Tag Archives: restaurants

Des Moines Dates: Strudl Haus

Ever since I’d heard about the Austrian restaurant Strudl Haus opening, I’ve wanted to try it. My tastebuds were craving the flavors we experienced on our Austrian honeymoon in 2010, and I’d heard it was a delightful spot.

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This morning, Joe and I decided to take advantage of Emmett’s playdate and make a day-date for brunch, with baby carrier in tow. What a difference five and a half years can make in a marriage! While we aren’t currently in a position to book a flight to Salzburg, it’s a mini-escape to hop on Indianola Avenue for a taste of Europe on Des Moines’ near south side.

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The small, sunshine-colored cafe opens into a compact dining room of unexpected elegance. A case of pastries catches the eye as you walk in – convenient if you’re just swinging by for a simple breakfast or dessert treat.

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We navigated the narrow room and took a seat in the burgundy-upholstered back booth, where we were quickly greeted. The crowd was an mix of couples and families with well-behaved small children who seemed excited about an after-Church treat.

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For starters, we split Nutella crepes, and for brunch I opted for the omelette with sausage and Joe went for the Strudl Haus eggs (served over easy and smothered in hollendaise sauce). The food was delicious, but the little details – like the coffee service on silver trays and petite chandeliers on the ceiling – made the meal feel special. We reminisced about all of the food we enjoyed on our honeymoon, and were in-and-out in about an hour.

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The spot impresses me as super-versatile — as perfect for a weekday morning coffee and croissant as I imagine it would be for one of their more expensive themed wine dinners. Since Strudl Haus specials change frequently, it would be smart to check their Facebook page or call to see what the weekly offering may be. Prost!

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Des Moines Dates: East Village Hipster edition

Driving downtown on Saturday night, Joe and I realized how long it’s been since we’ve been out — sans baby. I almost opened the sun roof and howled at the moon. Really, I checked my phone every five minutes to make sure I didn’t have any texts about baby meltdowns.

Some friends offered to watch Emmett, and we hemmed and hawed about what to do on a kid-free night. We’ve been wanting to try Louie’s Wine Dive, which is nearby, but the news that I have to cut out dairy for awhile made me not want to go anywhere that would cause me to lust after menu items I can’t have.

So instead we decided to do a totally hipster East Village date: Dinner at the vegan New World Cafe followed by drinks at Up-Down, Des Moines’ new “barcade.”

My handsome date, about to challenge me to the “Iowa” course on Cruis’n USA:

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I wouldn’t say that New World Cafe exudes romance — it’s really more of a lunch spot — but it was fun to try something new. The menu here changes weekly and is influenced by what’s available seasonally. Joe got the East Walnut Street Burger: a walnut-veggie-quinoa patty topped with pickled veggie slaw, tomato jam, parsley-cashew “aioli,” arugula and sunflower sprouts. I ordered the Mexican Bowl: a mix of grains, beans, roasted potatoes & yams, veggies, avocado and green herb salsa. It came topped with a  smoky cashew “cheese” that gave the dish that melty flavorful finish I come to rely on (too much?) from the real thing.

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We were both worried the meal wouldn’t be filling, but it was nice to not feel overstuffed after dining out — and I didn’t feel the need to make myself a midnight snack!

Up-down was packed; it definitely feels like the new hotspot. We got an invite to the preview party, but it was while Emmett was in the hospital after his surgery, so had to miss out on being the cool kids who get first dibs on skee ball. But I did beat Joe for our first best-outta-three round! (Those are not our scores below.)

Are you following Up-Down on Instagram?

Are you following Up-Down on Instagram?

I grew up being terrible at video games — totally move the controller with my hands instead of pushing the buttons. And at public arcades, I mostly had to pretend to play because my parents would never give us quarters. Up-Down was offering double tokens before 8 p.m., and all games are just one token, so we got to play quite a bit on $3. My go-to games are skee-ball and pinball, and we hit up those, but we both became mildly obsessed with Burgertime.

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You basically run around trying to assemble burger patties before little fried eggs and hot dogs kill you. You can destroy them by throwing salt on them or plopping a bun/lettuce/patty on top of them. It’s totally sophisticated.

We have a few friends we do informal babysitting trading with, but Joe and I also joined a local babysitting co-op that uses an online point system to track sits. It’s a nice alternative to having to pay a sitter, and when you request a specific date everyone gets e-mailed with the option of picking it up instead of you having to make individual asks. One of the women from the co-op lives just down the street from us, so it’s introduced us to some new neighbors, too!

P.S. What’s the going rate for babysitters these days? 

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Lunch date: Hotshots Hotdoggery

Joe and I had been itching to try Hotshots, the new “craft hotdog” joint downtown, so his second-to-last day of paternity leave, we decided to squeeze in a lunch date and let Emmett tag along.

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Overall, I really like the concept (maybe I’m just a sucker for menus with clever naming?) and the look of the place, but I think there’s room for improvement in the dog-finishing department.

I ordered the Valentino Rossi ($6.95), an Italian link with Scala Sunday gravy, provolone, Romano, caramelized peppers & onions and tater tots on the side. It sounded like it had all of the components of a delicious grinder like the ones I love to get at the State Fair. Unfortunately, the bun couldn’t handle all that goodness, and got soggy and completely fell apart. (Toasting the bun may have helped?) I’d also kind of expected the cheese to have a broiled, melty and browned effect, but it was drizzled on cold. I ended up eating mine with a fork. The tater tots were nicely spiced, but nothing addictingly special.

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Joe was more pleased with his dog (he snarfed half of it before I could snap a photo), the Marlon Brando – $7.50 (kielbasa, spicy mayo, bologna, cilantro, jalapeno, pickled carrots, onion & radish), which he got with a side of pasta salad. We ate outside and the pasta had a nice summer picnic feel to it.

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Both of us agreed that we expected the dogs to come grilled; I think that touch of char marks and burnt crunch could be the missing link to a great dog.

To celebrate the countdown to the State Fair and satisfy my lingering craving for a good grinder, I got all of the components to make them at home this weekend as a special treat! I’ll let you in on the recipe, too. Joe entered a lemon basil beer into the State Fair contest this year, which sounds like the perfect sip to pair with it – don’t you think?

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Weekend recap: Full stomachs, lots of friends

I didn’t nab tickets to this weekend’s beloved Des Moines Blue Ribbon Bacon Fest, but I don’t think I missed out in the full belly department at all.

Friday: Headed downtown for the Des Moines Metro Opera “Wine and Food Showcase,” which turned out to be the ultimate elegant tasting buffet.

My friend Laura corralled a group to go in on a ticket deal, making the all you can eat/drink evening benefit $35. I didn’t know what to expect (people were in everything from jeans and T-shirts to attire that would be fitting as a wedding guest), but it was actually a pretty laid back experience, with attendees milling about, sampling and running into a bunch of friends.

One of the most interesting offerings was a wine (Pink Catawba)/gelato float that and Tassel Ridge Winery and Chocolaterie Stam concocted. Splash also had a bunch of great mini offerings, and Tartine had killer cannolis. It was a good reminder of some other great local restaurants I want to get back to.

Plus, who can resist a photo booth and props? Clearly not this group:

Saturday morning was spent at a literacy event, then brunch at Americana with a group of lovely ladies. I honestly think the Americana brunch is overrated and overpriced, but I do love the loooooong benches and atmosphere. I sat on a side with two women I’ve met only a few times, and am excited to build friendships with them!

After that, I popped into Ephemera to bring lunch to Arin and Karen. It was busy, busy, busy in the shop, thanks to sunshine and lots of new brides. It felt great to spend a few hours down there, like I used to when Joe would work during the weekend.

Ephemera snapshot via Pitter Patter Clunk .(Those are her sweet candle cake toppers.)

I love the photos of Ephemera in this post, too. Marissa captures Iowa life through a truly magical lens and her designs are amazing. (I haven’t really met her yet, but we share so many friends in common, it’s extra fun to see them all pop up on her gorgeous blog.)

During my downtown adventures, Joe was with the guys at an IPA tasting hosted by a friend. His homebrew came in second place in the blind tasting, which is pretty awesome, considering all of the other options were from craft breweries!

This morning I met up with some other friends for a mini Mardi Gras parade, which was the perfect excuse to break out my beads, cheetah print gold stretch pants and pirate hat. I got to check out the newly redone Library Cafe (which is only a few blocks down the road) and was delighted how much it has been elevated from underage college kid dive to a warm little neighborhood pub. And I hear the nachos are still just as good.

Good thing I’m sporting the elastic pants, because the afternoon was spent making America’s Test Kitchen dinner rolls from scratch (which I was pretty proud of, until I realized I left out the salt!) and putting together my belated Valentine dinner for Joe.

Now, to wind down the weekend with the Downton Abbey season finale.

I am completely obsessed and will be sad to see the season end. If you also have a mad crush on Cousin Matthew, here’s a cute video of him reading Jack & the Beanstalk. I have pretty much no excuse to be watching this, but he even does character voices! (Thanks, Refinery 29!)

Oh, and my amazingly fantastic boss (who is also a huge Downton fan) sent me this link that features a bunch of pictures of the Downton Abbey characters in the 21st century! Gasp!

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