Whether you want a unique dining atmosphere or an unexpected menu item, there’s something for everyone in central Iowa. If you’re looking for a memorable experience, you won’t want to miss the quirky bars and restaurants in Des Moines, Iowa.
Des Moines restaurants with an offbeat ambiance
If you’re looking for a memorable venue for an evening out, these Des Moines restaurants and bars will not disappoint from patios to bier halls and everything in between.
The Bartender’s Handshake
If unique cocktails and cozy ambiance are what you’re looking for, then The Bartender’s Handshake is the place for you. With high-backed vinyl seating, wood paneled walls and a mid century-inspired atmosphere, The Bartender’s Handshake is the perfect place to sip a cocktail while enjoying a shareable plate with friends.
The cozy neighborhood bar also has a bright green parking lot patio in the back complete with picnic umbrellas, mismatched chairs and even heaters during the colder months.
The Bartender’s Handshake, 3615 Ingersoll Ave., Des Moines, IA
Located in the former offices of The Des Moines Register, a visit to Hello, Marjorie feels like stepping back in time.
With an aesthetic that’s best described as retro glam, Hello, Marjorie’s craft cocktails pair perfectly with its velvet coaches, floral wallpaper, mismatched light fixtures and iconic neon sign.
Hello, Marjorie, 717 Locust St., Des Moines, IA
El Patio Mexican Restaurant
El Patio may seem like your standard Mexican restaurant. But its namesake is what truly sets it apart. Located in a house off Ingersoll Avenue, one of the best reasons to visit El Patio is its amazing outdoor seating. Enjoy happy hour sipping margaritas on the restaurant’s fantastic flower-covered patio.
El Patio Mexican Restaurant, 611 37th St., Des Moines, IA
Tucked away on the second floor of the Royal Mile, The Red Monk is a hidden gem in downtown Des Moines’ busy Court Avenue district. With 90 Belgian style beers on tap, dark wood paneling and vintage stained glass windows, this cozy pub is the perfect place for beer lovers.
Red Monk, 210 4th St., Des Moines, IA
Located in a reclaimed 1890s railcar barn, The Hall is a beer and food hall worth the stop.
The Hall has 54 rotating taps in addition to a seasonal menu of craft cocktails with food available from the Justice League of Food.
The Hall, 111 S. 11th St., West Des Moines, IA
Des Moines restaurants with quirky menu items
Have a taste for something out of the ordinary? These Des Moines restaurants and bars offer quirky menu items ranging from crab rangoon pizza to burgers with fried mac and cheese as the bun.
Embrace tropical vibes all year long at the East Village’s Bellhop Tiki! From daiquiris and pina coladas to new twists on classic cocktails, this funky tiki bar has everything, including vintage glassware and whimsical twisty straws.
Bellhop Tiki, 440 E. Grand Ave., Des Moines, IA
Over the years Fong’s Pizza has become a Des Moines staple for its offbeat menu items like its crab rangoon pizza. Asian cuisine is combined with American favorites at this favorite local eatery where you can order unique pizzas alongside dessert eggrolls and more. Fong’s is known for its inventive combinations and recently made news again with its Froot Loop-covered breakfast pizza.
In addition to its original downtown location, Fong’s also has eateries in the Drake neighborhood, Ankeny, and in the eastern part of the state in Cedar Rapids.
Fong’s Pizza, 223 4th St., Des Moines, IA 50309
High Life Lounge
If Miller High Life is the champagne of beers, then the High Life Lounge is the champagne of bars. Stepping inside this downtown dive feels like traveling back to the ‘70s. With a Formica bar top, wood paneling and vintage signage, the High Life Lounge has everything you could want in a dive—with quality comfort food to boot.
Enjoy American classics like Bacon Wrapped Little Smokies, Fried Chicken Gizzards and Deviled Eggs. Or opt for a Spam, Egg and Cheese sandwich on Texas toast. You’ll also find hearty fare like meat loaf and beef stroganoff on the menu alongside broasted chicken.
High Life Lounge, 200 SW 2nd St., Des Moines, IA
Why opt for plain ice cream when you have something more creative? Monarca Paletas brings an unexpected dessert option to the west side of the metro with its mouth-watering handmade ice cream bars.
With a wide variety of paleta flavors to choose from, there is no shortage of options for dipping or toppings these sweet treats.
Monarca Paletas, 9901 University Ave., Suite 150, Clive, IA
When it comes to both ambiance and its unique menu, it’s hard to find a quirkier restaurant than Zombie Burger. With a dining room inspired by some of Hollywood’s classic monster movies, Zombie Burger has the perfect spooky setting to enjoy a meal at its burger and drink lab.
Burgers like the Walking Ched—with a breaded and deep fried macaroni and cheese bun—and Undead Elvis—complete with peanut butter, fried bananas and bacon—are fan favorites for their unique take on the classic dish. The fun continues with a variety of cake and cereal milk shakes that can be ordered normally or spiked with the alcohol of your choosing.
Zombie Burger, 300 E. Grand Ave., Des Moines, IA
About the Guest Blogger
Megan Bannister is a freelance writer and blogger at Olio in Iowa based in Des Moines, Iowa. When she’s not sampling and writing about food, Megan enjoys visiting unique destinations, roadside attractions, and “world’s largest” things across the Midwest and beyond. Her book, Iowa Supper Clubs, highlights classic eateries past and present from around the state.