In Greater Des Moines, not all our food is served on a stick. We have some of Des Best restaurants and chefs in the Midwest, sure to surprise and delight with every bite. Take a seat at the chef’s table and check out this menu of locally sourced favorites that are the stars of the Des Moines dining scene, as voted by locals.

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

Since opening in 2017, Harbinger has outlasted many of its peers on its way to becoming the gold standard of the Des Moines fine dining scene. Its Asian-inspired, vegetable-focused small plates concept has earned chef Joe Tripp multiple James Beard award nominations, not to mention local rockstar status. The hyper-seasonal menu focuses on locally sourced ingredients, served in a modern space that is as intimate and approachable as the food. Your best bet is to leave your meal in the hands of the experts and opt for the opulent and always on-point five-course tasting meal.

Life is complicated, but your food doesn’t have to be. That could be the motto at Simon’s, the unfussy local favorite and Des Moines date night destination. It’s legions of local fans line up outside this quaint bistro before it even opens to enjoy one of the most consistent dining experiences in town, with Simon himself walking around the dining room to ensure you’re having an optimal experience. And with comfort food like stuffed chicken, shrimp scampi, Steak de Burgo, and that complimentary slice of moist red velvet cake at the end of dinner, optimal comes easy. 

Oak Park
Few restaurants in recent memory have arrived with such pomp and circumstance, not to mention a realistic shot at a Michelin star, as Oak Park on Ingersoll. When you catch the attention of rock star Denmark chef Rene Redzepi, owner/chef of one of the handful of the three Michelin star restaurants in the world, you know you’re doing something right. And Oak Park does just about everything right. Whether it’s the Frank Lloyd Wright, Prairie-style design or the modern American menu highlights like the potato gnocchi, caviar cones, and 24-ounce bone-in ribeye, everything about Oak Park screams “experience”. That includes the epic Chef’s Table experience, where guests can watch the activity in the kitchen from the best seat in the house.

With an opening in 2002 timed to the renaissance of downtown Des Moines, Centro deserves credit for helping turn Des Moines into the dining destination it is today. Over 20 years later, Centro has survived every food trend and recession without losing its identity or sense of cool.  Located in the restored Temple for Performing Arts downtown, this beautiful space serves up Italian favorites in an upscale atmosphere. Everything is good, but our favorite might be their wood fired pizzas, which we’ll put up against the best Chicago and New York pies any day. 

Table 128
The former foodie fave from suburban Clive returned after a three-year hiatus to much anticipation and a new downtown makeover in Gray’s Landing. But just because it ditched the suburbs for downtown doesn’t mean it’s too cool for you. Chef Lynn Pritchard brought back many old favorites, like Lynn’s burger (pickled pear, brie, crispy onion, and Dijon aioli), the brussels sprouts salad, and complimentary chocolate chip sea salt cookies, coupled with an out-of-this-world risotto and a wine list that won an Award of Excellence Wine Spectator magazine. The Art Deco and dark navy vibes will make you feel at home, no matter your zip code.

French cuisine without the attitude and a killer view of the Pappajohn Sculpture Park across the street. That’s what you’re getting at Django, a downtown staple where you can get a burger (served on a local South Union bun) that is just as good, if not slightly more American, as the succulent steak frites and mussels. Not to mention there is no corkage fee on up to two bottles of wine. Oh la la! 

Clyde’s Fine Diner
Clyde’s encapsulates everything we love about the East Village – effortlessly cool, perfectly accessible, and the right mix of contemporary and familiar. The teal motif gives your typical diner a huge style upgrade, and dishes like their CFD burger and Hot Bird fried chicken make this place destination diner’ing. Chef Chris Hoffman was recently named a James Beard semifinalist for Best Chef in the Midwest, meaning that “fine” in the name isn’t just for show.

801 Chophouse
If you like your steaks rare, your martinis dry, and your dinner check expensed, 801 Chophouse is the place for you. Des Moines’ premiere steakhouse has everything you’d want in a good steakhouse; Rat Pack vibes, spacious booths, a seasoned waitstaff, and multiple potato options for your sides. Crème brûlée mandatory, not optional. 

Aposto offers one of the most unique dining experiences in the metro, with modern classical cuisine inside an 1880 Victorian mansion. At home in Sherman Hill, Des Moines’ oldest neighborhood, Aposto focuses on simplicity, and doing a few dishes extremely well. Whether its Italian dishes like wild boar lasagna, berkwood osso bucco, or their famous polenta cakes, the only mistake you can make is not saving room for dessert.  

Cheese Bar
After the quaint little Cheese Bar was named “America’s Favorite Cheese Shop,” its burgeoning popularity led to a larger offshoot, Cheese Bar, and we’re all better off for it. Their toasted grill cheeses have legions of devotees and their cast iron mac and cheese isn’t far behind. The soaring ceilings, communal seating, and interesting beer and wine lists add a European feel to the proceedings, but make no mistake, both the food and people are Iowa Nice.  

Prime and Providence
Don’t expect your typical steakhouse fare from this decadent new West Des Moines hotspot, where everything is cranked up a notch or ten. Sure, you can expect kobe beef (imported from Japan), lobster tails, and oysters, but there’s also a giant ice bar for the oysters and a 15-foot Josper oven and hearth for the coal fired beef. Forgo the typical escargot for “lobstercargo” and give new meaning to surf and turf with the tuna tarte on bone marrow. And for those veggie lovers who find themselves at the mercy of a steakhouse setting, there’s a whole grilled crispy cauliflower that will make even the most hardened red meat lover reconsider their lifestyle choices.  

There are many places in Des Moines that do the old school Italian food vibe well. But for a hidden-gem-that-you-just-stumbled-upon-in-NYC vibe, head over to the East Village (the Iowa one, not the NYC one) and check out Lucca. With its modern furnishings (think white tables and gray chairs), wood floors, exposed brick wall, and long dining room, it’s ready for its close up. And with a 4-course prix-fixe menu that includes a salad, pasta courses like sage gnocci, protein courses like sea bass and scallops and of course dessert and espresso, it’s as close to New York as you can get for the decidedly Iowa price of $57. 

Bubba brings southern hospitality to the heart of the Midwest, with elevated classics like fried green tomatoes, Kentucky hot brown, and buttermilk fried chicken. All washed down with a Mint Julep or two. The Southern charm doesn’t end with the food, with chandeliers, high back chairs, Chesterfield sofas, and hexagon tile that create a dining space as unique as the food. Y’all come back now, ya hear?

Mulberry Street Tavern
Whether it’s a girls’ night out or date night, Mulberry Street Tavern, located inside the swank new Surety Hotel, fits the chic bill. See and be seen nibbling on Scotch eggs and lamb shanks while sipping bubbles or bourbon inside a gorgeous space filled with warm woods and leather booths. Don Draper, your table is ready.

Eatery A
What is Eatery A’s biggest selling point, their patio or their happy hour? That’s clearly a trick question, since the answer is enjoying both simultaneously. Their happy hour runs from 2 p.m. – 6 p.m. daily (including weekends) and includes half-price wine, draft beer, and wood fired pizza. Pick a beautiful day on the patio overlooking Ingersoll Avenue, and you’ve nailed the perfect start to your summer evening. 

Lucky Lotus
They say it’s better to be lucky than good. Lucky Lotus is both. Not only will you find Southeast Asian eats you can’t find anywhere else like bing bing wraps (scallion pancake sandwich wraps), sweet potato panang curry, and pad lao noodles, but you won’t find any place that looks like Lucky Lotus either. Think ‘neon kung fu chic.’ You’ll want to take home some of their awesome branded swag along with your leftovers.

Waterfront Seafood Market
A seafood market in a landlocked state? Leave your doubts at the door when you try either location of Waterfront Seafood Market (West Des Moines or Ankeny), where fish is flown in daily and prepared however you would like it. Get some to-go seafood from their market or dine in at their New England-esque bistro, with everything from scallops and live Maine lobster to sushi and the best chowda’ this side of the Golden Gate Bridge. 

Splash Seafood
Speaking of seafood, Splash Seafood bills itself as Iowa’s first and only seafood bar, with jet fresh seafood flown in daily from Hawaii, Alaska, Seattle, Boston, and the Florida Keys. They do everything from caviar and shellfish to specialties like Sriracha scallops, surf and turf fettuccine that will have you hooked. 

St. Kilda Collective
Australian raised owner Alexander Hall has established quite the following with his numerous restaurant ventures since coming to Des Moines by way of New York City. But the crown jewels are the two St. Kilda locations, with the downtown café/bakery focusing on breakfast and lunch and the Valley Junction location brining in the dinner crowd as well. You’ll find that he brought his NYC vibes here, with a diverse lineup of offerings ranging from crispy fried cod rolls and black bean veggie burgers to their famous avocado toasts and Big Aussie breakfast. 

East Village mainstay Alba serves up upscale American food using seasonal ingredients and a rotating menu with dishes like NY Strip stroganoff, wild striped bass, and hand cut steaks. It’s also probably the only restaurant that we know of with reclaimed doors hanging from the ceiling. That’s right, Alba is the gateway to good dining.   

The Latin King
Founded in 1947 by Italian immigrants, Latin King still takes the crown as the place to try Des Moines’ signature dish, Steak de Burgo. But their chicken spiedini might be just as good, and if they have their legendary strawberry shortcake on the menu, it’s a crime not to indulge. It’s a Des Moines institution for a reason. This is comfort food in peak form.

For tasty Latin cuisine and some of the buzziest margaritas in town, check out Malo, located in a renovated Art Deco firehouse built in 1937. With notable dishes like lobster corn queso, pork belly tacos, and vegan burritos, you’ll quickly see why it’s one of the most popular cantinas in town. And with a half-dozen pieces of commissioned original artwork, it’s a space that’s as progressive as those tater tot nachos you’re about to devour. 

RoCA has been serving small plates with big flavors on Court Avenue since 2014. Great for groups who want to try a little of everything, they made their mark with their flatbreads, fondue, and sliders for days. Their Smoking Gun cocktail (Bulleit Bourbon, maple syrup, angostura bitters, hickory smoke) took the Des Moines cocktail scene by storm and helped usher in the buzzy bourbon revival of the last few years.

They are perhaps most well known for their Bottomless Bombshell Brunch, which has endless eats with fun options like a grilled cheese station, mashed potato bar, and brunch tacos, with bottomless bloody mary/mimosa/screwdriver add-ons. But don’t sleep on their lunch and dinner menus, where you can do shared dishes like crab rangoon dip and truffle fries or try signature dishes like the bacon wrapped meatloaf or herb encrusted salmon.  

Irina’s is a family-owned neighborhood restaurant in Urbandale that specializes in Russian-American fare. That means you can get your steak or pasta, but if you want the true experience of Irina’s, opt for dishes like beef stroganoff, Moscow filet, pork shashlik, and wellington salmon. And how could you not get a vodka martini?  

Can't decide what kind of food you're in the mood for? The mod menu at Fresko has got you covered, with everything from wood fired octopus and specialty sushi rolls to short rib tacos and good old Iowa pork chops. Fresko (meaning "fresh") uses all locally sourced ingredients and is one of the most interesting and intelligent (not to mention comfortable) places in town.