Des Moines, IA?

I’m heading down with the SO this weekend for a concert and wanted to know what to see, where to eat, what to avoid, etc, etc.

(The concert’s at Vaudeville Mews so any descriptions of that joint’s appreciated too!)


It’s been a while, but I used to love to go to the Spaghetti Factory on Court Avenue. There are a number of restaurants in that area though, so I’m sure there are others you’d like.

I’m not familiar with the venue you’re going to, or where it is. If you have some time to kill during the day, the Art Center is quite good. It’s on West Grand Avenue, and there’s a very nice park around it.

If you’re farther north and west, you could try the Machine Shed Restaurant at Living History Farms. Really good American style food. (Chops and steaks, etc.)

The thing you’ll want to avoid in Des Moines is Des Moines.

Otto <— parents live in Des Moines

Thanks Photopat! The art center sounds like a great idea. I’ve been to the Machine Shed restaurant up here in Minnesota (they opened one in a suburb not too far from me) and you’re right, mighty fine steaks there.

Otto, I wish I could, but the concert isn’t travelling up here. I’m going to see John Wesley Harding and his All-Male Threesome, who will also be in Madison at the High Noon Saloon if you get the chance. Here’s a link to a song of his called Ace in the Spiderhole which is a hilarious ditty about Bush “miraculously” finding Osama Bin Laden right before the November elections. (This is a free MP3 offered by the artist himself and the link is off of his website so there should be no copyright infringements…)

There’s a cool little restaurant/bar with GREAT food called Chat Noir in the Sherman Hills area. If you want Thai food, there’s a terrific little place downtown called, I think, Taste of Thai.

That’s about all I can remember from two years spent in Ames, ~35 miles north of DSM.

(Caution: Information is about four years old and should be verified before you go.)

Wait. So you had the choice of traveling to Des Moines or Madison and you chose Des Moines?

Dude…that is just so…dude.

I’d have even bought a round of drinks.

I’ve only been to Des Moines once, but I still wanted to chime in with that. I recall that on every corner (rather every intersection), there was a) an auto parts store or b) strip club. I couldn’t figure out how a town of that size could sustain so many strip clubs. Of course, they all looked very small, so I suppose there was a limit to the number of people who could fit in.

But seriously. That part of Iowa’s not that populated.

Well the state legislators like their entertainment, you know.

Just like the other parts.

Well, that part of Iowa is highly populated. It is the largest city in the state after all. As to the strip clubs, you must not have gone very far from downtown, and even there are only a few.

There are a lot of auto parts stores though.

I don’t mean to get defensive, since I do live in Chicago after all, but I’ve spent a lot of time in Des Moines since I was old enough to drive and it’s just not that bad of a city. It’s not terribly exciting, granted, but it’s basically a nice place and there are good restaurants and yes, even culture. :eek:

Hmm. Have to agree with Otto. Madison beats Des Moines hands down.

But Des Moines isn’t THAT bad. Especially if you like auto parts stores. Not that many strip clubs left.

Seriously, Des Moines isn’t that bad. What kind of things do you like? Raccoon River Brewing is a decent casual place for dinner downtown.

For more information you can get a copy of the bookLet’s Keep Des Moines a Private Joke by Iowan Dan Hunter.

I know, I know. Madison would be the better choice. But, since the concert’s on a work night there, it’s easier to go to Des Moines. Plus, it’s an adventure! (I’m trying to psyche myself up for Iowa here).

I did check out’s listing of the state’s oddities. Only one is in Des Moines. “Des Moines: Giant cow and calf”. Anyone know where this is? (Anyone reading this and making the “L” sign on their foreheads too?)

We’re thinking that it’s gonna be a good city for steaks. So I think that’s what we’re gonna be eatin’ for one of the meals.

For all interested…:

Saturday morning, My boyfriend, his golden labrador Brandy, and I all take off for Des Moines with an iPod full of songs and a gleam in our eyes. It took about 5 hours with all of the stops to get down there from St Paul. We headed straight to the Motel 6 (they’re good about taking dogs) out in West Des Moines. A nice, apparently affluent 'burb that I took some flack for because it was so out of the city. As we later found out, this was a good thing.

We took the dog for a walk and then put her back in the room before we headed downtown. The road from the west into downtown is called I-235. This road is both friend and foe especially when it comes to mapquest. Since mapquest didn’t know that the whole city was under construction including I-235. (Incidentally, I-235 has its own website explaining the mess). Needless to say, the maps were pretty soon disregarded as we just found our way around the city. Our first mistake was a bit of luck as we took the wrong exit only to find the large cow and calf from the’s website. Not impressive so we kept driving.
We made it downtown and toured around until we got to the river and Locust Str (I believe) where there was a beautiful view straight up to the capitol building. We got out and hiked by the people fishing for catfish off of the bridge and went what was probably a mile and a half to the front steps. We went through the metal detectors and wandered up to the multi-storied rotunda. It was a bit dizzying but gorgeous. After exploring on our own a bit we managed to glob on to a tour group as they were going into the capitol’s library. Four stories high with a white iron spiral staircase on either side and walkways all around the circumference of each floor. The guide mentioned that there is a secret trapdoor on the second floor that is lifted under the carpet to reveal a stairwell to the Supreme Court’s chambers. Cool. The tour continued on to the Senate and then the House of Representives room. The final part of the tour was a stair climb up to the lowest of the three walkways around the inside of the dome. About 4 stories above the ground floor, it was an interesting architectural tour (apparently the top two walkways are by reservation only but seemed already daunting to me since I was getting a bit disoriented by this one already. I’m not acrophobic but I could learn to be.)
We got back to the truck and tooled around the city for a while just to see the quality of life there. After 20 minutes of that we headed towards the botanical gardens. They had some interesting plants and trees, a nice herb garden but the surprising items were the three kinds of outdoor cacti that they had growing that apparently are indigenous to Iowa.
It was about 4 o’clock and really, really naptime. We stopped off at a gas station to pick up some pop and snacks and it was, well, an “interesting” part of town. Luckily we got to see a nice argument between a customer and a cashier about whether or not the pack of unopened cigarrettes they had without a receipt could be returned. I wanted to stay and watch to see how it would end. O well, so we headed back to the Motel 6. We got up about an hour later, played with the dog outside and got ready for the evening. We had mapped out the city while driving around earlier and found the venue for the concert and saw that the Spaghetti Works that Photopat mentioned was a block away. When we got down there around 7:30 we found that people do indeed come to downtown Des Moines. What was a former ghost town was now a well populated area and after seeing the line at Spaghetti Works we noticed an old railway depot turned into a German Restaurant called Bitburger. We ordered a couple liters of their imported german beers and had some Sauerbraten and Rouladen. Mighty tasty stuff there.
We walked over to Vaudeville Mews which was a tiny little two floor venue that probably would seat about 100 people. The table right up front was open so we took it which was really convenient since I was doing a bit of work while the concert was going on. I’ve been working with John Wesley Harding for a couple months, transcribing his 13 CDs and assorted other songs to be put up on his website. So while he was playing, I was writing down the capo position, the fingerings, chords and tabs as quickly as I could. Probably looking like I was channeling someone as I looked up as I was writing. The concert was great, JWH was supported by Dag Juhlin (from Poi Dog Pondering) and Scott McCaughey from The Minus Five and just about to go on concert doing back-up for R.E.M. After the concert, we thanked JWH for the tickets and he invited us to hang out and have a beer with him. We chatted with him, Scott, and a bunch of other people from Minneapolis only to find out that most of the crowd was from Minneapolis. Go figure.
As we left the concert, we found that we were in the epicenter of a drunken college experience bar closing. About five hundred kids hanging out and a bouncer with a bullhorn prompting them outside to keep moving. We saw a fight break out in the middle of the street and were hit up for money 3 times in the two block walk to the car. We were ready to leave Des Moines.
Sunday morning we woke up and were distinctly ready to leave this city. We checked out, filled the tank of gas, and stopped at a Sonic because I haven’t been in ages and was craving the cherry lime-aid. Maybe it was the sugar, but we decided to detour on over to Waterloo,IA and then shoot up north from there to Austin, MN. Part of it was the fact that we had already seen those cornfields on I-35 once and wanted to see some other cornfields. Waterloo made for a quick Dairy Queen stop and a rather bland peek at the downtown.
We made it up to Austin, MN at 3:30. For those not in the know. Austin, MN is the home of Hormel Foods. More importantly, Hormel is the manufacturer of the infamous Spam and the Spam Museum. Yes, an entire museum enshrined to Spam. The spiced ham product. It closed at 4:00 so we had a scant time to see the whole museum and its nineteen points of interest. The wall of Spam which had 3500 cans, a salute to the WWII Spam-eating veterans, Chez Spam which showed famous chefs from around the world’s Spam recipes, and of course, the Monty Python clip about Spam. The whole museum was wonderfully tongue-in-cheek and if it’s even en route to where you’re going. Take a gander at it. It’s more than worth the free admission.

What else can I say? Next time, Madison, WI :wink: