No need to save the best for last. Our new Des Best Appetizers blog makes a flavorful first impression. Dip into the list to see what locals voted as the best individual appetizers in Greater Des Moines. It’s a full meal in itself!

*All of our Des Best lists are crowdsourced and voted by locals.*

Fry Day, Every Day 

We’re already suckers for Django’s impossibly thin and crispy hand-cut fries. And then you go add braised beef, caramelized onion, mushrooms, Milton Creamery cheese curds, and demi-glace? Oh, and a fried egg too? How do the French stay so thin? We’ll just pretend this poutine is the answer. Pro tip: Sub in duck frites for extra opulence. 

Curbin’ CuisinePB&J Fries
Having recently relocated to Ankeny from Beaverdale, Curbin’ Cuisine’s wholly unique and decidedly delicious PB&J fries are putting them on the map. Plot your course to go try this boat of golden crispy fries, topped with Thai peanut sauce, and raspberry chipotle jelly. You never knew you needed that menu description in your life before now, but turns out those words go together like peanut butter and jelly…and fries.

Veggies To Root For 

Noah’s Ark½ Onion Rings, ½ Pepper Rings
There’s something fundamentally comforting and appealing about ordering onion rings at an old school neighborhood joint. Having been around since 1946, Noah’s Ark on Ingersoll definitely fits the old school bill. And with age comes the wisdom to pair their hand-breaded, not-too-thin, not-too-thick onion rings with breaded green pepper rings. Ring in the flavor with an obligatory side of ranch.  

Clyde’s Fine DinerCaesar Sprouts
Brussels sprouts have become a ubiquitous menu item in recent years, so you’d be forgiven if you thought this was trend chasing. But have you ever had brussels sprouts from a James Beard-nominated chef? The brainchild of chef Chris Hoffman, these Caesar Sprouts, fried with Caesar dressing, sunflower seeds, toasted breadcrumbs, and parmesan, are the trendsetters, not the followers. Follow the buzz (and your nose) to this trendy East Village hotspot.

Simon'sBaked Artichoke Dip
In a town known for comfort food options, Simon’s reigns supreme, and nothing sets the tone for what’s to come like their famous baked artichoke dip. Instead of wasting precious space on spinach, they double down on the parmesan, and the result is decadent, gooey bliss. Served with toast points, but you’ll be licking the bowl clean even after those are gone.

That’s What Cheese Said 

Bix & CompanyCheese Curds
There are a lot of good cheese curds out there. In fact, it can be hard to differentiate them all because they all kind of meld together. But at Bix & Co. in Historic Valley Junction, the cream rises to the top, thanks to their distinctive take on a cheesy classic. Using cubed Wisconsin white cheddar, they flash fry their curds in a crispy beer batter, giving them a light and airy appearance without sacrificing that coveted cheese pull. We’re making memories here, folks.

Sully’sCheese Curds
Looking for more ways to get your lactose fix? You’re in luck. Sully’s Irish Pub in West Des Moines is a fan favorite thanks for their hand battered Picket Fence cheese curds, served with Ranch dressing (duh) and Sully’s Sauce. The real cheat code is to get their Irish Nachos for your appetizer and then sub in the cheese curds as your side. Come for the curds, stay for the craic!

Crab Rangoon Stuffs 

The StationCrab Rangoon Nachos
Crab Rangoon fusion has always been popular in Des Moines (we practically invented Crab Rangoon pizza), so it comes as no surprise that The Station on Ingersoll would find a way to combine Crab Rangoon with our other favorite appetizer, nachos. Creamy Crab Rangoon dip is served atop fried wonton chips, scallions, and chili and lime sauce. Pair with an order of Nacho Graziano (Graziano sausage, banana peppers, homemade beer cheese, giardiniera, and “interesting chips”) and your appetizers just became your main course, and leftover lunch for tomorrow.

Urban GrillInside Out Crab Rangoon
At Urban Grill in Urbandale, you can get your fill of cream cheese and succulent crab courtesy of their deconstructed Inside-Out Crab Rangoon. This cream cheese and Crab Rangoon dip is served with wonton chips and a side of sweet and sour. Devouring copious amounts of fried, gooey goodness has never felt so classy.  

Thai FlavorsCrab Rangoon
Crab Rangoon adjacent spin-offs are great, but sometimes you want to just go back to where it all started. Ask the question, “Where do I find the best Crab Rangoon in Des Moines?” and Thai Flavors is the answer shouted the loudest. That’s because they nail the oft-overlooked filling to wonton ratio, so that each bite gives you ample amounts of savory crunch and sweet filling.

Nacho Average Appetizers 

University Library CaféLibrary Nachos
When you have a giant exterior sign touting “Best Nachos” it creates a certain expectation going in. Thankfully, University Library Café has not only thrown down the gauntlet but met the challenge with toppings to spare. These are nacho mama’s stale chips and congealed cheese…at the Library, they top fresh flour tortillas (that’s the secret sauce) with pinto beans, shredded cheddar, Monterey cheese sauce, salsa, banana peppers, pico de gallo, sour cream, and your choice of cheeseburger, chicken, roast beef, bacon, or corned beef.  There’s nothing hush-hush about this Library.  

Skip'sChicken Nachos
This South Side stalwart goes heavy with the cheese, and we’re not mad about it. In fact, when the nachos come to your table, about all you’re gonna see is a big layer of neon orange cheese (melted cheddar and pepper jack) atop some extra crispy chips. But dig a little deeper and you’ll find black beans, chicken, and red chile aioli, with a side of sour cream and pico de gallo. It’s like the tastiest game of hide and seek ever.

Nick'sSmoked Chicken Nachos
Tucked away in an unassuming strip mall in Clive is a little hidden gem called Nick’s, whose smoked chicken nachos deserve to be discovered by the masses. A heaping pile of chips is covered with smoked chicken, cheese, and pico de gallo. It pairs well with all of their other casual date night fare like Steak de Burgo, chicken marsala, and tilapia Caroline (crab meat, cajun cream).

Eat to Impress 

HarbingerSteam Buns
It stands to reason that the most decorated restaurant in town would have a celebrated appetizer that helped them make their mark. Such is the case with Harbinger, famous for their five-course meals, James Beard nominations, and for this exercise, their heavenly steamed buns. Their bao buns – a warm, fluffy, sweet white dough – are filled with your choice of pork belly, sweet & sour chicken, or fried sweet potato. Pro tip: They’re part of their happy hour snack menu (M – Th, 4 – 6 p.m.) where you can get three buns for only $8.

RoCA Steak de Burgo Toast
If you’re looking to share a bunch of small plates and appetizers for your entrées, RoCA on Court Avenue is the place to go, with more than 20 shared plates options, encompassing everything from sliders to sprouts. But the winner, winner steak dinner here is the Steak de Burgo Toast. Here, Des Moines’ signature dish is given the appetizer treatment, with steak tips, roasted mushrooms, and truffle mashed potatoes served atop toasted focaccia.  

Oak ParkPotato Gnocchi
In the fall of 2023, Oak Park opened to the type of breathless excitement reserved for retirement or the newest Spiderman movie. Well, the reviews are in and turns out the hype was well deserved. This fine dining hot spot does many things to perfection, from table service to thoughtfully crafted cocktails, but we’re here to talk about (like everyone else) that potato gnocchi. Housemade potato gnocchi is served with crispy kale, truffle beurre monte, tarragon, and a potato lace tuile. If you don’t know what some of things are, you’re just gonna have to use this as a trust fall exercise.  

BubbaDeviled Eggs
You’ve had deviled eggs at about every Iowa potluck you’ve ever been to (along with pickle wraps), but downtown favorite Bubba serves them up with a side of Southern comfort that will leave you wondering how such a simple dish can be so transcendent. It’s probably the pecan-smoked bacon coupled with the thoughtfulness they put into everything, from the charming décor to the magnificent mojitos.

If You Fry It, We’ll Try It  

High Life LoungeBacon Wrapped Tater Tots
Available at both High Life Lounge and their sister spot across the hall, craft beer mecca El Bait Shop, something just feels right about pairing these blue-collar bites with the Champagne of Beers. Tater tots and jalapenos are wrapped in thick bacon, then fried and topped with cheddar and jack cheese, served with a side of ranch. It’s either the cure or the cause of the hangover, but either way, we regret nothing.  

Tacos La FamiliaBirria Pizzadilla
Birria has gone from niche foodie fave to mainstream menu staple, but Tacos La Familia was one of the OG birria places in the metro and still has a claim to perfecting the recipe. It started with their tacos ahogados (birria tacos), made its way to the burritos and then assumed it’s final form with the Birria Pizzadilla: a fried birria quesadilla cut pizza style, filled with cheese, birria meat (or any other meat), cilantro, and onions, topped with avocado salsa and sour cream. An appetizer so epic we had to feature it in a commercial

Cosi CucinaToasted Ravioli
Cosi Cucina in Clive is one of those underrated places that takes the stress out of dining out because you know when you go there, everything from the food to the service is going to be spot on. There’s something to be said for their consistency, just like there’s something to be said for their toasted ravioli. Fried cheese ravioli, served with vodka dipping sauce made from their fresh marinara and alfredo. Talk about hitting the spot.  

Iowa TaproomJalapeno Poppers
The Iowa Taproom may be the quintessential downtown Des Moines restaurant and bar. With more than 100 Iowa beers on tap, along with elevated Iowa favorites like the breaded tenderloin, ham balls, and pork chops, it’s the go-to option for giving out-of-towners a literal taste of Des Moines. But those in the know opt to spice things up with an order of their legendary fried jalapeno poppers, stuffed with shredded smoked chicken, pepper jack, cream cheese, and Sriracha. South of the border, but decidedly Iowa Nice.

Pour ChoicesPickle Balls
Fried pickles are glorious, but usually come in spears or chips. So, when we found out that Pour Choices in Grimes served pickle balls, frankly it was a bit jarring. Turns pickle balls are a total dill-light, stuffed with pickles, cream cheese, lightly breaded and served with sriracha aioli. These are clearly the superior choice.   

Fong’sPizza Rolls
Long known for their Asian-fusion pizza and funky Tiki drinks, Fong’s applies that same sense of irreverence to their appetizers to delicious effect. The Chinese cheese sticks are worth a mention, but it’s their pizza rolls – egg roll wrappers filled with pepperoni, Graziano sausage, and mozzarella – that have us rolling in there late night for something way better than the pizza rolls in the freezer at home. 

While they’re not technically listed as appetizers on their menu, there’s so much other stuff on the Kathmandu menu that we want to try that they usually end up as appetizers regardless. These Indian specialties are dumplings, served either steamed or fried, and filled with your choice of vegetables or chicken, along with a “soup” version where they are served in a spicy sesame and tomato-based gravy. Good gravy, why can’t we spot eating these things?