30+ Cultural Restaurants in Downtown DSM
Do you ever have a craving for something and you need it … like, right now? Maybe it’s visions of a crunchy, flaky, hot crab Rangoon dipped in a homemade sweet chili sauce. Or recreating the first bite of the best banh mi you’ve ever had. Or maybe you’d like to relive your Hawaiian vacation by digging into a fresh bowl of Poké topped with that incredible Thai coconut cream sauce you can’t stop thinking about.
Nestled smack dab in the middle of the Midwest, you might be surprised to find that Downtown Des Moines (DSM) is bursting with flavors from around the world. Believe it! And here’s where you can get your fix at these cultural restaurants all located in Downtown DSM.
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Gong Fu Tea — Although not a restaurant, this retail shop surely has notable mention for it incredibly vast selection of teas for purchase including chai, matcha, iced teas and specialty reserves. Most teas can be purchased and brewed to enjoy on-site for a few moments of serenity.
Panda Chinese Food — This mom-and-pop shop is tucked away inside Capital Square in Downtown DSM. For your Chinese takeout cravings, stop in for Mongolian Beef, Broccoli or Orange Chicken, potstickers, egg rolls and a few Korean dishes like japchae and bibimbap, too.
Photo: Japchae including glass noodles with seasoned spinach, carrots, onion and seasoned beef topped with sesame seeds from Panda Chinese Food in Downtown DSM.
Akebono 515 – Featuring sushi, Japanese cuisine and tasty cocktails, as well. Start with edamame or tempura followed by sushi, sashimi, nigiri or a maki roll or two paired with sake and mochi for dessert.
Blue Sushi Sake Grill — Fancy mixed drinks with sushi and Japanese small plates is what you’ll find here! Plus a modern, upscale and energetic vibe. Come ready to eat, drink and be merry: the plates are served staggered and ideal for sharing with the table so you can savor each flavor and the company, too.
Miyabi 9 – Get a great view of sushi-making with a prime seat at the sushi bar. This spot in the Historic East Village has a thick menu of nigiri, sushi, sashimi and more rolls, Japanese dishes, soups, salads and appetizers and dessert, too! A full drinks list makes for great pairings for any meal.
Photo: The “Spicy Tuna Rice Cracker” appetizer by Miyabi 9, a sushi and Japanese restaurant in Downtown DSM.
Teriyaki Boys — This lunch-only eatery is in the Greater Des Moines Partnership building’s Local Bites Food Court, with eight entrée items to choose from, as well as crab Rangoons, veggie spring rolls and seaweed salad sides.
W-Tao Sushi – This sushi restaurant serves a wide selection of Asian cuisine including Bento box entrées and several sauces so you can dip to your heart’s desire: Ponzu, Yum Yum, eel sauce and more. (Did we say yum twice?)
Blu Thai Food and Sushi – An assortment of rolls ranging from crab and shrimp to tuna, tilapia, eel, squid and more! Whether you’re feeling adventurous or playing it safe, your taste buds will be doing a happy dance! For youngsters 12 and under, try the Little Bento Box with choice of maki roll and a side like fries or rice.
JJ Jasmine Thai Cuisine – Just inside the historic Kirkwood Hotel building, you’ll smell the delicious aroma of Thai, Chinese and other Asian dishes wafting from this eatery before you’re even in the door. Pad Thai, Mongolian beef, sesame chicken, yellow curry fried rice, spicy pineapple — the menu is robust with favorites and a few surprising dishes, as well.
Photo: Mee Krob (Crispy Noodle) from JJ Jasmine: choice of protein with Chinese broccoli, onion and carrots covered in gravy sauce on a bird's nest of crispy noodles.
A Dong Vietnamese — Browse through nearly 180 menu items, and you’ll quickly see why A Dong has been a longtime staple and fan favorite in Downtown DSM. Pho, Bun, tableside firepot dishes, bubble tea — even a strong list of vegetarian items to consider. Stop in or order to-go and see why Downtown residents, visitors and workers love it here.
Pho Real Kitchen and Bar – Did someone say Boba? Pho Real’s full menu of teas range from bubble and milk teas and specialty drinks with lots of topping options: honey pearls, crystal Boba, fruit and coffee jellies, popping Boba and more! A hearty menu of cocktails, spirits, beer, wine and sake is also available. Beyond drinks, you’ll find tons of apps and entrées to curb your craving including pho, bibimbap, banh mi, Rangoons, spring rolls, potstickers, Pad Thai, soups — the list goes on!
MORE ASIAN FOOD
New Oriental Food Store – With its prime location on East Grand in the Historic East Village, this bodega features a wide range of fresh, shelf-stable and frozen foods primarily representing Asian cuisine including Japanese, Thai, Filipino — even some Indian ingredients.
St. Kilda Café & Bakery — An Aussie-style café serving beautifully plated breakfast, brunch and lunch. The avocado toast is a local favorite, pairing well with a number of Counter Culture coffee drinks.
Photo: Avocado toast by St. Kilda, an Australian-style café in Downtown DSM. The avocado toast includes smashed avocado on toasted sourdough with a poached egg, topped with charred corn, pickled red onion, cucumber, feta and tomato salsa.
The Poké Company — No need to travel all the away to Hawaii for that bowl of Poké you’re dreaming about! The Poké Company’s only Midwest location is right here in Downtown DSM, so pop on by and get your fix of Ahi tuna, salmon or spicy tuna Poké with tons of other fresh ingredients and sauces like spicy miso, eel sauce, sesame shoyu, coconut aminos and more. Feeling hungry yet?
Allora Café — Locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients. This is a great Italian lunch stop inside the Krause Gateway Center near the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park.
Photo: Bone marrow linguine with caramelized onion, shallot and parsley from Aposto at the Scala House in Downtown DSM’s Sherman Hill neighborhood. Photo provided by Somos Studios.
Aposto at the Scala House — Southern Italian and Mediterranean fare in a Victorian Mansion? Sign me up! Due to the popularity of this delicious eatery, reservations fill up quickly so plan ahead!
Centro — This contemporary Italian wining and dining venue is a top place for incredible pasta dishes and savory wood-fired pizza.
Photo: Centro, an Italian restaurant in Downtown DSM, serves its wood-fired margherita pizza topped with mozzarella, garlic and red sauce.
Django – Everything you love about French food, but without the attitude! This Downtown DSM restaurant features an interactive chef station with jet-fresh Fruits de Mer (translation: seafood) and artisanal cheese plates. You’ll find some traditional French fare on the menu, too, including Crêpe, roast duck with braised cabbage and parsnips, poutine and baked ratatouille, to name a few.
Hessen Haus — Downtown DSM’s destination for German fare and German-style bier, too! Giant Bavarian pretzels with bier cheese, schnitzel, spaetzle, bratwurst and sauerkraut to top it all off! Explore the menu online for even more German-centric fare, and their patio is fantastic, too!
Photo: A giant Bavarian-style pretzel with choice of bier cheese or haus mustard from Hessen Haus, a German restaurant in Downtown DSM.
Lucca — With modern and traditional Italian dishes, dine here for an upscale yet minimalist vibe with pasta dishes as the cornerstone for lunch and a prix fixe rotating dinner menu featuring four courses.
The Royal Mile — This British Pub in the Historic Court District of Downtown DSM serves an extensive list of Scotch varieties, and all your comfort food faves like bangers and mash, shepherd’s pie, chicken pot pie, poutine, tikka masala and lots more. Don’t leave without ordering the Scotch Egg! The Red Monk is tucked upstairs, like a secret hideaway where you’ll discover 90 Belgian-style beers to enjoy.
Photo:Hey! Looking for Italian pizza in Downtown DSM? We’ve got a guide for that! Pictured is Gusto's “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” pizza with mozzarella cheese, herbed ricotta cheese, marinated grape tomato, basil pesto and roasted garlic on a Detroit-style crust.
Bar Nico — New to the scene in Downtown DSM is a modern Mexican restaurant by Jason Simon, who also owns Alba, Parlor and Eatery A. Bar Nico specializes in heirloom corn varietals, along with heritage-bred meat and small veggie plates.
Bernardo’s Burritos — Located on 4th Street in the Historic Court District, grab yourself a sizzling order of fajitas with rice and beans or a burrito bowl with choice of chicken, pork, steak, chorizo or al pastor.
Ceviche Bar – This Historic East Village eatery dishes up more than just its delicious namesake ceviche. You’ll find Cuban fare like the classic Cubano sandwich with fried plantains or the gourmet Cuban burger, as well as signature cocktails martinis, mules and more — many featuring Cuban rum as a key ingredient. Cheers!
Photo: A Cuban restaurant in Downtown DSM, Ceviche, serves its shrimp cocktail with onions, peppers, avocado and cilantro served with toasted and seasoned Cuban bread.
Fernando’s Mexican Grill — Stop in for quesadillas, burritos, nachos and more at this lunch destination inside the Local Bites Food Court in the Greater Des Moines Partnership building.
Fuzzy’s Taco Shop — A quick Mexican joint with all the things you expect: Tacos, quesadillas, burritos, salads, bowls, chips, dips and drinks, too!
Lina’s Mexican Restaurant — A fast-food Mexican restaurant on Keo Way, including a 24/7 drive-through service and all-day breakfast!
Photo: Chicken tinga and carne molida tacos on the patio at MALO in Downtown DSM.
Malo – This upscale restaurant by chef George Formaro, as part of the Orchestrate Hospitality properties, serves Pan-Latin dishes and cocktails. Try the cucumber and jicama ceviche, mahi mahi tacos, crispy yuca and shrimp a la crema entrée. (Pro tip: Sit on the patio and enjoy the Downtown DSM scenery on a sunny day!)
Rita’s Cantina — You just can’t go wrong with a margarita flight! Rita’s is a great spot for tamales, chimichangas, tacos, quesadillas, and — of course! — chips, salsa,. guacamole and queso.
P.S. — Interested in a margarita? Explore this list of the 12 best places to find a margarita in Downtown DSM.
Photo: Chips, salsa, guacamole and a queso flight from Rita’s Cantina, a Mexican restaurant in Downtown DSM.
Hummus Mediterranean Grill — A lunch destination found at the Local Bites Food Court inside the Greater Des Moines Partnership building, you’ll find gyros, hummus, pita chips, fries and baklava here. Ask for more sauce, if you like it saucy!
Olympic Flame — Weekly live belly dancers and traditional Greek food. This longtime Historic East Village gem serves a variety of tasty gyros, baklava, soup, salad and bread, and the flaming cheese is always a hit!
Open Sesame – A Lebanese café in a small and casual space with complex, aromatic flavors and dishes such as falafel, baba ghanoush, Kibbeh, Kafta and more yummy foods.
Photo: The falafel salad at Open Sesame, a Lebanese restaurant in Downtown DSM. The salad includes falafel and hummus on romaine with tomato, feta, onion, cucumber and dressing. Shown at the top of the page is Open Sesame’s Vegetarian Sampler (also vegan).
Looking for even more cultural food vendors in Downtown DSM? Explore the list of vendors at the Downtown Farmers’ Market and the World Food & Music Festival.
Find even more Downtown Des Moines (DSM) restaurants, plus tips on parking and navigation. And follow @downtownDSMUSA on Instagram for more epic, things-you-just-can’t-miss happening around Downtown.
Greater Des Moines Partnership
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