16 Best Restaurants in Des Moines, IA [2023 Updated]

Des Moines is a capital city nestled in the lower middle half of Iowa. The town is known for its Maid-Rite sandwich and Steak de Burgo, but it has a wide range of restaurants from which to choose.

Check out this listing of the 16 Best Restaurants in Des Moines, IA.

Buzzard Billy’s

$$ | (515) 244-2899 | WEBSITE

Buzzard Billy's Best Restaurants in Des Moines, IA

While the name Buzzard Billy’s might not sound too appetizing, the flavorful food will make you change your mind! It offers the best in Cajun and New Orleans food – in the middle of the country!

Where else can you get appetizers like Gator Fingers (alligator tail) and Armadillo Eggs (chicken tenders wrapped in bacon and stuffed with jalapenos).

The Cajun nachos have Cajun sausage, banana peppers, and mozzarella cheese. The seafood gumbo is delicious and is perfectly paired with the Bayou Platter. Try the Chicken Tchoupitoulas, a Native American dish, for a special treat.

 

Kelly’s Little Nipper

$ | (515) 265-2031 | WEBSITE

Kelly's Little Nipper Best Restaurants in Des Moines, IA

Kelly’s Little Nipper offers a little of everything on its menu. Appetizers such as bacon-wrapped tater tots, cheese balls, or loaded French fries are so good that you may not want to share them with everyone!

Try a meal in a basket – brisket, chicken strip, fish, or jumbo shrimp, all served with fries. If you are in the mood for a great sandwich, try the 1/2 Pound Sausage Sandwich with Graziano sausage, peppers, and marinara sauce with melted cheese.

You won’t leave hungry with options like grilled cheese, homemade breaded giant tenderloin, and Kelly’s Club! Kelly’s also has delicious pizzas – you can even build your own.

 

Maid-Rite

$ | (515) 309-5495 | WEBSITE

Maid-Rite Best Restaurants in Des Moines, IA

You cannot visit Des Moines without going to the iconic Maid-Rite! They have been serving up Maid-Rite sandwiches since 1926.

There’s the original Maid-Rite with loose ground meat, but you can also get the Cheese-Rite (the original with American or cheddar cheese), the Blue-Rite (with blue cheese), or the Jalapeno-Rite (the original with melted cheddar and jalapenos).

There is a pulled pork sandwich for BBQ fans, tenderloin with lightly breaded pork, or vegetarian wrap and salad options for those on a diet. In addition, add some fries, chips, coleslaw, smoked baked beans, onion rings, and Maid-Famous chili.

And what could be better than adding a root beer float to your meal?

 

Smitty’s Tenderloins Shop

$ | (515) 287-4742 | WEBSITE

Smitty's Tenderloins Shop Best Restaurants in Des Moines, IA

Smitty’s does one thing and one thing best – tenderloin sandwiches! Actually, there are other options, but why bother when Smitty’s has been serving up the best tenderloin sandwiches since 1952?

You can even get different tenderloin sandwich options – breaded, veggie (not vegetarian, but served with veggies), chili cheese, and taco.

Pair one of those delicious sandwiches with a side of fries, onion rings, or cheese curds for the perfect lunch or dinner. Little ones will love the kids’ menu for Lil Smittys – grilled cheese, chicken nuggets, hot dog, hamburger or cheeseburger.

 

Bubba

$$ | (515) 257-4744 | WEBSITE

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Bubba offers the best southern comfort food in Des Moines. Get started with the Southern Bread Basket with buttermilk biscuits, cornbread muffins, or the deviled eggs topped with pecan smoked bacon.

Those looking for healthier fare might want to try the Southern Protein Bowl with kale, sweet potato, avocado, bell pepper, sunflower seeds, and quinoa.

Sandwiches like the Kentucky Hot Brown are tasty, but there are also mouthwatering entrees like the Shrimp & Grits, BBQ Meatloaf, and Succotash-Stuffed Chile Relleno. Try the Bananas Foster as a great dessert to finish the meal on a high note.

 

Lachele’s Fine Foods

$$ | (515) 330-6876 | WEBSITE

 

 
 
 
 
 
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If you’ve never had a Smashburger, you need to try one at Lachele’s. The Lachele includes a single or double patty, pickle, romaine lettuce, American cheese, onion, and the special LFF sauce on a sesame bun.

In fact, many dishes come with LFF sauce, like the Tot Philly (a vegetarian sandwich with tots, onion, arugula, pepper jelly, poblano, and cheese sauce on a hoagie) and the Judy (spicy giardiniera, fries, green onions, and American cheese on a hoagie.

Lachele’s spiced tots, chili, hush puppies, or house French fries made a great side to any sandwich!

 

Lucky Horse Burgers and Beer

$$ | (515) 381-9088 | WEBSITE

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Sometimes, you find yourself craving a delicious burger with a cold beer, and you can find exactly that at Lucky Horse Burgers and Beer.

You may want to share something like the pork egg rolls, cheese curds, or buffalo cauliflower as a starter. Try a great salad like the chicken ranch, fried egg and chickpea, and burger salad. But, let’s face it, the burgers are why you are here.

Try the scrumptious Dogtown Burger (with hot pepper bacon jam), the Baja Burger (with guacamole and pickled jalapenos), Black Bean Burger (a vegetarian option), or the Pickle Burger (with sriracha mayo).

If you love cheese, you should give the Four Cheese Grilled Cheese (with American, Swiss, cheddar, and mozzarella) a go! The drink menu includes a wide variety of beers.

 

Tacos Mariana’s

$ | (515) 288-1499 | WEBSITE

Tacos Mariana's Best Restaurants in Des Moines, IA

Tacos Mariana’s offers authentic Mexican food at an affordable price! A classic “hole in the wall” type of place, the super tasty pupusas are their specialty and served with slaw and a side of sala.

Locals love the taco barrio, steak tacos, chicken enchiladas, queso fundido, and gorditas. Add a fresh bowl of guacamole with homemade chips or beans and rice for a perfect meal! Wednesday night is taco night, with $1 tacos!

 

Aposto

$$$ | (515) 244-1353 | WEBSITE

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Aposto is a great dinner restaurant that features a small yet humble menu of great dishes. Small plates include cardin, cuppa, giardano, or pizza fritta.

The Charcuterie includes meat and cheese selections, pickled veggies, house pate, with crostini.

For main dishes, you may want to try the scallops, sweet potato gnocchi, Lemmo’s cavatelli, or berkwood osso bucco. Try the homemade ice cream, olive oil cake, or chocolate torte if you save room for dessert.

 

Railroad Bill’s Dining Car

$ | (515) 243-0247 | WEBSITE

Railroad Bill's Dining Car Best Restaurants in Des Moines, IA

Although it’s not in a real dining car, Railroad Bill’s embraces the classic diner culture. Visit and get a great meal at a great price!

Only open for breakfast and lunch, the breakfast menu – which includes biscuits and gravy, omlets, and hash brown platters – is available all day. T

he Breakfast Nacho Slinger includes sausage and home fries smothered in cheese, sour cream, avocado, and Pico de gallo. The lunch menu offers THE best handheld favorites – Dagwood Club, Bill’s Burger, Reuben, Patty Melt, and BLT.

 

The Stuffed Olive

$$ | (515) 243-4456 | WEBSITE

 

 
 
 
 
 
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The Stuffed Olive has incredible food, but can we first talk about the martinis? You won’t find any better anywhere in Des Moines.

Almond Joy Martini, Apple-tini, Birthday Cake Martini, Cactus Juice Martini, or the Cucumber Martini – you will have difficulty choosing just one!

As for the food, pair one of those fabulous martinis with popular items like the Cajun salmon with a side of mac n’ cheese, seared ahi tuna with a side of sauteed vegetables, or the chicken and spinach risotto.

Try the seasonal cheesecake, creme brulee, or macaroni flight if you want something sweet.

 

Tupelo Honey

$$ | (515) 513-5922 | WEBSITE

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Tupelo Honey is delicious and centrally located near many Des Moines entertainment venues, like the Iowa Events Center, and the Wells Fargo Arena.

Chef Gabrynowicz might suggest you start your meal with Spicy Cauliflower Bites, Crispy Brussels, or the Famous Fried Green Tomatoes.

Southern entrees such as Tupelo Shrimp & Grits, Smother Chicken (with milk gravy), a farm-fresh vegetable plate, or chili limb roasted half-bird (chicken) will please everyone.

The bone-in fried chicken is brined for 18 hours, can be drizzled in honey, and includes one side.

 

Zombie Burger + Drink Lab

$$ | (515) 244-9292 | WEBSITE

 

 
 
 
 
 
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What makes a Zombie burger a Zombie burger? The Zombie sauce, of course!

In addition to their famous Zombie burger, you choose your protein (special grind of beef, grilled or fried chicken breast, veggie nut patty, beyond meat patty, or grilled Portobello) for the East Village of the Damned burger, 28 Days Later, Undead Guy BBQ Burger, Mushroom Apocalypse, or the They’re Coming to Get You, Barbara.

You can get add-ons like a fried egg, bacon, or vegan American cheese. Want a side? How about fried Brussel sprouts, cheese nachos, or crispy fried pickes?

 

Proudfoot & Bird

$$$ | (470) 240-8660 | WEBSITE

Proudfoot & Bird Best Restaurants in Des Moines, IA

If you find yourself in downtown Des Moines, you will want to check out Proudfoot & Bird for fine dining in a romantic atmosphere.

Small plates include dishes like butternut squash soup, Greek salad, warm ricotta, and truffle parmesan fries. If you are looking for a heartier meal, try the P&B pork tenderloin sandwich (with mustard and homemade pickles), Alaskan Salmon (paired with horseradish cream), or the Chicken BLT tartine.

Add an incredible side like charred carrots, mushrooms, kohlrabi, or broccolini.

 

The Breakfast Club

$$ | (515) 280-5251 | WEBSITE

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Who doesn’t love breakfast all day, especially when paired with breakfast cocktails? Sweet breakfast entrees include the Breakfast corn dogs (with a maple butter batter), cinnamon twists, and s’more donut holes.

If you love breakfast sandwiches, try the New Benny Better – an English muffin, ham, and poached egg smothered in hollandaise sauce.

There is also French toast, pancakes, and loaded hashbrowns. These dishes go great with the Banzai Bloody, the Mango Mary, Key Lime Pie Mule, or the Morning Martini.

 

Rosati’s

$$ | (515) 805-2915 | WEBSITE

Rosati's Best Restaurants in Des Moines, IA

Who says Des Moines doesn’t have great pizza? Rosati’s has options everyone will love. Quick munchies include cheesy bread six, breaded mushrooms, or Rosati’s dough nuggets (with a side of marinara).

You can get any type of pie you desire – build your own, Fabulous Four (with Italian sausage, onion, green pepper, and mushroom), Chicago Style, Meat Mania (italian sausage, bacon, meatball, and pepperoni), or the White Pizza (a vegetarian option without pizza sauce).

If you are really hungry (or feeding a lot of people), try the Rosati’s Monster, which includes a little of everything!

If you aren’t in the pizza mood or want to add a little something extra, try the wings (including boneless), pastas (did someone say lasagna?), or a freshly made sandwich (Italian beef, Italian sausage, or Meatball Parmigiana).

 

Summary

Des Moines is a city filled with fabulous cuisine, often found in restaurants with quirky names (Kelly’s Little Nipper, Bubba).

However, no matter what type of food or atmosphere you are looking for, this list of 16 Best Restaurants in Des Moines, IA, has something for you!

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