Weekend Rewind: Des Moines Food Scene and Dinner at Home

Mitch and I had a great weekend this past Friday-Sunday. We took a little weekend road trip to Des Moines, IA in order to watch some Iowa State basketball. I want to start by saying that if you’re ever headed to the Des Moines metro area, check out the Catch Des Moines facebook/twitter/Instagram for some great lists of starter places. They also use the hashtag #catchdsm to help promote their locally identified, best-of-the-best lists. Each time we have gone, this site has helped us try new restaurants, bars, and events we might not have known about without it!

Our weekend started at Tasty Tacos, an Ankeny, IA establishment, for a quick pre-game lunch.

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Tasty Tacos is an Ankeny original. Located just 10-15 minutes from the downtown core, this little restaurant serves up VERY inexpensive tacos which just can’t be beaten. This is the original flour taco. It’s $3 and is HUGE. For $6, you can, and probably will, be full all day long. There’s something magical about the meat and bean mixture. The family recipe uses a secret spice blend, and it isn’t saucy. The shell stays crisped and puffed the entire time, and you have to try the house salsa. It has a bit of a kick, but it’s addictive on the taco. If this is what flour tortillas are REALLY like, the rest of tortillas need to get on board.

We continued up I-35 to Ames, just 20 more minutes away, for the game. This was an AMAZING game to watch. Iowa State took down #9 Baylor by three points, and Hilton Coliseum went crazy. We were literally on the edge of our seats the entire time. Here’s some highlights from our #cyclONEnation #hiltonmagic #cycloneath afternoon.

After checking into our hotel, we headed out for a night on the town. Our first stop was Cool Basil Thai Restaurant and Sushi Bar. This trendy, but family oriented establishment is fantastic. With a wide ranging menu from sushi and sashimi to noodle dishes to traditional Chinese cuisine like sweet and sour chicken, there is something on the menu for everyone. We opted for noodle dishes that night. One of the great features at Cool Basil is getting to pick your own spice intensity from no spice all the way up to very spicy. They will even bring the spice blends to your table so you can order a lower intensity and add if needed. The food was fast, fresh, hot, and flavorful. Every dish that went by looked amazing. Mitch had Drunken Noodles, and I chose Double Pan Fried. From there, you can add any protein that you want from chicken, to beef, to pork, to fish to personalize this as you like. I am definitely putting this on my list to go back to.

Our night continued with a little downtown bar hoping. Des Moines has a great food and drink scene, and one feature that is really growing is craft beer. Downtown hosts several great microbreweries. On a previous trip, we tried Des Moines’s flagship, Exile Brewing, and fell in love. Even now, when we have the chance, they are the Iowa beer we are buying at the grocery store. This trip we tried two new establishments: Peace Tree Brewing, Des Moines Branch (get what they did there?) and The Iowa Taproom.

Peace Tree was originally an Iowa City staple who has now “branched out” to the Des Moines metro area. Located in the up-and-coming East Village, Peace Tree offers tons of draught beers in a cozy, converted barn. We went for the flight- 5, 3oz samples for $12 to get a wide variety of flavors. They tap every style of beer imaginable, ciders, and even root beer. The bar offers bartop seating, tables, and even lounge chairs where you and your friends can enjoy the whole evening. Warning: the current location is pretty small. Come early if you want to stake out a table as it was packed the whole time we were there. Our second stop was at the Iowa Taproom. As the name implies, the Taproom features ALL microbrews made in the state of Iowa. Their menu spans at least 5 pages and is sorted by type of beer. Each brewery’s name and location are given along with ABV and a short description. The staff is very knowledgeable about the taps and are happy to let you sample before buying. All the beers are reasonably priced, and if you enjoy every one, you get a spot in the mug club wall of fame. This was one of those bars that you could easily get lost spending your night at. With over 200 beers to try, it is definitely a spot we are going back too!

We finished out the weekend with dinner at home on Sunday with the Oscars. We made a large dish of one of my all-time favorite dishes from home: Baked Spaghetti. This take on lasagna-ish food has been my go-to home-cooked meal for years. I love how simple it is to assemble and how easily it feeds a crowd. With limited dishes and prep work, this dish has had a headlining spot tons of birthday and holiday gatherings for as long as I can remember.


Baked Spaghetti

Ingredients:

  • 1lb ground beef
  • 1 jar your favorite pasta sauce
  • Pasta (between 1/2 and a whole box)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 full egg
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese

Steps:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray.
  2. Brown the ground beef in a saucepan. When the beef is brown, add the jar of pasta sauce and let warm.
  3. Boil salted water, and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain well
  4. In a bowl, combine milk, egg, and egg whites. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Add the pasta to the 9×13 pan. Cover with the milk mix. Sprinkle the parm across the top of that. Top with the sauce mix. Top that with mozzarella cheese
  6. Bake, uncovered, for 45-55 minutes until the top has browned. Let sit 5 minutes before serving
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