As Seen On TV
“Is this heaven?”
“No, it’s Iowa.”
That’s either the famous movie quote from Field of Dreams quote or the question you’re bound to ask when you bite into one of the many foodie feasts from the capital city featured on TV. Below we highlight some of the places that helped put us on the map and the celebrity superfans who sing our praises.
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Famous chef slash food scientist on the now rebooted Food Network fan-favorite show Good Eats, Alton Brown is a big fan of Greater Des Moines cuisine. Local Chinese pizza joint, Fong's Pizza, earned high praise when Brown awarded their Crab Rangoon Pizza the esteemed honor of his pick for the Food Network's The Best Thing I Ever Ate. Watch our Des Best video on this Des Moines delicacy.
On the third season of Travel Channel's Man Vs. Food, host and bottomless pit Adam Richman visited Des Moines to taste local fare and attempt the infamous Adam Emmenecker challenge at Jethro's BBQ. Named after the Drake University basketball star, the challenge features a sandwich stacked high with six layers of meat, three layers of cheese, and served with a one-pound side of fries. Visit Jethro's BBQ to take a crack at the challenge yourself, and find out if Richman earned a place on the wall of fame.
No mention of food show highlights would be complete without a mention of Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Among the many places our frosted tipped protagonist stopped while he was in town was Mi Patria, a standout Ecuadorian restaurant located in an unassuming strip mall in West Des Moines. Guy (and locals) raved about their Hornado con Mote (pulled pork), carne asada and sweet plantains. You can watch the clip for yourself.
Did you know you can eat three daily meals (plus a snack!) in Greater Des Moines for less than $35? Ali Kahn put that hypothesis to the test for the Cooking Channel's Cheap Eats. Kahn dined on the economical Breakfast Nachos for the budget-friendly price of $7.99 at University Library Café. Made with fresh flour tortillas instead of corn chips (a Des Moines thing popularized by local chain Tasty Tacos), they’re the undisputed best nachos in town, available with cheeseburger, chicken, roast beef, bacon or corned beef toppings.
Other foodie highlights:
High Life Lounge (broasted chicken, bacon wrapped tots) - Man vs. Food, Cheap Eats
Machine Shed (biscuits and gravy, cinnamon rolls) - Food Paradise, United States of Bacon
Eatery A (cioppino, wood-fired pizzas) - Cheap Eats
Smitty’s (tenderloins) - Man vs. Food, The Today Show
Maid-Rite (loose meat sandwiches) - Food Paradise
B&B Deli (tenderloin) - Bizzare Foods America
Smokey D’s BBQ (BBQ) – Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives
Flying Mango (BBQ) - Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives
Zombie Burger (Walking Ched burger) - The Today Show, United States of Bacon
Cactus Bob’s (BBQ) - Man vs. Food, Outrageous Food
TV AND MOVIE HIGHLIGHTS
As the epicenter of the political universe every four years, all eyes turn to Greater Des Moines for Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucuses. Thousands of media members worldwide descend on the city to cover the complicated process of selecting our pick for the presidential nominees. CNN and NBC are often seen posting up at the State Historical Museum of Iowa, so there are no shortage of celebrity sightings for political junkies.
Tread where the likes of Savannah Guthrie and Chuck Todd once stood by visiting West End Architectural Salvage, home of the Today Show's set for the past three cycles.
Besides hosting the most popular morning program every four years, West End Architectural Salvage also had its own show on the DIY Network called West End Salvage for several years. The store itself features four floors filled to the brim with salvaged treasures, custom furniture, décor, lighting, and inspiration for your next home project.
Just south of Des Moines, you can visit the famed covered Bridges of Madison County and the namesake classic love story's filming site. The 1995 film features breathtaking shots of the countryside. Stop by the Madison County Chamber of Commerce office and pick up a map of the bridges where you can recreate the iconic scenes with your sweetheart.
While you're at it, head down to picturesque Winterset to see the birthplace of “Duke,” the most famous cowboy who ever lived. The John Wayne Birthplace Museum is located adjacent to his childhood home and features original movie posters, wardrobe, letters, artwork, and more. You can even relax inside the museum’s movie theater and catch a John Wayne flick.
Other TV highlights:
RoCA (shared plates and craft cocktails) - featured on Season 19 of The Bachelor
Iowa State Capitol building – featured on Season 24 of The Bachelor
Lauridsen Skatepark – home of the 2021 Dew Tour on NBC
CELEBRITY STREET CRED
While Des Moines is far from Hollywood, many celebrities keep Des Moines close to their heart. Our favorite local boy is native “Hawaiiowan” (born in Hawaii, raised in nearby Norwalk) Jason Momoa. The Aquaman and Game of Thrones star often returns to the area and can be seen hitting up local favorites like High Life Lounge, Kung Fu Tap & Taco, B-Bops burgers, Tasty Tacos, and of course, his favorite breakfast joint, Waveland Café, where they even named a biscuits and gravy dish after him (Da Momoa).
Fun fact: Jason Momoa went to high school with another local celebrity, Brandon Routh. Routh, best known for his turn as Superman in Superman Returns recently made it back for a production of Hamilton at the Des Moines Civic Center. Perhaps it’s because Des Moines was one of the first cities to land the beloved musical. Something about that Iowa corn turns mere mortals into superheroes.
You don’t need to have been raised here to appreciate our charms either. Pop superstar Ed Sheeran called Des Moines one of his favorite cities. Rapper and singer extraordinaire Drake came here after a #BringDraketoDrake hashtag went viral and even posed next to the Drake University sign, wore their letter jacket and visited some fraternity and sorority houses. And NBA Hall of Famer turned basketball announcer Reggie Miller called Des Moines one of the best cities he’s ever visited when he was here for the 2019 Men’s NCCA Basketball tournament.
It really is true. In Des Moines, the S’s may be silent, but our city is buzzing!
Need more travel inspiration? Check out the rest of The Catch List itineraries. And add ideas to your Des Moines bucket list with our Des Best lists and S’s Are Silent videos!