chicken potpie keep fans returning. And the massive award-winning cinnamon rolls? Legendary.

900 Mulberry St.; 515-244-5000
Located in the headquarters of the
Des Moines Social Club, Malo is another see-and-be-seen hotspot in the George Formaro/Orchestrate Management empire. With pisco sours, mojitos and a daiquiri-style sip that pays homage to Hemingway’s time in Cuba, the thrilling drinks menu celebrates the cocktail culture of Latin America. The menu includes Mexican favorites, including tacos made from fresh-pressed tortillas and slow-braised meats. Also find signature dishes, ranging from the refined (pumpkin-seed-crusted chicken) to the irreverent (Tot’chos—tots loaded up, nacho-style).

Prime Land & Sea
1261 Eighth St., West Des Moines
Chef/owner David Baruthio prefers not to use the word “brasserie” to pinpoint this venue’s focus, as it’s an uncommon word in these parts. But a brasserie—a large, casual, good-time bar and restaurant—is what’s emerging here. While you can enjoy well-purveyed steaks, there’s a comfortable, everyday informality, too, thanks to the burgers, pasta, charcuterie, salads and a large-scale bar and lounge area.

1301 Locust St.; 515-244-0655
Chef-owner Sean Wilson’s adventurous cuisine draws its inspiration from the sweep of the Mediterranean and encompasses a range of styles, from cheese and charcuterie simplicity to complex molecular bravura.
A pioneer in this town’s craft cocktail movement, Wilson’s alter-ego, Doc Wilson, house-infuses spirits, creates his own vermouths and bitters, and turns out dashing signature libations. Located at the edge of Western Gateway, Proof also offers a captivating view of downtown Des Moines through immense, east-facing windows.



Grilled Chicken and Basil Pesto Cavatelli

During the growing season, executive chef Aaron Holt gets much of his produce from literally right outside his door—both at work and at home. On Saturdays, the Court Avenue restaurant has a front-row seat to the Downtown Farmers’ Market; the rest of the week, Holt often plucks herbs, tomatoes and other produce from his own house garden in Ankeny.

This Restaurant Week feature stars his homemade pesto in RōCA’s proprietary cream sauce—it has more than a dozen ingredients, including wine, heavy cream, lemon juice, shallots, garlic and secret ingredients Holt would rather not divulge. The luscious sauce drapes cavatelli and grilled chicken, and the recipe is finished with a shower of fresh basil. The resulting dish is both fresh-forward and deeply indulgent at the same time.

208 Court Ave.; 515-282-3663
Executive chef Aaron Holt crosses hearty foods with refined touches for his menu of shared plates (e.g., smoked mac and cheese, crab croquettes, and hoisin rib-eye skewers), flatbreads (Graziano’s sausage, mushroom and goat cheese), charcuterie boards, sliders (root beer-braised pork, turkey meatball) and a handful of large plates (salmon piccata, stuffed chops). The immensely gratifying and precise craft cocktails are a must-have here. One of the Restaurant Week features will be grilled chicken and basil pesto cavatelli (see page 6 of this section).

Splash Seafood Bar & Grill
303 Locust St.; 515-244-5686
This is the city’s premier spot for high-end seafood. The fish and shellfish are jet-fresh, of course, but the real pleasures lie in the way chef Dominic Iannarelli and team get these delights to the table just-from-the-heat hot, yet glistening with a sparkle of the sea. The wine list goes deep—always ask for sommelier Ben Nelson to help you choose a great glass or bottle. Check out the cocktail list, too—barman Rex Schulze was the 2014 recipient of Iowa’s Top Mixologist award.



Rinds Rouladen
Strudl Haus

“A lot of people request this dish,” says chef-owner Michael Leo. Indeed, if you’ve ever traveled to Germany or Austria, you’ve likely enjoyed it, then dreamed of it after you returned home. For this specialty, Leo, an Austrian native, pounds top sirloin, seasons it with salt, pepper and mustard, then rolls the meat around cucumbers, carrots and a top-notch frankfurter. The bundle gets pan-fried, then braised in red wine.

With apple strudel for dessert, the hearty Restaurant Week menu looks toward autumnal flavors on the horizon; however, Leo’s now-famous salad quartet, with its marinated cucumbers, creamy carrots, vinaigrette potato salad and tender caraway cabbage, takes advantage of late-summer’s bounty.

Strudl Haus
1951 Indianola Ave.; 515-259-9886
The rich red wallpaper, cushioned armchairs and crystal chandeliers at this decidedly European cafe hint at Austro-Hungarian grandeur, but the snugness of the old south-side building puts forth a certain cozy charm. While the lavish pastry case is the immediate focal point, the refined, seasonally focused lunch and dinner entrees are equally a draw. Try the delicate Wiener schnitzel, and check out the wine list—Austrian-born chef-owner Michael Leo is also an expert sommelier. For Restaurant Week, you’ll find Leo’s popular Rinds Rouladen on the menu (above).



Elderflower Mousse
Table 128

Of the dessert offerings Table 128’s Lynn Pritchard is creating for Restaurant Week, the elderberry mousse is the lightest, he says: “It has a clean, refreshing palate and a bright flavor.”

Lady fingers provide a pleasing crunch, while the grapefruit and mandarin sorbet add acidic notes. Vanilla crème fraiche finishes the dish. Chef Pritchard says the dessert “hits a variety of taste receptors—acidic, creamy and crunchy.”

Table 128 Bistro + Bar
12695 University Ave., Suite 140, Clive
Chef Lynn Pritchard’s cuisine combines down-to-earth Midwestern sensibilities with the precision and refinement of a classically trained chef. Meanwhile, his wife and business partner, Sarah Pritchard, runs the front of the house with both graciousness and an eagle eye, and also oversees an energetic wine program. Look for elderberry mousse on the Restaurant Week dessert menu (see page 9).

Trostel’s Greenbriar
Restaurant & Bar
5810 Merle Hay Road, Johnston
Trostel’s Greenbriar has something few fine-dining restaurants in this town possess: longevity. The polished wood/white tablecloth venue has thrived as a favorite special-occasion spot since 1987. Find popular classics, including shrimp cocktail, escargot, steaks and prime rib, but also keep an eye out for chef Troy Trostel’s seasonal features, such as a pan-Asian-inspired Hawaiian snapper or buffalo strip-loin filet.

Wasabi Chi
5418 Douglas Ave.; 515-528-8246
The somewhat subdued older sibling of downtown’s showy Wasabi Tao, this pan-Asian eatery hits plenty of culinary high notes of its own. Look for more than a dozen original rolls, as well as sparklingly fresh entrees inspired by the sweep of Asia and beyond. Located in an inauspicious building, Wasabi Chi offers a harmonious setting of mindfully placed waterfalls, mirrors and lighting.

Wasabi Tao
400 Walnut St.; 515-777-3635
The au-courant cocktails, the sophisticated food and the urban-cool setting all do their part to pull off a chic dining experience at this downtown sushi lounge. Diners sip jewel-toned signature cocktails and tuck into one-of-a-kind rolls featuring off-the-beaten-path combinations. Not feeling so bold? You can go traditional, too, with straight-on sushi and sashimi favorites.