When I was researching restaurants I could go to for my birthday this year, I started out with the most extravagant options near campus: McDonald’s, Subway, Taco Bell… then, I remembered I had money burning in my birthday card envelope from my parents. For once, I finally had the money to treat myself.
My research extended to higher-end restaurants downtown. I came across reviews for Django, a French restaurant in downtown Des Moines. France coming to farm country? I was doubtful. I expected a sub-par restaurant claiming to be French authentic, but turns out, the Des Moines food scene has more to offer than just corn.
One huge perk Django offers is online reservations. Even before my date and I got to the restaurant, I could make my reservation so easily. And with technical difficulties these days, I was half-expecting an issue. But, the process was smooth as the host took us to our seat. To make your online reservation, visit their page here.
Django has a great, contemporary atmosphere. I also had a great server. He was very on the ball but not a helicopter waiter, there to refill your water every five minutes. He was friendly, knowledgeable and accommodating, giving me a great first-time experience.
To start off the Django experience, every table gets fresh, hot French bread and butter. Warm and perfectly crusted, I hoped that this was the type of bread Peeta would throw me if I were in The Hunger Games.
I ordered a cup of onion soup gratinée as an appetizer. Served in a small crock with cheese melting down the edges (and my face), this soup was good and authentic. While this is not an ideal first-date food, there was a perfect balance between the onion, cheese and bread.
For my main dish, I ordered the croque madame, which is just a fancy name for a ham and cheese sandwich. This sandwich was huge—I only made it through half of it. But, it was delicious. One highlight that made this croque madame better than others I’ve tried was the béchamel sauce on top of the sandwich.
Béchamel is a sauce made from flour, butter, and milk and is used often in French cooking. The sauce is traditionally in pastas like good ‘ol mac and cheese, which you can find here. Having the sauce on a sandwich made the dish stand out—it was so creamy and light. The only downside to having this sauce was I couldn’t eat it with my hands—Django is far from a barbecue joint, where I could’ve licked my fingers.
My date and I got dessert to go: crème brûlée and chocolate cake. Since it was placed in Styrofoam containers, the presentation was pretty non-existent, but the chocolate cake was the better of the two. Served with chocolate sauce and a strawberry on top, this cake was a hit.
The crème brulée was decent but had a little too strong of an egg taste for me, and the caramelized sugar layer made me feel like I was eating rock candy (flashback to childhood road trips with my family).
Overall, I would recommend Django. Sure, it’s on the pricey side, but all of the food is well prepared and full of flavor. If you need to get away from the poor college student life, Django is the place for you.
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