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9 Must-Try Restaurants in Des Moines

Tucked between the rolling cornfields in the center of the state, Des Moines is a fantastic place for a Midwest getaway. There are many reasons to visit Des Moines, from arts and cultural attractions to its unique ways to experience the outdoors. But to top it all off, Iowa’s capital city is home to some truly incredible locally-owned restaurants. 

From steakhouses and traditional American eats to cuisine from across the globe, Des Moines has it all. Whether you’re searching for breakfast, lunch or dinner, you won’t want to miss these 10 must-try restaurants in Des Moines, Iowa. 

Updated: This post was first published in 2020. It’s been updated in December 2021 after the closure of Hagar’s Manhattan Deli.

Looking for the best restaurant in Des Moines, Iowa for breakfast, lunch or  dinner? Here's a list of 10 must-try Des Moines restaurants! These are a local's recommendations. #DesMoines #Iowa #Midwest #foodie #goodeats

The Cheese Bar

What could be better than a shop dedicated to delicious cheese? The Cheese Bar, an entire restaurant devoted to dairy delicacies. When the Cheese Shop expanded to add a larger restaurant location along Ingersoll Avenue, it brought even more cheesy goodness to the city.

A must-try restaurant in Des Moines, The Cheese Bar
Photo courtesy Megan Bannister

Not only can you build your own cast iron mac and cheese but the restaurant also offers a wide variety of inventive grilled cheese sandwiches in addition to tabletop fondue and truly impressive charcuterie boards. 

Related post: Looking for hidden gems? Here are some Des Moines restaurants that you don’t know about but should.

Eatery A

Eatery A’s cozy, dimly lit interior and Mediterranean-inspired cuisine makes for incredible brunch or dinner, no matter the occasion. The restaurant’s creative pizzas and savory entrees shine alongside delectable salads and tempting appetizers.

Interior of Eatery A
Photo courtesy Catch Des Moines

Eatery A is also home to one of the best happy hours in Des Moines, which includes half off all pizzas, beer, and wine every day from 3–6 pm. If you’ve saved room for dessert, you can’t go wrong with the Salted Caramel Budino.

Fong’s Pizza

Located in a former Chinese restaurant Fong’s Pizza is a Des Moines staple. With tiki-inspired drinks and specialties like the popular Crab Rangoon Pizza, this fusion restaurant is a must for any lover of unique cuisine.

Slice of crab rangoon pizza and a tiki drink at Fong's Pizza in Des Moines

Plus, their late-night slices are especially popular with the bar crowd along Court Avenue. 

Jesse’s Embers

Old-school steakhouses are a Des Moines staple, and Jesse’s Embers is a long-standing favorite.

Steak at Jesse's Embers, a steakhouse staple in Des Moines, Iowa
Photo courtesy Megan Bannister

With perfectly grilled steaks, burgers dripping with cheese and onion rings worth filling up on, Jesse’s menu is the definition of Midwest comfort food. 

Kathmandu Restaurant

Des Moines may be in the center of the heartland, but Iowa’s capital city has some truly delicious international food. With strong flavors and an expansive menu, it’s no surprise that the Nepalese Kathmandu Restaurant is a citywide favorite.

Stop in for an impressive lunch buffet or order off-menu for dinner to enjoy the restaurant’s wide variety of specialities including momo, biryani, tandor dishes, and more. 

Lucky Lotus

If you’re looking for southeast Asian cuisine in Des Moines, there’s no better place than Lucky Lotus. Located along Ingersoll Avenue, Lucky Lotus serves a delectable menu of shareable snacks, noodles, curries, and more.

Dish at Lucky Lotus in Des Moines
Photo courtesy Megan Bannister

With pastel interiors and floral paper umbrellas hanging from the ceiling, the atmosphere at Lucky Lotus is just as beautiful as the food being served. 


Often rated as one of the best fine dining establishments in the city, Proof is known for its inventive cuisine. With a mixture of both small and large plates and an ever-changing menu, diners can expect a meal the kitchen has put thought and talent into.

Interior of Proof, a fine dining restaurant in Des Moines, Iowa
Photo courtesy Catch Des Moines

If you’re dining on an extra special occasion, consider making a reservation for Proof’s Second Saturday 10-course blind tasting menu. 

St. Kilda Cafe & Bakery

Home of the city’s most iconic avocado toast, St. Kilda Cafe & Bakery is the perfect place for brunch. Strong coffee, fresh ingredients and seasonal specials make every meal at St. Kilda special.

Brunch at St. Kilda Cafe & Bakery in Des Moines
Photo courtesy Megan Bannister

Last year the owners of St. Kilda opened a new restaurant, St. Kilda Surf + Turf, which expands on diner’s favorite items to offer a wider variety of meat and fish-based entrees. 

Zombie Burger + Shake Lab

Located in Des Moines’ East Village, Zombie Burger + Shake Lab is quite possibly one of the city’s most unique eateries. Set in a horror movie-inspired dining room that the restaurant’s owners call “post-apocalyptic chic,” this is not your typical burger joint.

Cheeseburger and fries at the popular Des Moines eatery, Zombie Burger + Shake Lab

Unique menu items like the Walking Ched (made with fried mac and cheese patties as buns) and the Undead Elvis (a burger topped with peanut butter, fried bananas and bacon) are fan favorites. And if you have a sweet tooth, you won’t want to miss this restaurant’s boozy milkshakes. 

Kim’s tip: There are several locations of Zombie Burger in the Des Moines area. East Village is the place with the most ambiance, though the photo used in this post if from the Ankeny location.

Iowa Category

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. 

Planning a trip to Des Moines? I asked a local where's the best place to go for breakfast, lunch & dinner and she shared her favorite locally-owned Des Moines restaurants. Here's her list of the best restaurants in Des Moines, Iowa. #DesMoines #DSM #Iowa #localguide #eatlocal

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Brooke Ann Benschoter

Monday 21st of September 2020

This is a great list and all my favorites except for one that is missing. That is Flying Mango -- it is worth the drive from the big O just to try it. Smoked comfort food at its best.

And there is a new restaurant on the scene Fresko on Locust features farm to table with a sophisticated flair.


Tuesday 22nd of September 2020

Thanks for the recommendations! Both sound like places I'd love.

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