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Cover Story

2013 Best of Des Moines- EATS


As the old adage goes, any job worth doing is worth doing right. Whether you’re flipping burgers at a local bar and grill, parading a catwalk dressed in drag, balancing the budget of a multi-million dollar corporation or running the state government, we believe you should take pride in your work. When you do, it shows, and it is rewarded in community trust, an increase in business and eventually, more money in the old bank account.

Cityview’s Best Of Des Moines contest is an example of such rewards in motion. It’s the people — the client, the customer, the consumer — who appreciate a local person, product or service enough to get out and vote for it as their favorite, as Des Moines’ best above all others. Earning the appreciation, respect and recognition of the public is its own reward, one that is priceless.

In the spirit of true merit and appreciation, we bring you another edition of our Best Of Des Moines — our readers’ choices for all things dining, drinking, shopping and more. “Congratulations” doesn’t quite say enough, but “thank you” is a start.



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Best New Restaurant

Exile Brewery

Dedicated to European tradition and the American ideal of hard work, Exile Brewery has been chosen by our voters as the new restaurant in town to check out. You can order anything from calamari to lasagna or schedule a tour of the brewery, all while enjoying the reclaimed warehouse atmosphere. Choose from one of the house-made craft beers sampled in the Beer Hall while watching the brewing in progess. Grab a quick lunch, or sit and talk over a long dinner in the soft candlelit and spacious booths.

1514 Walnut St., 288-1136,

Runners-up: Louie’s Wine Dive; Jethro’s BBQ


Best Local Family Restaurant

Zombie Burger + Drink Lab

Winning “Best New Restaurant” last year, Zombie Burger has apparently kept the public entertained with its apocalyptic feel. Grab a fast meal at its quick-service Zombie Burger counter or head over to the Drink Lab for a sit down meal. There’s something for the whole family to dig into.

300 E. Grand Ave., 244-9292,

Runners-up: (tie) Tursi’s Latin King; Jethro’s BBQ; John and Nicks                 


Best Kept Secret on the Local Restaurant Scene

Coopers on 5th

Our readers have been whispering about this little restaurant tucked into a peaceful corner in Valley Junction. Coopers on 5th welcomes guests to take a break from cooking and let a seasoned chef take over. Every weekend the menu features a new meal, as well as the daily chef’s favorite deals. For the comfort food from home without staying home, readers have voted Coopers on 5th as the place to go.

227 5th St., 255-9895,

Runners-up: Flying Mango; Jersey Guys


If we had an award for winning the most awards in one year, Zombie Burger + Drink Lab would have that one, too. It was voted Best Local Family Restaurant, Best Local Restaurant, Best Local Burger, Best Local Fries, Best Local Appetizers and Best Local Place for a $10 Dinner. What a mouthful. Photo by Amber Williams

If we had an award for winning the most awards in one year, Zombie Burger + Drink Lab would have that one, too. It was voted Best Local Family Restaurant, Best Local Restaurant, Best Local Burger, Best Local Fries, Best Local Appetizers and Best Local Place for a $10 Dinner. What a mouthful. Photo by Amber Williams

Best Local Restaurant

Zombie Burger + Drink Lab

Eating up another win, Zombie Burger chases Centro out of the top spot. Voters love this place. With its alternative burgers and spiked shakes, there’s always something different to choose from that is sure to keep everyone in the party pleased.

300 E. Grand Ave., 244-9292,

Runners-up: Centro; Jethro’s BBQ


Best Chef

George Formaro

George Formaro has once again earned top honors by our readers, and that’s no shock. Formaro’s a well-known figure in the Des Moines food scene, owning many popular restaurants. Born and raised in Des Moines, Formaro understands the importance of delicious food and hard work. From his first endeavor with South Union Bakery, Formaro has graciously spread his talent across town over the years, opening Centro, Gateway Market, Django and finally Zombie Burger.

Runners-up: (tie) Phil Shires – Café di Scala; Tom McKern – Zombie Burger + Drink Lab; John Jaeger – John and Nicks


Best Local Wait Staff


For the second year in a row, the Centro staff continues to show that they know how to please customers. From the first step inside, diners are transported to an urban dining experience not often found in Des Moines. The upscale, well-mannered staff only adds to this sensation as they graciously tend to customers’ needs.

1011 Locust St., 244-7033,

Runners-up: Dos Rios, Jethro’s BBQ


Best Local American Food


After taking the title away from the Drake Diner last year, Americana upholds its reputation once again. Its modern twist on the American/Continental vibe continues to please with a variety of choices from tapas to finger food, gluten-free options as well as a kids’ menu.

1312 Locust St., 243-1397,

Runners-up: Zombie Burger + Drink Lab; Jethro’s BBQ


Best Local Vegetarian/Vegan Menu

Ritual Café was voted as having Des Moines’ Best Local Vegetarian/Vegan Menu. Photo by Cady Colosimo

Ritual Café was voted as having Des Moines’ Best Local Vegetarian/Vegan Menu. Photo by Cady Colosimo

Ritual Café

Once again, Ritual Café has been voted the best of the vegetarian and vegan scene. Offering plenty of animal-lover, nutritious and tasty options, customers are also drawn in with music, poetry and art. Stop in and choose from a menu bursting with vegan smoothies, locally made pastries, coffee and all things meat- and animal-free. Customers are welcome to grab a quick fix or take a seat and enjoy some local culture.

1301 Locust St., 288-4872,

Runners-up: A Dong; Fresh Café


Gusto Pizza Co. was voted by Cityview readers as having Des Moines’ Best Gluten-Free Menu, one of the new categories added to the Best Of contest this year. Photo by Cady Colosimo

Gusto Pizza Co. was voted by Cityview readers as having Des Moines’ Best Gluten-Free Menu, one of the new categories added to the Best Of contest this year. Photo by Cady Colosimo

Best Gluten-Free Menu

Gusto Pizza Company

Three friends came together and created this pizza heaven, which our readers have chosen as the winner of one of our new categories. All of its pies are offered with a gluten-free crust, as well as vegan mozzarella, so there’s no fuss when trying to please the whole group. Specialty pizzas range from vegetarian options, meat-lovers and even a little seafood paradise. So no matter the dietary needs, voters know Gusto has something sure to satisfy.

1905 Ingersoll Ave., 244-8786,

Runners-up: Biaggis; HoQ


Best Local Italian

Tursi’s Latin King

The votes are in, and there’s no other restaurant in Des Moines that can do Italian like the Tursi family at Latin King. Winner of countless awards over the years, the family’s Italian heritage and hard work comes through in the different dishes not found anywhere else in Des Moines. With the attention to detail and fresh vegetables and herbs grown on site, Latin King remains on top.

2200 Hubbell Ave., 266-4466,

Runners-up: Tumea and Sons; Centro


Best Local Mexican

Tasty Tacos Mexican Restaurant

Generations of loyal customers have taken this Mexican restaurant to the top, beating out El Rodeo and last year’s runners-up. While its original flour taco is the top menu item, Tasty Tacos offers many other equally delicious options, which goes to show that a good recipe can take a family-owned restaurant from a single location to a respectable local franchise across the metro.

Multiple locations,

Runners-up: El Rodeo Mexican Restaurant; Dos Rios


Best Local Thai

Cool Basil Restaurant

The owners of Cool Basil obviously know their Thai, as readers voted one of their restaurants into the top spot and another, Thai Flavors, earned runner-up honors. At both locations, dishes are prepared from fresh ingredients and customized to each person’s spice tolerance. Cool Basil offers food ranging in heat from “mild” to “Thai hot.” The chefs understand that each dish needs to come out of the kitchen ready to wow the customer, and apparently their customers understand quality, voting Cool Basil as the No. 1 place to go for good Thai.

8801 University Ave., Suite 22, 225-8111,

Runners-up: Thai Flavors; King and I


Best Local Chinese


Hy-Vee proves for the third year in a row that it cooks up some delicious Chinese fare. Healthy Hy-Vee Chinese offers vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options as well as a weekly, all-you-can-eat special. Whether famished after an intense round of grocery shopping or just looking to grab a to-go box of Chinese, our readers know there’s a Hy-Vee with all the options not too far from home.

Multiple locations,

Runners-up: Tsing Tsao; Red Bistro


Best Local Japanese

Taki Steakhouse

After handing over the title last year to Miyabi 9, Taki was voted back on top this year by our readers. Since 2002 it has been serving up teppanyaki right in front of customers’ eyes, as well as sushi made from taki and many other delectables. Whether it’s with family, friends or on a date, voters agree Taki is the place to go for a Japanese dinner and a show.

2677 86th St., 331-3030,

Runners-up: Miyabi 9; Appare


Best Local Vietnamese

A Dong Restaurant

Readers have weighed in once again and voted A Dong the best Vietnamese restaurant in Des Moines for a third year. A Dong proves its animal-free options are just as tasty, too. Whether you’re a long-time customer or new in town, A Dong is not to be forgotten if you’re looking for a friendly atmosphere and good Vietnamese.

1511 High St., 284-5632

Runners-up: Pho 888; Fawns Asian Cuisine


Best Local Seafood

Waterfront Seafood Market and Restaurant

Waterfront continues to beat out its competitors year after year, proving it knows seafood whether it’s broiled, grilled, sautéed, steamed, fried or fresh. Come in for a sit-down meal or grab some fresh fish for whatever recipe it is that you’re making at home. This seafood comes straight from pro fishermen across the globe. The only problem will be trying to decide from the extensive menu.

2900 University Ave., West Des Moines, 223-5106; 2414 S.E. Tones Drive, Ankeny, 963-1940,

Runners-up: Splash Seafood Bar and Grill; John and Nicks


Best Local Sushi

Miyabi 9

You’ll be lucky to find a table in this locally loved sushi joint, but our readers say it’s well worth the wait. Nestled in the heart of the East Village, Miyabi 9 is a friendly place to get delicious sushi for an affordable price. Sit at the sushi bar and watch chefs expertly craft a small roll of heaven, or hang back at one of the tables and sip at sake while you wait.

5132 E. Grand Ave., 288-8885,

Runners-up: Sakari; Waterfront Seafood and Market


Best Local Steakhouse

801 Chophouse

This longtime local favorite was voted best local steakhouse by our readers once again this year. If you’re looking for an upscale restaurant to celebrate a birthday, anniversary or any other special event, 801 Grand has New York style grandeur, USDA prime cuts of beef — inducing Maine lobster as well as a variety of dishes created from fresh fish, vegetables and delectable desserts.

801 Grand Ave., 288-6000,

Runners-up: John and Nicks; Texas Roadhouse


Best Local Breakfast

Waveland Café

A long line often is seen out the front door and spilling onto the sidewalk at Waveland Café each morning. Voters agree the wait is worth it, however, and when craving everything hash browns or mile-high pancakes this is the place to go. So jump in line with loyal regulars and newcomers alike, and take in the wafts of mouth-watering classics. Try to keep the drooling to a minimum, though.

4708 University Ave., 279-4341; 35653 Ute Ave., Booneville, 987-1038

Runners-up: Drake Dinner; Mullets


Best Local Delicatessen

Palmer’s Deli and Market

A first-timer at Palmer’s might be overwhelmed with the sheer amount of food choices. But have no fear, after the initial shock and awe settles down, the appetite amps up with the plethora of sandwich, soup, salad and pasta options. Voters know Palmer’s has what they’re looking for.

Multiple Locations,

Runners-up: Manhattan Deli; Hy-Vee


Best Local Burger

Zombie Burger + Drink Lab

The citizens of Des Moines have spoken, and Zombie Burger catches another title. With burger combinations one would not normally dream. Zombie chefs will have patrons eating outside the box, with options such as Trailer Trash Zombie or The Walking Ched. If the creative creations aren’t your thing, hunker down with the Zombie burger topped with the usual fixings.

300 E. Grand Ave., 244-9292,

Runners-up: B-Bops, Big City Burgers and Greens


Best Local Pizza

Fong’s Pizza

When most people think of pizza, Asian food doesn’t normally come to mind, but Des Moines has Fongs. The local favorite has been voted the best local pizza, pushing last year’s winner into the runner-up spot and proving that the combination of two unlikely companions can be oh-so good. After a flooded basement forced a temporary closure recently, eager patrons craving one of eight distinguished Asian-inspired pies clamored to the restaurant upon its re-opening. Whether picking up a pizza for the office or refueling after a night out on the town, Fongs keeps its customers coming back for more.

223 Fourth St., 323-3333,

Runners-up: Gusto Pizza Co.; Jersey Guys


Best Local Bakery

La Mie Bakery and Restaurant

For the third year in a row, La Mie continues to whip up Des Moines’ best baked goods, according to our readers. Well before the sun rises, the bakers are already hard at work furiously kneading dough and mixing ingredients, circulating the day’s breads and pastries through their ovens. Taking the time to hand-craft everything they sell from scratch so people know what they’re getting is fresh, La Mie has people lining up, seduced by the fragrance. Single file, folks.

841 42nd St., 255-1625,

Runners-Up: Hiland Park; Hy-Vee


Best Local Dessert

Crème Cupcakes

Tarts, pies and brownies — oh where to begin. Cityview readers are on a sugar high, over Crème Cupcakes, their favorite local dessert for the second year running, and it’s no surprise after taking a peek at the truly dreamy menu. From its seasonal to daily flavors, it’s no problem finding something new to try. And nothing wakes the inner child like sugar.

1701 S. Union, 554-9007,

Runners-up: La Mie Bakery and Restaurant; Cheesecake Factory


Best Local BBQ

Jethro’s BBQ

One again people licked their fingers clean enough to vote for Jethro’s BBQ as their favorite. The gluttonous professional food finder, Adam Richman, from the TV series “Man vs. Food” made the trip for it, and so did President Obama. From the recipes brought to life in the Splash kitchen, Jethro’s continues to please BBQ lovers across the world. Fortunately for our readers, it’s also spreading its wings across the metro, now with locations in Drake, Waukee, Altoona and Ankeny.

Multiple Locations,

Runners-up: Smokey D’s; Woody’s Smoke Shack


Best Local Onion Rings

Maxie’s Restaurant and Lounge

You won’t get anything from a freezer bag at Maxie’s, which is the beginning of the story of why these onions are famous and have been voted as the best for the sixth consecutive time. Choose from three different sizes to get just the right amount of rings, whether looking for a side to go with your burger or a pile to please the whole family. Our readers enjoy these perfectly seasoned rings which flake apart and melt in your mouth.

1311 Grand Ave., West Des Moines, 223-1463,

Runners-up: Jethro’s BBQ; The Tavern


Best Local Fries

Zombie Burger + Drink Lab

Coming out of nowhere, Zombie Burger stole the title from last year’s winner. Despite the hype surrounding its unique burgers, voters can’t seem to forget those house-cut fries. Customers can dig into a Loaded Fry Basket, a pile of Chili Cheese Fries or one of its many other options with a side of Zombie dipping sauce for added zombie zip.

300 E. Grand Ave., 244-9292,

Runners-up: Django; B-Bops


Best Local Chicken Wings

Jethro’s BBQ

Once again Jethro’s shows its knowledge of meat, dishing out what our readers consider to be the best wings two years in a row. These country-fried, boneless wings come doused in an array of select sauces or on the side for dipping. Specials change monthly, so the options are always fresh.

Multiple locations,

Runners-up: Buffalo Wild Wings; Chicken Coop


Best Local Nachos

University Library Café

The votes are in, and the University Library Café has nabbed the top spot back after handing it over last year. Students and locals cram inside for what they say are Des Moines’ best nachos, perfect for a purely sinful breakfast or a late night gorge fest.

3506 University Ave., 255-0433

Runners-up: Jethro’s BBQ, Zombie Burger + Drink Lab


Best Local Soup

Palmer’s Deli and Market

With soup after soup to pick from, lunch-goers are advised to schedule a little extra time to stand in awe of the menu with fellow Cityview readers over lunch, or they can plan ahead using the online soup calendar. For meat-lovers and vegetarians alike, our readers say Palmer’s keeps Des Moines’ best soups pouring day after day.

Multiple locations,

Runners-up: Panera Bread, Gateway Market


Best Local Bar Food

High Life Lounge

Step into High Life Lounge for a blast from the past. This comfort food was voted as the best bar food for the third year in a row. The laid-back vibe feels like hanging out in a friend’s kitchen, chowing a delicious home-cooked meal.

200 S.W. Second St., 280-1965,

Runners-up: Zombie Burger + Drink Lab; Star Bar


Best Local Bistro Fare

Bistro Montage

Bistro Montage has been continuously voted as the best local bistro fare for seven years with its classic, contemporary cuisine and intimate atmosphere. Its chefs choose from seasonal and local ingredients to create made-from-scratch French dishes such as sea scallops and seared steak. Along with its nightly specials, Bistro Montage also offers an array of wines to complement an exquisite French meal.

2724 Ingersoll Ave., 557-1924,

Runners-up: Django; Luna Bistro + Catering


Best Local Appetizers

Zombie Burger + Drink Lab

Cityview’s voters go to Zombie Burger for what they say are the best appetizers to kick-off a great meal. Goat cheese and jalapeno poppers, crispy-fried pickles or fried brussels sprouts are just a few of the touts our readers’ are raving about.

300 E. Grand Ave., 244-9292,

Runners-up: Americana; Trostel’s Dish


Best Local Coffeehouse

Smokey Row Coffee

Smokey Row holds onto its title for the second consecutive year. From the outside, it appears to be a cozy, little shop, but one step in the door reveals a soft hideaway that our readers think is good for snuggling up with a book, lurching over a laptop or simply sipping the day away with coffee and conversation.

1910 Cottage Grove Ave., 244-2611,

Runners-up: Zanzibar’s; Mars Café


Smokey Row won two titles: Des Moines’ Best Coffeehouse and Des Moines Best Coffee. Photo by Amber Williams

Smokey Row won two titles: Des Moines’ Best Coffeehouse and Des Moines Best Coffee. Photo by Amber Williams

Best Coffee

Smokey Row Coffee

How fitting that our readers’ favorite coffeehouse serves their favorite coffee. Its brewing schedule ensures consumers that they’ll always have something new and delicious to try. The candy bar lattes are no doubt among some of the sweetest offerings, including Snickers, Heath Mocha and Butterfinger, but the classic Caramel Latte and Spiced Chai are also among voters’ favorites.

1910 Cottage Grove Ave., 244-2611,

Runners-up: Zanzibar’s; Starbucks


Best Local Wine Selection

Hy-Vee Wine and Spirits

You don’t need to be a wine guru to pick out a nice bottle of wine to complement a home-cooked meal or a night with friends. Whatever the pleasure, voters agreed Hy-Vee Wine and Spirits offers the best selection of domestic and imported wines for all budgets and tastes.

Multiple Locations,

Runners-up: (tie) Sbrocco; Louie’s Wine Dive; Ingersoll Wine and Spirits


Best Local Power Lunch


Voters say Centro’s daily specials, which can include sausage and cheese lasagna on Thursday or beef ravioli to beat your Monday Blues, are the best for a midday refueling. The menu doesn’t stop with the New York classics. Readers love the specialty pizzas and the create-your-own calzone. Centro has been voted for four years straight as the best lunch option to recharge those batteries.

1011 Locust St., 244-7033

Runners-up: Palmer’s Deli and Market; Hy-Vee


Best Local Place for a $5 Lunch

Tasty Tacos Mexican Restaurant

Cityview readers voted the original flour tacos at Tasty Tacos as the best for the price in the metro for the second year in a row. With numerous locations throughout the city, it’s also a convenient place to eat that’s sure to keep the hungry customers coming back time and time again.

Multiple locations,

Runners-up: Hy-Vee; High Life Lounge


Best Local Place for a $10 Dinner

Zombie Burger + Drink Lab

Edging past Hy-Vee and dominating another “Best Of” category, Zombie Burger ascends to the top yet again. You can get one of its burgers starting at $5, which leaves people with plenty of money for an appetizer or one of the many milkshakes, which also start at $5. There’s plenty to pile on the plate before hitting that $10 mark, and our readers say it’s the best way to spend 10 bucks when dining out.

300 E. Grand Ave., 244-9292,

Runners-up: Hy-Vee; Tasty Tacos


Best Local Place to Chow after 2 a.m.

Fong’s Pizza

In the heart of the Court Avenue scene, Fong’s Pizza has once again been voted as the best place to grab a bite long after most restaurants are closed for the night. The Asian-inspired creations found at Fong’s draws in everyone from hungry customers looking to refuel after a night out, to students in need of energy to finish that late night study session.

223 Fourth St., 323-3333,

Runners-up: Big Tomato Pizza; Abelardo’s


Best Local First Date Spot


Pizza is meant for sharing. It’s easy to eat, and it eases the knife-and-fork pressures. That might have something to do with the reason our readers voted Centro as the best place to take a date. With the upscale atmosphere and attentive staff, couples will be able to enjoy an intimate conversation over a classic Italian meal and bottle of wine.

1011 Locust St., 244-7033

Runners-up: Café di Scala; Django


Best Local Patio (Restaurant)

Dos Rios

When Cityview readers feel like dining out (outside, that is), they say Dos Rios is the best place to land for fresh air and food. While the restaurant offers plenty of indoor seating, it also offers a patio overlooking Court Avenue bar-hoppers by night and the farmers’ market on Saturdays. It was voted as the best place to plant yourself for a margarita under the stars.

316 Court Ave., 282-2995,

Runners-up: Zombie Burger + Drink Lab; Saints


Best Local Caterer


Our readers say Hy-Vee is the best choice when an event calls for a caterer. Driving Taste! To Go to runners-up row, Hy-Vee proves that a Midwest grocery store outdoes the competition. It offers two different dinner buffets, a black tie buffet, two Chinese buffets and a “from the grill” option as well.

Multiple Locations,

Runners-up: Taste! To Go; Catering DSM


Robbie Crane, general manager of Orange Leaf at the Ingersoll location, proudly displays the vast toppings bar. Orange Leaf was voted as Des Moines’ Best Frozen Yogurt. Photo by Amber Williams

Robbie Crane, general manager of Orange Leaf at the Ingersoll location, proudly displays the vast toppings bar. Orange Leaf was voted as Des Moines’ Best Frozen Yogurt. Photo by Amber Williams

Best Frozen Yogurt

Orange Leaf

When looking for a treat that’s both healthy and delicious, our readers say Orange Leaf is the best place to go for all your fro-yo needs. Offering the favorite flavors of childhood, from brownie bites to fresh fruits, the only thing hard about Orange Leaf is choosing the flavor and toppings.

Multiple Locations

Runners-up: Menchie’s; TCBY


Best Place to Get a Doughnut

Dunkin Donuts

Beating out Donut King, Dunkin Donuts has been “making people happy since 1950” with its donuts. Whether one is a glazed donut lover or crazy about the Boston Kreme, our readers voted these made-fresh-daily donuts as Des Moines’ best and Dunkin Donuts as the premier place for a breakfast on-the-go.

Multiple Locations

Runners-up: Donut King; Hy-Vee


Best Type of Beer

Peace Tree Brewing Co.

This locally-brewed beer has our voters buzzing, whether it’s from the highly potent 8.5 percent alcohol level of Blonde Fatale or simply because, like our readers have decided, it’s the best beer around.

107 W. Main St., Knoxville, 641-842-BREW (2739),

Runners-up: Bud Light; Coors Light


Best Soft Drink


The age old argument continues; Which is better, Coke or Pepsi? For another year, it looks like our readers agree on Coca-Cola. This soft drink is a global favorite, so it’s no surprise that it’s the best-loved soda of Cityview readers. (Probably ’cause it goes good with Jack.)

Runners-up: Pepsi; Diet Coke


Best Type of Liquor

Templeton Rye

Best Of Des Moines voters love Templeton Rye whiskey. Its smooth taste is great for sipping and savoring, and the history dates back to the prohibition days of the 1920s. For decades Templeton Rye has been deemed “The Good Stuff.” But to voters, it’s not just good — it’s the best. Using the same recipe used during the prohibition, Templeton Rye continues to be a local favorite.

Runners-up: Fireball; Pearl Vodka


Best Locally Brewed Beer

Peace Tree Brewing Co.

Already earning itself the “best beer” category, it’s only fitting Peace Tree was voted as the best locally-brewed beer as well. This Knoxville company offers tours of the brewery as well as live music in its taproom, plus Team Trivia Nights and drink specials.

107 W. Main St., Knoxville, 641-842-BREW (2739).

Runner’s up: Exile Brewery; Raccoon River Brewery


  1. Bonnie Sorensen says:

    Sorry…Best place to get a donut? HILAND PARK BAKERY!!!! HANDS DOWN!!!

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