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Brianne’s Des Moines restaurant go-tos

Someone asked me on Twitter what my favorite restaurant in Des Moines is and I felt guilty keeping it to 140 characters, because it’s hard to pick one when different places are better for different things. Here are a few of my favorite spots and what I tend to order there, organized more by occasion than cuisine:

Indulgent weekday breakfast with the ladies
Where: La Mie
What I order: Avocado tartine, which is a hearty piece of toast covered in cream cheese and sprouts, eggs over easy and a half avocado.
There are few better ways to start the day than walking into La Mie on a crisp morning and settling into a table with some of my dearest Des Moines friends and a little cup of coffee. This is where we catch up and gather energylike batteries powered by each others energy and passion for life. If you go the pastry route, my favorite are the long rectangular ones that are filled with some sort of cream and chocolate chip concoction. They should be illegal.

Payday lunch with downtown workers
Where: Basil Prosperi
What I order: Spinach Ricotta pasta
Carbohydrate overload? Definitely. This lunch is for Fridays at the end of the month when you’re feeling rich and in the mood for something with a taste to match. I miss working so close to this tucked away Skywalk staple, where the line moves fast but you’ll feel full well into the evening.

Sunday evening doing crossword puzzles and drinking crappy beers
Where: High Life Lounge
What I order: Broasted chicken meal with tater tots and corn on the side
You know how healthy eating doctrine says you’re not supposed to have a plate of entirely brown food? This is worth breaking the rule.

Craving hot wings
Where: Gerri’s
What I order: These are the best wings in Des Moines, and you can order them in five pound increments. (CABCo comes close, but theirs aren’t as cheap.) These have the perfect sauce and a slight crisp in the skin. I used to hate hot wings, but these converted me.

Double date night
Where: Flying Mango
What I order: Grilled Cajun Chicken, with Goat Cheese & Thick-Cut Bacon
Joe and I went on a kind of double date the other week with the Heggens and this was a great spot. It’s so unassuming on the outside, but then the dining room opens up and it’s got a great atmosphere. There’s a good beer selection, and even good vegetarian options, which you might not think about coming out of a place known for its 24-hour brisket.

Satisfying the sweet tooth
Where: Chocolaterie Stam
What I order: There’s a sweet little wine flight/chocolate pairing deal that was only $10 the last time I went!
Even though it’s right on Ingersoll, the little side yard next to Stam is like a tucked-away wonderland. There’s a babbling fountain, pretty lights strung up and lots of gelato options!

A ladies "picnic" at Stam

Power lunch
Where: Des Moines Art Center Restaurant
What I order: “Pick two”
Where: Proof
What I order: Lamb burger
I always forget about the Art Center restaurant, and each time I re-discover it, I vow to go back soon. One of the IHAD mentors is the chef there, and the setting and food are inspired, but the price is right. My boss, Emily, and I had lunch here a few weeks ago and she told me to do the “pick two” selection because the portions are generous enough you don’t really have to choose, if you’re wavering between options.
Proof is the downtown go-to! Everything is amazing, fresh and made with care. Love it.

Saturday afternoon “linner”
Where: Gateway Market
What I order: Veggie burger (which is crazy, considering I looove burgers)
You know when you’re in the zone running errands and you don’t have any food in the house and it’s 2 p.m. and you probably shouldn’t go to the grocery store hungry? Gateway Market is the go-to for a fresh-tasting option. Then you can also pick up some essentials to tide you over to your next shopping trip. And by “essentials,” I mean wine and bread. Right? Also, last time I got the veggie burger here was on the way to get my new bike, and some guy walked up to me and asked me what I was eating because it looked awesome.

A taste of suburbia
Where: Rock Bottom Brewery
What I order: Various burgers
Sometimes we go past 63rd Street. Not a lot, but sometimes. Rock Bottom has some awesome perks for their mug club members (and being a member is free.) Plus, their beer is brewed on-site and the place is huge, with a patio. They used to have half price burger nights, I think on Wednesdays, which made for a really reasonable dinner out.

OK, a few other picks! I’m going to be lazy and not include links, but you can find details for most Des Moines restaurants on DesMoines.Metromix.com.

Brianne’s favorite places for:

Chips: City Bakery. They basically slice a potato lengthwise and crisp it until it’s a chip, then pepper and salt it. Thanks to the ladies of Ephemera for turning me on to these.
Margaritas: El Patio in the summer. Awesome hanging planters and a sweet patio that’s a good respite from the rest of the world.
Chinese: Rolling Wok. I only ever order Mongolian Beef from Chinese places. They have great lunch specials, but are otherwise a bit pricey.
Romance: Cafe di Scala. Joe and I went here after we got engaged, so it will always be a special place. I also recommend just dressing up and getting a drink and appetizer at the bar.
Pretending I’m French and mysterious: Baru 66. I dined alone here once, which was a strangely amazing experience for me. I should have worn stripes and red lipstick. I also took my mom and aunt here as a thank you for throwing me a wedding. A lovely special occasion spot.
Tamales: La Rosa. I buy them by the dozen and freeze them. These remind me of the ones we’d get in Pilsen growing up.
Fancy brunch: Centro. You will not regret getting the French Toast.
Fancy dinner: Django. This doesn’t HAVE to be fancy, and sometimes we go on random nights, but my birthday dinner here last year was a pretty epic chicken dish that made me dream about caramelized pearl onions for months.
Quick Drake-area lunch: Gazali’s. I’m a little too obsessed with their chicken salad. This, coming from a person who almost never orders salad anywhere.
Lunch with a big group of co-workers: Gusto Pizza Company. Call ahead for a big long table.
Random lunch date with Joe: Woody’s Smoke Shack. Free cornbread!

I’d also have to say that the only place I’m really a “regular” is Mars Cafe! It’s that “third space” for so many of us.

I’m also probably forgetting other favorite spots! What are yours? What did I miss?!

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Don’t spend it all at once?

What’s your gift card spending strategy? Are you all about stretching it out and buying a bunch on megasale, or do you see gift cards as a way to go for that splurge you’d never get otherwise?

I used to be the former, but I think I’m turning into the latter — especially when it comes to shopping locally. I’m a huge fan of Des Moines Downtown Gift cards as a way to encourage people to explore all of the unique shops and restaurants in the city and have been lucky enough to be on the receiving end of a few of them, too.

Well, I had been plotting all of the ways I was going to use the sweet Salon Spa W gift card that I “earned” helping them with their Holiday Promenade open house. (If you recall, this was the amazing deal where they made me look like a moviestar so I could delight people with chocolate and champagne for a few hours.) First purchase: the Aveda eye definer. I am in awe of women who have perfect eyebrows. That’s probably super weird, but whenever I get them filled in, it instantly makes me look more put-together. Suddenly I feel like I might be able to look like a lady.

Anyhow, when I stopped in for the eye pencil, makeup guru Gina gave me a coupon for $20 off a facial and suggested I check out the 90 minute options because they incorporate quite a bit of massage. I’m honestly not trying to get all Salon Spa W infomercially, but as I sit in the Village Bean waiting for Ephemera to open up, the tingly sensation on my feet mixed with this Earl Gray lavender tea is taking me to a happy place where I forget that I had to wake up early on a weekend.

I don’t wear makeup alot or often and I’m not a girl who had an arsenal of schmancy beauty products, but there is definitely something to be said for taking some time out to give yourself a little TLC.

If you aren’t able to swing a salon facial (this is my typical route): bath + nice smelling candle + Norah Jones Pandora station + one of those Walgreens minty green masques (when you spell it with a qu it’s fancy). Oh and I totally have on of those wire head massage things that, especially when employed by a love one while you’re sipping a cheap Malbec, can melt away a bad day.

Okay, end of the gift card and the end of my Oprah moment.

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Filed under I love Des Moines