Feast on Local During Des Moines Restaurant Week

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By: Kelsey Johnson

Let critics say what they will about the “coolness” of Iowa’s metropolis, but one thing that cannot be denied: Des Moines has great food. An urban oasis centered in one of the largest agricultural states in the country, there is no denying we have the ideal recipe for dining perfection. SO perfect, in fact, that diners often come to the city overwhelmed with options, all of which seem more delicious than the last. Unfortunately, most people don’t have enough room in their stomach or the expendable cash to spend on the array top-notch restaurants around town, and thus only scratch the surface of the fine dining Des Moines has to offer.

However, the week after the State Fair and before school starts has been a historically slow time for the restaurant business and lucky for us locals a great idea was born.  Enter the brain-child of Connie Wimer, owner of the Des Moines Business Record: Restaurant Week.

“It’s a great opportunity to bring local people into local restaurants they’ve never been to before,” said Greg Edwards, CEO and president of the Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau, and an avid supporter of the project.

Des Moines Restaurant Week features more than 30 participants around town–10 of which are BFBL members. From August 16-25, “The metro area’s innovative and talented chefs will create special fixed-price menus that will showcase their palate-pleasing cuisine for pocketbook-pleasing prices,” meaning that diners will pay $25 for two lunches or for one three-course dinner. And if world-class, affordable dinning isn’t enough to get you out of the house; when you visit four participating restaurants and submit your receipts, you will be entered into a drawing to win a trip for two to Sonoma County.

While some restaurants are completely revamping their menus for the occasion, others are simply adding a twist to old favorites. But throughout the pack one theme persists: heavy reliance and utilization of local ingredients.   “Our menu is mostly the same though we did twist it,” says Splash Seafood. “We use a lot of Farmers Market stuff with it being just down the street from us.”

With a huge range of produce fresh this time of year, chefs don’t have to compromise variety for seasonality. Lucca ordered an extra 100 Ibs of their locally sourced heirloom tomatoes for the event. HoQ will be serving Grade A Gardens potatoes, Maytag blue cheese, Reichert’s Dairy Air goat cheese, and other produce and meats from Greater Des Moines farms.

Django also hopes to impress restaurant goers with the best in-season food Iowa has to offer, “We brought new items in for Restaurant Week.  We’re trying to utilize local produce and food items whenever possible,” they said, including a sweet corn pizza that’s all locally sourced.

Des Moines Restaurant Week offers a unique chance for restaurants to show off for people that might not make a habit of dining out. A win-win for all involved with the effort.

“If you talk to the restaurants involved I think they would wholeheartedly tell you it has been a success for them as well,” said Greg Edwards. “I hope the event drives more business into locally owned restaurants and gets more exposure for the great opportunities for local people and local dining.”

BFBL member restaurants include: Alba, Baru 66, Centro, Django, Dos Rios, The Gramercy Tap, HoQ, Lucca, Sbrocco, and Splash Seafood