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.
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.
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’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.
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.
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.
Plus, their late-night slices are especially popular with the bar crowd along Court Avenue.
Old-school steakhouses are a Des Moines staple, and Jesse’s Embers is a long-standing favorite.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.