Where To Eat

Downtown Des Moines is home to some of the Midwest’s finest chefs and has been the backdrop for some of Man vs. Food and Diners, Drive-ins and Dives greatest segments. All of these great restaurants are within walking distance or a short ride-share from the competition venue. After your trip to Des Moines, you’ll tell all your friends how Crab Rangoon Pizza and Bacon-Wrapped Tater Tots changed your life. Or, if you’re looking to get out of Downtown, the suburbs (only 15 minutes away by car) are home to some great dining/shopping/entertainment districts as well.

Best Places To Dine

If there’s one thing I love doing as much as I love judging trampoline and tumbling – it’s eating. Here is a list of my favorite Downtown Des Moines hot spots:

  • Centro (Western Gateway):
    One of Des Moines’s most renowned restaurants, this urban Italian-inspired eatery features amazing dishes that are always on point. The setting is casual, yet upscale and great for a night out followed by a stroll in the nearby Pappajohn Sculpture Park. Save room for dessert and order George’s Ice Cream Sunday!

  • Fong’s Pizza (Court District or Ankeny | The District at Prairie Trail):
    This Des Moines original is the home of Crab Rangoon and other Asian, Polynesian and Italian-American fusion pizzas – served with a full menu of tiki drinks. It’s a Des Moines must. The original location is located Downtown in the Court District, but is rather small. The Ankeny location is huge and better suited for larger parties. Both locations do take-out if you’re looking for a fun take on a pizza party at your hotel. I recommend the Crab Rangoon, Iowan or Street Taco pizzas and Chinese Cheese Sticks appetizer. You won’t want to visit the new Forrest Avenue location, as they only provide quick and carry-out service.

  • Panka Peruvian Restaurant (Ingersoll Ave):
    Peruvian inspired seafood, ceviche and stir fry dishes full of flavor, all expertly prepared and delicious.

  • Zombie Burger + Drink Lab (East Village):
    There’s nothing more memorable than a Zombie-themed, GOREmet craft burger and specialty shake shop! The original downtown location offers a quick-service counter on one side and a full-service, sit-down restaurant on the other. They are open late, and I recommend it post-competition since a visit with the undead can be rather gluttonous!

  • Jethro’s BBQ (Drake University, Ankeny – The District at Prairie Trail or Altoona):
    World famous BBQ featured on Man vs. Food and in other national publications. The original location is near Drake University and is the closest to downtown, but the Ankeny and Altoona locations are also a short 15-20 minute drive away.

For a complete listing of top area restaurants, visit Catch Des Moines (CVB) or the Des Moines Partnership (Chamber of Commerce) restaurant directories.

Downtown Team Dinners

  • Zombie Burger + Drink Lab (East Village):
    There’s nothing more memorable than a Zombie-themed, GOREmet craft burger and specialty shake shop! The original downtown location offers a quick-service counter on one side and a full-service, sit-down restaurant on the other. They are open late, and I recommend it post-competition since a visit with the undead can be rather gluttonous!

  • Buzzard Billy’s (Nearest Competition Venue):
    A wide range of menu items featuring American and Cajun-Creole cuisine in a casual sports bar setting with indoor and outdoor seating. Large seating capacity and less than a block from both competition venues.

  • Spaghetti Works (Court District):
    Get your pasta and salad bar on at this local, casual Italian favorite skilled at hosting larger groups. It’s a step above Olive Garden, but not yet fine dining – it’s great for a group.

  • Americana (Western Gateway):
    A bit more upscale, but still family-group friendly. Great American eats and cocktails overlooking the Pappajohn Sculpture Park

Team Dinners Around The City (5-20 minutes from Downtown by car)

  • Fongs Pizza (Ankeny – The District at Prairie Trail):
    This Des Moines original is the home of Crab Rangoon and other Asian, Polynesian and Italian-American fusion pizzas – served with a full menu of tiki drinks. It’s a Des Moines must. The original location is located Downtown in the Court District, but is rather small. The Ankeny location is huge and better suited for larger parties. Both locations do take-out if you’re looking for a fun take on a pizza party at your hotel. I recommend the Crab Rangoon, Iowan or Street Taco pizzas and Chinese Cheese Sticks appetizer. You won’t want to visit the new Forrest Avenue location, as they only provide quick and carry-out service.

  • Jethro’s BBQ (Drake University, Ankeny – The District at Prairie Trail or Altoona):
    World famous BBQ featured on Man vs. Food and in other national publications. The original location is near Drake University and is the closest to downtown, but the Ankeny and Altoona locations are also a short 15-20 minute drive away.

  • Iowa Machine Shed (Urbandale):
    Dine farm-to-table in this family style, Midwest classic restaurant, serving big farm portions and featuring a country general store. 20-25 minutes by car.

  • Smash Park (West Des Moines):
    This is more than a sports bar, it’s a family sports experience featuring indoor and outdoor pickleball courts, bags courts, arcade games and more. 20-25 minutes by car. (10% Off Coupon Here

Best Places For Refreshment

Every coach and parent is dying to know, “Where is the closest Starbucks?” Fortunately, there is a Starbucks coffee cart inside the venue on the upper level. While it’s not a full-service Starbucks with full menu, it should get the job done for most people. If you need something fancier than the basics, here’s where to find them:

Chain Coffee Shops (In Order of Distance from Competition Venues)

  • Starbucks (inside Hy-Vee grocery store in the Court District):
     This location is a good bet and is very visible inside the entrance of Hy-Vee, but it’s about 6.5 blocks/.6 miles from the competition venue.
  • Starbucks (Western Gateway):
    The only traditional Starbucks location downtown, but it’s about 8.5 blocks/.7 miles from the competition venue.

Local Coffee Shops
These shops offer a bit more of a unique and relaxed experience. Only a few locations are closer to the competition venues than the Starbucks/chain locations. Most are around a mile from the competition venues, so you’ll want to grab a ride-share.

Walking Distance to Competition Venues

  • Java Joes (Court District):
    An artsy coffee house 4.5 blocks/.5 miles from the competition venues in the Court District.
  • Scenic Route Bakery or Mars Coffee Bar (East Villiage):
    About 6.5 blocks/.6 miles away, but across the river in the East Villiage. This is a close detour for those staying at the Embassy Suites, but out of the way for everyone else.

Some of DSM’s Best Coffee Spots, But Transportation Likely Needed

Like most cities, the craft brewing industry is booming in Des Moines. These locations are all a great place to sample local favorites, pick up some iconic DSM eats and are all family-friendly.

  • High Life Lounge (Court District):
    A 70’s retro bar & grill with blue-collar flair… Home to Man vs. Food’s famous bacon-wrapped tater tots and broasted chicken served with sides like green bean casserole and deviled eggs. Step next door to their sister establishment, el Bait Shop, which features a Mexican-American theme with over 250 craft beverages available.

  • Hessen Haus (Court District):
    A German-style bier hall featuring global comfort foods like schnitzel, bratwursts, burgers and giant pretzels.

  • Iowa Tap Room (East Villiage):
    Featuring a menu that’s all Iowan, including Iowa Pork Chops, Pork Tenderloins and taps from over 35 Iowa breweries.

  • Exile Brewing Co. (Western Gateway):
    Full micro-brewery featuring a rustic restaurant in a former soap and cosmetic factory.

  • Court Ave Brewing Co. (Court District):
    Known more for its food menu than it’s craft beverages, this is Des Moines original brewery.

For a complete tour and special discounts, download the Brew Moines app to really explore Des Moines best craft brews and late-night eats. A complete list can be found at Catch Des Moines (CVB).

Suburban Dining and Entertainment Districts

The District at Prairie Trail is a new suburban lifestyle area featuring spacious locations of several of Des Moines’s best restaurants, including Jethro’s BBQ Lakehouse and Fong’s Pizza. 15-20 minutes by car.

Jordan Creek Town Center is Des Moines’s largest mall and has many surrounding retail centers. Chain restaurants include The Cheesecake Factory, PF Changs, On the Border, Joe’s Crab Shack and more. There is also a movie theatre and outdoor fountains.

West Glen Town Center is an established lifestyle district with boutique shops, unique restaurants, and great nightlife, including the Funny Bone Comedy ClubBlue Moon Dueling Piano Bar and the Escape Room.

For a complete listing of top area restaurants, visit Catch Des Moines (CVB) or the Des Moines Partnership (Chamber of Commerce) restaurant directories.

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