Small businesses are the lifeblood of our community, and this month we highlight and celebrate the diverse restaurants and cuisine that contribute to the fabric of our culture. Give these black-owned food and drink spots a shot and they’ll be sure to make your year-round restaurant rotation!
You may know kolaches as a Czech pastry, but Coaches Kolaches in Urbandale does them up Texas-style, courtesy of former Iowa State football star and NFL player “Coach Brent Curvey.” If you’re not familiar with kolaches, they’re fresh pastries stuffed with either sweet or savory ingredients. On the sweet side, you’ve got options such as strawberry, cherry, blueberry, and cream cheese, perfect for breakfast on the go. For savory, you’ve got heartier options like jalapeno sausage, brisket, smoked beef, and spinach mozzarella and mushroom. All these craveable options are perfect for hosting large groups or even catered events.
Blk & Bold
Blk & Bold has helped open eyes to the Des Moines coffee scene, thanks to a buzz that has followed them since they launched in 2018. Started by two childhood friends, Pernell Cezar Jr and Rod Johnson, they share a common interest in great coffee and great causes, with 5% of their gross profits going to nonprofit organizations serving at-risk youth. They’ve been featured everywhere from GQ and the LA Times to Marie Claire and Eater, and their coffee is now available in 12,000 retail locations nationwide. They don’t have a storefront coffee shop, but you can find it wherever good coffee is sold across the metro.
GG's Chicken and Waffles
Chicken and waffles? Say no more. But we will anyway. G.G.’s is a family affair, with G.G.’s father and son both helping out with the operation. G.G. learned to fry chicken at his local church and one bite of this tender goodness and you’ll consider yourself blessed. While they don’t have a brick-and-mortar storefront, they do have a pop-up spot at Kitchen Space in the Drake neighborhood and are commonly found at events throughout the community. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram for more info on their next pop-up or reach out to them to cater your next big event!
Located in the Drake neighborhood on University Avenue, Lifestyle Juices has been serving up smoothies and juices for more than seven years. Owner Nico NcQuist started the business after having worked in the restaurant business for years but wanting to offer something healthy and affordable. Stop by their storefront, or look for them at area farmers markets, offering up mango smoothies and wheatgrass shots for a refreshing dose of your daily vitamins.
Palm's Caribbean Cuisine
This pop-up/food stand from Amara Sama (born in Africa) and his wife, Dionne Sama, serves up a menu that is around 90% Jamaican, and is rich in herbs and spices. Popular dishes like Jamaican jerk chicken, coconut candied yams, oxtail, and jollof rice (long-grain rice tomatoes, onions, and peppers) conjure up palm tree imagery of the Carribean, and the staff is decidedly Iowa Nice. Catering for groups of 10 – 150 is available, and their fare can be found at fairs and festivals (including the Downtown Des Moines Farmers’ Market) in the spring and summer. Follow them on social media for their latest pop-up hours and festival schedule!
Taste of Africa
Tucked away from the street on MLK, it would be easy to miss this hidden gem, but the 4.7-star rating on Google tells you that it's worth the treasure hunt. The menu features Somalian dishes influenced by Indian flavors, including curry, tandoori, and sambusas. Open seven days a week, 9 – 5, go give your new favorite lunch spot a try!
Veggie Thumper Food Truck
You've tried a food truck, but what about a food bus? Veggie Thumper’s colorful bus has become a staple at Greater Des Moines festivals and events and is the vegan equivalent of kids chasing down the ice cream truck. That’s because it features healthy, plant-based versions of popular comfort foods such as Cajun “Alfredo Shrimp,” cinnamon roll pancakes with maple cream, and Philly “cheesesteaks.” They also do snack boxes, which include vegan versions of fudgy brownies and Oreo truffles. They even offer body care products like essential oils and body butters. Subscribe to their email newsletter for locations and events so that this bus doesn’t pass you by!
Another famous Iowa State Cyclone and NFL alum, quarterback Seneca Wallace, returned to his roots and opened three Wingstop locations in central Iowa. The one in Ames is predictably chock full of Iowa State flavor, the walls adorned with Wallace’s Iowa State memorabilia. The two locations in Des Moines, one on Merle Hay Road and the East 14th Street are bursting with literal flavor, serving up wings (boneless and bone-in), chicken sandwiches, cheese fries, and Cajun fried corn, in a fast casual environment. Do your best Seneca impression and scramble over to your nearest location.
Gursha Ethiopian Grill
Despite being relatively new, Gursha is quickly making a name for itself in the Drake neighborhood with its counter service take on Ethiopian food. Within five minutes, you'll be sampling Ethiopian faves like Sega Wat (beef stew) and Doro Wat (chicken and egg in spicy berbere sauce), all sopped up with injera – Ethiopian sourdough flatbread bread unlike any sourdough bread you've ever had. Another great option for vegetarians, Gursha doesn’t miss!
Looking to spice things up? Chicken Heat is the hottest place in town, both figuratively and literally. Serving up Nashville Hot Chicken sandwiches, you can take on a heat level anywhere from mild to XXX (if you dare). Think you can handle the spice? Attempt their Holy Heat Challenge, where you must finish the sandwich in just five minutes, no drinks allowed. Bring wet naps and a change of clothes.
What the Fries
One of our favorite food trucks in Greater Des Moines, WTF will have you exclaiming “Fry-yay!” What the Fries gives customers the opportunity to build your own set of loaded french fries, or you can choose one of their signature creations. We don’t know what you’ll choose (buffalo chicken, jerk chicken, pizza fries, the options are endless!), but we do know that carb loading has never been so fun.
Other black-owned places and products to try:
Young G’s Barbecue Sauce (BBQ)
Polish King (Polish)
Home Touch Kitchen (African)
Joppa Experience (American, Soul Food)
Jambo African Cuisine (African)
Chef Artis (Catering)
Platter House Catering (American)
Ruby B’s Kitchen & Catering (Soul Food)
Good Eatins (Soul Food)
Lady Jerk Catering (Soul Food)
LeeTy Delights (Dessert)
Moe Cason Barbecue (BBQ)
Mootsie’s Munchies (Bakery)
Nadia’s French Bakery (Bakery)
Cie Cie’s Sweet Treeats (Bakery)
Curly Girl Cakes & Cookies (Bakery)
Delicias by Lorena (Spanish)
Mars Café (Coffee)
Patience’s African Cuisine (African)
Mustang Grill (American)
Bake Sale Customs (Bakery)
Big Momma’s Catering (American, Soul Food)
Chellie’s Sugar Shack (Bakery)
Artis T’s Catering (BBQ, Soul and Comfort)
Big Daddy’s Bar-B-Q (BBQ sauce)
Africana Halal Restaurant (African and Mediterranean)
Jazz It Up (Catering)
Suzie’s Sweet Treats (Bakery)
Street Eats DSM (Food Truck, American)