As a middle-aged man carries four tins of Kickapoo Coffee to the register and a hoard of Drake students with their MacBooks feverishly type, it’s easy to tell that Dogtown’s Mars Café has returned. As it has been once before, Mars is a popular Des Moines coffee shop. But the real question for new members of the Drake community: is Mars Café all it’s cracked up to be?
First and foremost, what about the coffee?
Now roasting Organic Fair Trade Certified Kickapoo Coffee, the coffee is undeniably incredible. Nationally recognized as one of the highest quality roasters, it was a smart move by the new owners to switch to their prestigious blends. Concerning drinks offered- the selection has been diluted slightly. There are less specialty espresso drinks, but that is not to say that you can’t get a creative drink. They offer a substantial amount of syrups to add in to your latte, and a killer tea menu provided by Gung Fu Tea-another Des Moines original. If you are looking for a recommendation, I would try their changing daily specials or the Sputnik- a honey almond cinnamon latte.
Is the food still good?
While some corners are cut (such as using Ocean Spray craisins), most of the ingredients they use are high quality. The real difference between Mars and other coffee shops is the care behind the food. Since it’s opening, I’ve been to Mars three times and I’ve seen co-owner Amedeo Rossi working behind the counter two times. The baristas that worked there before Mars’ August closing also returned. All in all, the staff knows what they are doing which really does make a difference in the taste and quality of the food made.
How’s the atmosphere?
Yes, the pun is intentional. An eclectic bunch constantly occupies Mars, currently including a group of men playing nerdy card games, couples on coffee dates, adults working from home and catching up on classes, families out for a late lunch, members of sororities chilling on the comfy couches, and of course, Drake students. Mars Café is a place everyone can enjoy. With an industrial, yet comfortable, setting, the décor can’t help but make you feel a little bit more artistic. The only downfall is the music. Although I love Of Monsters and Men and Frank Ocean, once I’ve heard Sloom six times in a row and the entire Channel Orange record, I’m over the sound. Especially because there are so many university students hanging out in Mars for hours at a time, a change in music every once in a while would be beneficial.
How’s the service?
As in all new restaurants, service can be a struggle at the start. Point blank, the service is slow. However, the service before reopening wasn’t always fast, either. It’s easy to tell that the staff cares and wants to get your order right. As I’m writing this, two baristas taste a sauce for a sandwich to see how they can make it better. In this case, speed may be sacrificed for quality, but I would personally have it this way than the other.
What makes Mars stand out?
Local Art: check. Rad space theme: check. Killer coffee: check. Awesome people: check. If you’ve never been to Mars before, it’s worth a stop by. Whether it’s to watch the miscellaneous bunch that stops by, taste the phenomenal coffee, or to do some much needed catching up on homework, this Des Moines original is sure to please.