5 Must Try Restaurants in Downtown DSM USA
A city is only as good as its people. Greater Des Moines (DSM) is bit of a hidden gem when it comes to boasting a variety of good people and fantastic restaurants. I’m almost hesitant to talk about it for fear that our “secret” spot will be discovered and ruined by others actually going there. Because there isn’t enough room on the internet for me to gush about all the fantastic restaurants in the metro, I’ve just picked a few Downtown DSM treasures that stand out for their quality plates.
Located on Ingersoll Avenue, Harbinger has managed to sufficiently blow my mind every time I’ve been in. Truthfully, it’s less of a meal and more of an experience. The food has heavy Asian influences and each plate is a bit more complex than the last. You won’t find your standard Midwestern portion sizes here (which typically rival the size of a small child). The tasting-size portions encourage you to order a variety of dishes. It’s a great place to get out of your comfort zone and try something different because you’re in good hands — you won’t get anything less than delicious in front of you. My recommendation is to start with a savory crispy pancake and their “Bourbon Acting Like Pho” cocktail.
Proof is that place Downtown we’ve all walked by, staring through its windows at people while they’re enjoying their dinner. Recently I got to be that person on the other side of the window. Totally worth it. I went on a Thursday night when they do a special menu that includes an appetizer, main and dessert for $30. The menus change weekly. When I went, I had something called Chicken and Falafel Waffle which was a take on chicken and waffles but with a Mediterranean twist — shawarma chicken, hummus and marinated vegetables. I cannot say enough about their amazingly creative, but also classic dishes, and will definitely be going back to see what else Chef Sean puts together.
I’ve never had a bad dish at Alba. The chefs there have this incredible ability to layer flavors and textures in their dishes. Most of the time you’ll have a perfectly cooked protein with a creamy element like sauce or risotto, maybe something lightly pickled on top, and finished with a crunchy texture. It’s the perfect storm of deliciousness. They have inadvertently ruined many dishes for me because it all pales in comparison to what I’ve eaten there. Short ribs? I can’t eat them anymore, because nothing measures up to that one time I had them at Alba.
St. Kilda Café & Bakery
Everyone and their mom has heard about St. Kilda Café & Bakery. It doesn’t hurt that every dish they put out is so painfully photogenic it’s resulted in everyone seeing their avocado toast laden with microgreens on social media. We feast with our eyes first, and the pictures of their visually striking food circulating online act as food foreplay to get you worked up enough to go in. St. Kilda Café & Bakery became synonymous with elaborate toasts, but since extending their hours into dinner they’ve been putting out some great dishes for all three meals of the day. Their food is light and fresh, and you don’t leave feeling like you need someone to roll you out the door.
Black Cat Ice Cream
It’s only fitting that I saved dessert for last. If you haven’t been before, Black Cat Ice Cream is a hole in the wall serving small-batch ice cream. They don’t have a clearly labeled sign, just the logo on the window so it feels almost like an ice cream speakeasy... a secret that you’re in on. I’ve never seen Black Cat serve the same two flavors twice. Sometimes the flavors are so incredibly gourmet (like lemon cream cheese pound cake) while others (like peanut butter puppy chow) seem to be concocted to flirt with your inner fat kid. And if your inner fat kid happens to be vegan, they still have options for you. If you’re looking for the perfect afternoon, grab a cup and take a stroll around Pappajohn Sculpture Park across the street.
Downtown Des Moines (DSM) is a growing, vibrant community that offers the energy, sophistication, housing and attractions of a big city. It’s also easy to visit with plentiful and affordable street and ramp parking options. Download the new Downtown DSM map to get started!