Best Food in Des Moines

This past weekend I had the pleasure of visiting lovely Des Moines to catch up with friends, eat, set up a new apartment, eat, and also do some eating. Honestly, I didn’t realize how much I missed the food of Des Moines until I came back into the fold over these past couple days. Now I’m no culinary expert, but I have seen some Top Chef in my day, and let me tell you, the ‘ol DSM can dish up some meals worthy of the flawless Padma Lakshmi. I’ve listed some of my current favorites below, but what are your top DSM restaurant picks? Where do I still need to try?

Best Pizza Joint- Gusto

Though it might not technically be in the Drake neighborhood, Gusto really is the perfect local pizza place. With cool Italian-inspired pizza combinations (like my fav The Stallion) and perfect location just minutes from campus, it really has become my weekend go-to. One time I even saw a professor and her family there, so if that isn’t cute I don’t know what is.

Best Ice Cream- Snookies

Okay, so ice cream may not formally be considered food, but to me, it’s the most important food there is. And Snookies does it better than anybody. An old-fashioned malt shop with awesome dipped cones, the place is a Drake neighborhood must. In fact, it’s one of the earliest places I visited with my FYS during welcome weekend my first year. Seeing the families, students, kids, and even dogs all hanging out eating ice cream together made me know I made the right college decision.

The awesome, quirky back deck at Centro. Just kidding! It's Mullet's.

The awesome, quirky back deck at Centro. Just kidding! It’s Mullet’s.

Best Fancy Dinner- Centro

I’m not gonna lie to you, this place is not exactly budget friendly (unless you have the budget of a midwestern James Bond). But it is the place to celebrate big occasions or simply splurge a little on incredible food. And now that I’ve finally figured out how to pronounce “Centro”, I’m excited to go back. Wait, it’s “chen-tro”, right? Oh, no. I’m still not sure.

Best Game-Day Food- Mullet’s

The game in this case is baseball, but really, Mullet’s is good anytime. It’s a quirky place with a beautiful outdoor deck overlooking the river and Iowa Cubs stadium. And while all that is nice, it’s not as nice as the delicious sweet potato tots you can get there. Oh, and did I mention the copious photos of mullet-clad gentlemen that line the walls?

Best Location- Dos Rios

I know this makes me sound a little basic, but you really cannot beat Dos Rios chips and guac. Seriously, they’re the best. Plus, there’s nothing like sitting out on the patio in the heart of downtown Des Moines’s Court Avenue district with all the people, all the restaurants, and all the guac.

That Intern Life

Ah, summertime. It’s the season for relaxation, long days by the pool, and simply having fun. For these three months in the year, one can simply unwind, sleep, and eat excessive amounts of ice cream. JOKES! Sadly, as a burgeoning real-life adult, I have sacrificed summer fun in the name of work. No longer are my days spent lounging and soaking in the sun. Instead, I have joined the workforce, hoping to build my professional skills and make the world a better place. Call me a hero if you will, but…no actually, I am kind of a hero.

Seriously, though, I’ve had an amazing summer thanks to a couple of incredible opportunities to work in my dream field. I’m learning the ropes of non-profit communications in the best way possible: doing meaningful work for some awesome organizations in my hometown of St. Louis. My two summertime internships are very different experiences, but equally rewarding ones. And despite the loss of sun and ice cream time, I honestly wouldn’t want to spend my summer any other way.

The view from the rooftop deck at MCE, overlooking St. Louis' beautiful South Grand neighborhood. It's basically the penthouse of the non-profit world.

The view from the rooftop deck at MCE, overlooking St. Louis’ beautiful South Grand neighborhood. It’s basically the penthouse of the non-profit world.

My first job is as a communications intern with the Missouri Coalition for The Environment. I’m working specifically on a healthy food systems project to edit, promote, and distribute MCE’s St. Louis Regional Food Study. As I’m working to help educate others, I’m also learning a ton myself about our how our environment and health are connected. The internship allows me to combine traditional PR skills with editing with public outreach (my favorite component). In fact, next week, I’ll be facilitating a roundtable discussion among local organizations to brainstorm ways we can make our food healthier and safer. And did I mention the discussion will be held on MCE’s beautiful rooftop deck? Nbd.

As much as I love my work with MCE, I’m equally enthralled with my other summer internship at Pedal the Cause. Pedal is another St. Louis non-profit that hosts an annual bike ride for local cancer research. And maybe the coolest part? 100 percent of the funds raised through the ride go directly to cancer research. I’m working as a marketing and journalism intern to run social media accounts and write and pitch stories about Pedal participants. It’s a lot of responsibility, but I could not be more excited about it. Yet, again, I’m learning from incredible people, getting to do incredible work, in an incredible location…just steps from the lovely Busch Stadium.

So, in retrospect, maybe summer is still pretty great after all.

Drake vs. Drake

This week, Drake takes its turn in the spotlight hosting Wednesday night’s ESPY awards. But where will we accommodate the nation’s celebrities and athletes? Do we have a venue big enough for all those muscles and egos? The answer is no, but not to worry, because alas, the ESPYS are hosted by Drake the rapper, not Drake the University.

One of these Drakes is from 1881 and the other is from 1986. I'll let you puzzle out which one is which.

One of these Drakes was founded in 1881 and the other was born in 1986. I’ll let you puzzle out which one is which.

You see, the two Drakes have haunted me for a while. When I first wore a Drake shirt to high school, my peers assumed I just traded in my Who band tee for something a lot more relevant (I didn’t). But the confusion didn’t end there. All through my college education, people have mistaken my school for a Canadian teen soap opera star. And yeah, that’s tough. I’m not going to lie to you. But after years of fighting the confusion, of drawing a distinction between the two Drakes, I’ve come to accept something: maybe Drake and Drake have more in common than I thought. For instance:

Hoop Dreams

Drake (the human) was recently named the Global Ambassador for the Toronto Raptors. And while I’m still not exactly sure what that means or why Toronto chose a dinosaur in sneakers as their mascot, what I do know is that Drake likes basketball. Meanwhile, we got a little basketball of our own going on in the Knapp Center. The Bulldogs have made their mark in the NCAA Tournament in the past, and after a couple of seasons of fun, dramatic games, I have a feeling we’re headed there again pretty soon.

Tweet, Tweet

Yeah, Drizzy’s made his mark on social media with cryptic retweets, tons of photos, and concert information. But you know who also tweets? That’s right. Drake University. And while an international rap star and an institution of higher education clearly present different social media content, I say they’re both worth a follow.

Identity Formation

Drake is just your everyday Canadian rapper of Jewish and African American decent. But he’s embraced his background, knowing his diversity is what makes him who he is today. One of the things I like best about Drake (the school) is that the identity of our student body is equally layered. Students from all across the U.S. and all over the world make up our campus, creating an interesting mix of perspectives in Bulldog nation.

Made for the Stage

Maybe the most obvious connection between the two Drakes is their shared high level of artistic, musical, and dramatic talent. From his famed Degrassi days to his stint as an SNL host, to his international tour, one thing’s for sure: Drake’s got no shortage of talent. But the same can be said of the university. I’ve attended jam sessions in the Turner Jazz Center, improv shows, and a performance of Twelfth Night all on a Drake stage. And that’s pretty cool. Maybe even as cool as Aubrey Graham himself.

Des Music of Des Moines

This weekend marks the annual 80/35 Music Festival in Des Moines. While I sadly will not be able to make it this year, somehow the festival has found the strength to proceed without me. And I couldn’t be more excited for/jealous of my friends who will be there. It’s a great lineup of musicians I’ve loved for years (Dr. Dog, Best Coast, The Envy Corps, Conor Oberst, Cake…), and local artists I’m just now falling in love with (MAIDS, Max Jury, Parlours, The River Monks…).  I mean, come on; it’s gonna be great! If you’re telling me you didn’t jam out to “First Day of My Life” back in the day, then you are a boldfaced liar, cause that stuff is indie gold. As is the whole lineup, actually.

Last year’s 80/35 was no different. I caught a really cool mix of local artists and big-time acts. Some of my favorite times were listening to the incredible Dustin Smith then heading over to catch the equally incredible Yeasayer followed by the David Byrne and St. Vincent show to end all shows. And all of this music set against the beautiful downtown Des Moines skyline? It’s perfect.

But 80/35 is not just a one-time phenomenon. In fact, the festival is symptomatic of something that all us residents know to be true: Des Moines is consistently an incredible music city. It’s a small enough town that great artists get a chance to grow and you get to see them do it. But the city’s also big enough to host tons of festivals, showcases, and music venues. I’ve seen jazz, rock, metal, hip-hop, indie, folk, and more all within the city. So while Nashville’s great and New York has a lot going for it, the best place to check out music in this fair United States might just be Des Moines, Iowa.