Snacking Between Classes: A Guide to Grazing in Des Moines

To outsiders, Des Moines is just a city in the middle of the massive cornfield that is Iowa.  But for anyone who takes a closer look, Des Moines has a lot to offer, starting with food.


 Woody’s Smoke Shack

Even though Woody’s is truly a shack, maximum capacity indoors is approximately twenty people, their championship barbeque and community atmosphere more than makes up for the small space.  If it’s a nice day, enjoy some delicious barbeque out on their less crowded patio.

Cuisine- Barbeque

Location- 2511 Cottage Grove Ave. Des Moines, IA

0.6 miles from Drake University

Under Fifteen Dollars- Woody’s Best Meal Deal includes one meat (brisket, ham, pulled pork, ribs, or chicken) and two sides- $8.95.  For the meat, I would recommend their award winning baby back ribs.  Their cheesy potatoes and coleslaw are a great pairing for sides.  And be sure to grab some free cornbread at the front, too.


 ***Palmer’s Deli and Market

From their fresh-baked bread to their hand-sliced meats and cheeses, Palmer’s is a great change of pace from other lunch locations.  They sports dozens of local awards from Cityview and DSM Magazine; once you taste it, the reason is obvious.

Cuisine- Soups, Salads, Sandwiches

Location- 2843 Ingersoll Ave. Des Moines, IA

1.2 miles from Drake University

 Under Fifteen Dollars- The Apple Orchard- roast turkey, provolone, granny smith apple slices, apple butter on a ciabatta Kaiser- $6.39, four ounces of their Trees and Raisins salad- $1.39, and a Palmer’s brownie- $1.49.


 ***Tasty Tacos

A Des Moines area classic, Tasty Tacos has been serving up family recipes for fifty years. There always seems to be a fairly long line around lunch, but it’s worth the wait.

Cuisine- Mexican

Location- 3751 Douglas Ave. Des Moines, IA

2.0 miles from Drake University

Under Fifteen Dollars- If you go to Tasty Tacos, you must order their signature dish- the original flour taco- $2.85.



With a four-star menu, Centro’s food will not disappoint.  But that’s not all they have to offer.  Boasting a knowledgeable wait staff, fine dining becomes much more approachable at Centro.

Cuisine- Italian

Location- 1003 Locust St. Des Moines, IA

2.7 miles from Drake University

Under Fifteen Dollars- Go with a friend and split the Quattro Formaggi pizza-$16.  Try one of their fantastic side salads, I would recommend the Centro-$5.50 or the Spinach-$7.50.  It’s not a cheap, but it’s money well spent.


 Des Moines Farmer’s Market

Although there are many farmers’ markets located throughout the metro, Des Moines’ has the largest variety of vendors and happens to be the closet to Drake, too.

Cuisine- Farm-fresh meat and produce, homemade desserts, variety of local eats

Location- 300 Court Ave. Des Moines, Iowa

2.8 miles from Drake University

Under Fifteen Dollars- Farm Boys breakfast burrito-$5.50, located across from The Royal Mile on 4th street.  Spend the rest on locally grown produce.


Fong’s Pizza

Fong’s puts surprising twists on classic bar food and pizza.  With monthly specials that introduce new pizza, drinks, and cheesecakes, Fong’s knows how to keep a menu fresh and interesting.

Cuisine- Pizza, Chinese

Location- 223 4th St. Des Moines, IA

2.8 miles from Drake University

Under Fifteen Dollars- Ten-inch Crab Rangoon Pizza on white thin crust- $11.99.  Their signature pizza is absolutely delicious, but incredibly filling.  The ten-inch should be enough for two people and some leftovers.


Zombie Burger + Drink Lab

Zombie Burger is one of Des Moines’ most recent editions, and you guessed it, the restaurant is zombie themed.  Located in the East Village, it’s a great place to grab a burger before shopping around downtown.

Cuisine- American

Location- 300 E Grand Ave Des Moines, IA

2.9 miles from Drake University

Under Fifteen Dollars- Shakes-$5, flavors vary, but the friendly wait staff always has suggestions.  The Walking Ched-$7.49- Burger with cheddar cheese, bacon, caramelized onions, with fried macaroni and cheese buns.  The Walking Ched is not for the faint of heart- share with a friend, even if you think you have never been hungrier.


Dos Rios

If you enjoy fresh Mexican cuisine, outdoor dining, and downtown Des Moines, Dos Rios might just be your soul mate. Their authentic flavors take them a few steps above the average Mexican restaurant.

Cuisine- Mexican

Location- 316 Court Ave. Des Moines, IA

3.2 miles from Drake University

Under Fifteen Dollars- Their Guacamole Mashed Tableside, half order- $5, is their signature dish.  Dos Rios Tacos, ranging from $3.50 to $5 (dependent on type), are another good choice.  They are small, so order two.


Washabi Chi

Though it’s admittedly in a less than glamorous location, Wasabi Chi is one of Des Moines’ best-kept secrets. They haven’t been open for a year yet, but it’s a restaurant that knows how to provide guests with great service and even better food.

Cusine- Sushi and Asian

Location- 5418 Douglas Ave. Des Moines, IA

3.5 miles from Drake University

Under Fifteen Dollars- If you are feeling adventurous, go for the Izumi San Roll- blackened tuna, asparagus, salmon, yellow tail and barbeque eel, with a special sauce- $11.95.  But if raw sushi isn’t your thing, the Green Peace Roll- sweet potato tempura, mango, cucumber, asparagus, sliced avocados, with a champagne mango sauce- $10.95, is a great dish as an introduction to sushi.


 ***Waterfront Seafood Market

Waterfront brings seafood right from the dock to the table and offers a large variety of local and not-so-local fish.  Expect whatever is seasonal to be on the menu that week.  You can even purchase fish to bring home to prepare.  Though if you are living on a dorm, this is not something I would recommend.


Cuisine- Seafood, Sushi

Location- 2900 University Ave. West Des Moines, IA

5.9 miles from Drake University

Under Fifteen Dollars- Get a cup of the award-winning New England Clam Chowder- $4.95.  Pair it with their appetizer size of Crab Cakes- $8.95.  I would not recommend getting water or iced tea to drink, West Des Moines has notoriously awful water.

***Indicates multiple locations

Abbey Maynard



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