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Dear Des Moines, I Love You (Part 2)
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Dear Des Moines, I Love You (Part 2)

As soon as I hit publish on my last post, I quickly realized it would require a follow-up for a few more VIP (Very Important Places) I still had to list. From dining at Drake Diner to flicks at Fleur Cinema to the ever-explorative creations at the Des Moines Art Center, these are a few (more) of my favorite things in the heart of the heartland; Des Moines, Iowa.

Drake Diner

Where do you go to find the perfect brunch—or better yet, brunch for dinner? My vote would be the ultimate diner experience at Drake Diner. It is the place to take your friends after a fun night out or your grandparents visiting from out of town. The menu is extensive and reasonably priced. I enjoy sitting out in the enclosed patio for a bit of fresh air in the atmosphere that reminds me of a breakfast I once had in New Orleans. Note: the weekends are especially busy, so get there early. Either way, it’s worth the wait!

Blu Thai Food and Sushi

If you’re wondering where the best avocado Crab Rangoon is in the 515, look no further than Blu. This quaint and relaxed establishment has the best appetizers, traditional Thai dishes, and specialty sushi rolls. I stick to the scrumptious Chicken Pad Thai while my sister and friends all praise the variety of sushi options. The service is friendly and the wait is minimal, which makes for a great dining experience.

The Grumpy Goat Tavern

Dude. This food. If you need a hearty meal the morning after a night out or just want to chow down on some solid brunch options, head to Grumpy Goat. PSA: go hungry (and be sure to pencil in a nap afterward)! There are so many delicious choices; from the sweet cornflake and almond encrusted french toast, to the hefty plate of breakfast nachos, to one heck of a savory skillet. It’s also an ideal spot for a burger and some appetizers before a concert at Wells Fargo Arena. With four locations in Des Moines, West Des Moines and Ankeny, your meal is bound to be a grand slam.

Fleur Cinema

This movie lovers paradise is one of my favorite slightly-hidden gems in Des Moines. It’s known for being the best spot to see indie and documentary films. They also bring in special features and festivals throughout the year. I’m actually a former employee who got to enjoy the movie-goer experience firsthand. They have super reasonable prices, delicious concessions and a great selection of local beer on tap. I especially love their aesthetic of vintage cinematic touches and a large locally painted mural of famous characters. It’s a great date spot, friends night out and a relaxed venue to view an intriguing film all to yourself. Bonus: there's no reserved seating and no long previews! Just show up and it’s showtime.

[photo cred: Fleur Cinema

Ritual Cafe

With so many delicious coffee spots in Des Moines, it’s hard to pick just one or two that are your favorite. The Ritual Cafe feels like Des Moines; it’s warm, friendly, inviting and has a great atmosphere with delicious helpings. With a great location downtown and an admirable mission, it’s a meaningful spot to get your caffeine fix. PPlus, there are plenty of pastries and vegan options are available here.

[photo cred: Ritual Cafe]

John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park

If ever you need a place to spark some inspiration or simply want to appreciate the simpler things in life, head downtown to the Sculpture Park. Photographers are capturing memories and moments, kids are running and playing, and partners are walking hand in hand. Wander through the sculptures and reflect on the various pieces. Stroll through the grass with a coffee in hand or take a light walk after dinner. This open park is open for all, at no cost.

Des Moines Art Center

In continuing to support the arts, Des Moines is a hot spot for bringing fresh pieces and innovative galleries to the Art Center space. It’s a great place to explore new ideas and admire works of arts from around the world. There are several open gallery spaces spread throughout the center and I firmly believe that opening your eyes to art can lead to reflection, inspiration, and creativity. Take an afternoon to adore these works and see what it can spark for you!

Cheese Bar

If it has ‘cheese’ in the name, it has me in a seat. The overall vibe of this Ingersoll treat is warm, friendly and open. The tables are long and designed for the sort of seating where you feel comfortable asking your neighbor how their dish is. Spoiler alert: it’s delicious! The wine was preciously poured and the cheese spreads looked impeccable. The atmosphere is invitingly vibrant, where foreign flair meets local flavor.

Francie's Bar & Grill

Whenever I feel like treating myself to a delicious burger, I head to Francie’s. They’ve got an exceptional menu with a great bar and one of my favorite pub-style scenes. It’s first come, first serve and usually packed—for good reason. The chicken tender strips and cheese fries are enjoyable starters and the Bacon Cheddar Burger is my go to. They’re even stocked with sandwiches, soups, salads, and sweets. Just down the road from the airport, it’s a welcoming spot to meet with a client or relax with friends.

[photo cred: Francie's Bar & Grill]

Banana Leaf

This Asian Bistro wasn’t even on my radar until I stumbled into it last weekend with my mom. Having only been there once, it quickly skyrocketed to the second round of things I love about Des Moines. The fine (and filling) cuisine was delicious, the prices were low-dollar for high quality and the staff was exceptional by being both sweet and attentive. We went with the Sesame Chicken and Pad Thai and both came with a savoring egg drop soup and spring roll. The atmosphere is fresh and inviting, with intricate details placed throughout – from the rope hanging light bulbs to the floral covered walls. Go for lunch and you will have plenty of leftovers!

It's been another fun round of eating, drinking, and adventuring my way around Des Moines. With so many great spots to explore, I know I won't have a problem coming up with more places for you to check out in the future!

Image credit: Coral Thede

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