As I have been away from home for college for two years now, I have increasingly appreciated the culinary scene in my hometown of Des Moines, Iowa.  In the past few years the Court Avenue and East Village areas have exploded with new bars, gastropubs, and restaurants.  With all of these tasty restaurants in one pocket sized city in the middle of Midwestern corn fields, Des Moines deserves to be put on the map for its cuisine.

1. Zombie Burger

A favorite among people from Des Moines, this zombie themed restaurant has garnered national culinary attention for its innovative shakes and burgers. One of the most popular burgers is the Walking Ched, which has two deep fried macaroni and cheese buns, even more mac and cheese on the burger itself, topped off with a couple bacon strips. In all of my attempts, at most I have only been able to finish about a third of this burger.  Their cake shakes are also among their most popular beverage items, because they combine your choice of cake batter with the ice cream; mix it all together and you've got a whole lot of yum.

2. Centro

Ahh Centro, a personal favorite of mine.  Their signature pizza with the bullseye sauce pattern can be bought in house or made ready for takeout. Centro is one of the only places in Des Moines you can find pizza that actually compares to pizza in Italy, because they use a brick oven to make it.  Don't be fooled though, you can get great Italian sodas, pasta, and brunch at this restaurant as well!

3. Open Sesame 

This Lebanese dive is an unexpected find in the middle of Iowa, but that makes it all the more scrumptious. The entire restaurant is Instagram worthy, from the food, to the décor, to the mural on the side of the building. You really can't go wrong on the menu.  The rose lemonade, or sharbat, is like nothing you've ever tasted (in a good way). The falafel, hummus, pita and shawarma are also some personal favorites of mine. If you find yourself hungry in the East Village, I definitely recommend checking this place out.

4. Uncle Wendell's

In the state with three times as many pigs as people, there is no shortage of BBQ places in Des Moines. Uncle Wendell's takes a unique twist on its corn bread by adding jalapeño that makes it stand out in a delicious way. They also have savory baked beans, brisket, and pulled pork.  With a large catering business, they would also be a great option for your next large gathering.

5. Fong's Pizza

Definitely the only restaurant of its kind in Des Moines, this Asian fusion pizza joint is known for its crunchy crab rangoon pizza and cheesy egg roll mozzarella sticks. Don't knock it before you try it!

6. Malo

For anyone searching for a restaurant to give them their taco Tuesday fix, look no further.  This authentic Latin restaurant is known for its a la carte tacos, chicken tortilla soup, and its margaritas.  A great place to go out for dinner/brunch with friends.

7. A Dong

Not the fanciest restaurant in town, but definitely worth a trip.  A neighborhood favorite, this Vietnamese restaurant is loved for its steamy stir fry dishes, flavorful pho, and tasty boba teas.  Also, I dare you to keep track of the time between when you order and when your food comes.  I guarantee it will be under 5 minutes.

8. 801 Steak and Chop House

By contrast, this is one of the nicest restaurants in town.  As shown in the picture above, you can find the best steak in Iowa here, yummy Brussels sprouts, great wines, and specialty deserts for a special occasion, or a nice night out on the town.  This restaurant also prompted the chain of 801 Steak and Chophouse's since it has been such a staple in Des Moines.

9. Wasabi Tao

Not only the best sushi in Des Moines, but also the best I've ever had. Wasabi Tao aims to bring New York sushi taste to the middle of cornfields in Iowa, and they do it so well.  The miso soup and Fuji Yama roll are to die for, but you really can't go wrong on their menu.  The gigantic Buddha in the middle of the restaurant is a popular statue to take selfies with as well.

10. Americana

Probably the most popular brunch spot in Des Moines at the moment.  You'll need to make reservations for their Saturday or Sunday brunches at least a week in advance, but it is oh so worth it. Great service, bottomless Bloody Mary's and mimosas, a custom grilled cheese station, and a build your own breakfast taco station -- Americana's brunch is unforgettable.

11. La Mie

This French bakery is a favorite of the Roosevelt neighborhood, but gained so much notoriety that it opened up a second express location for lunch downtown.  Anything you order will be absolutely scrumptious.  They serve everything from macarons, to fresh baguettes, to sweet pastries, to sandwiches and salads.  

To wrap up, Des Moines and Iowa in general is often overlooked because we are perceived to be only an agricultural state.  Yet, the breadbasket of America makes some pretty great food in its own right.  Hope you are a bit hungrier than when you started reading and are planning your next trip to Des Moines.