Des Moines is Cool Now

Davis Ward at Des Moines coffee shop
Davis Ward; Culinary Tour Host

3 years ago, I wanted nothing but to live somewhere else. I dreamed of foreign customs and mega cities. I never thought id appreciate my birthplace to the point of writing about it. I don’t have to wait long for the single lane of traffic to slow down before I get out of my car. I close my door hard and step out onto the sidewalk towards a popular bistro. As I look up at my city, I think to myself: “When did Des Moines get so damn cool?”

What do you think of, when you think of iowa? Is it corn? Maybe the Iowa Caucus? Or did just think of Ohio? They sound similar I guess, I don’t blame ya. Iowa is a bit of a flyover. That’s part of the reason that makes Des Moines so unique. Almost like a rural city on the edges of France, Des Moines is a place where the connected world was so far for so long, natives didn't even have the option to be the “same” as anyone else. It’s loud in the bistro, clashing dishes infuse with the the sounds of eager conversation. I’m close enough to the kitchen, I can hear the chefs calling out preparations for my dumplings. Cities close to populated areas or natural landmarks end up emulating those natural people pleasers, with really no chance to form their own identity, as long as they were the “same”. Iowans had no idea what would even be the “same”. So the people of Iowa became what they wanted to be.

Davis Ward Des Moines Tour Host

The exotic cocktail I ordered starts feeling warm in my belly. Looking over the menu I think the popularity of the downtown farmers market has definitely had some impact on the food culture of Des Moines. While coming from humble beginnings, the market now features over 300 different venders from around the farming-oriented state. So it’s easy to assume that most iowan natives like to keep dishes simple, when really we use just use those quality simple ingredients to make something new. I really can’t wait to show people just how hard Des Moines is trying. We’re out here, in the middle of some of the last colonized land in the world, trying to provide a good time for everyone. I pay my bill, finish up this paragraph, and head out.

Passing by the sculpture garden, and some of the pieces along the riverwalk, Des Moines certainly feels hip, and as my car begins to echo throughout the east village, I can see my “check engine” light is on. Mind has been occupied with ideas for this blog post, I haven’t even thought about how long I’ve needed an oil change.

Nodding to the bartender as I take a seat. “Hot Rum and Crab Cakes.”

Takes me a full hour to savor every bite and sip. Big perk of working for the tour company is knowing where to get the best food in my area. Only writing I get done is this paragraph, and as I begin to leave, I start craving some caffeine.

Davis Ward dining in Des Moines

Only chosen because it was in the center of the state, Iowans have known Des Moines as their capital since 1855. A feeling of importance, combined with a history in convenience, has paved the way for what it is today. With low taxation rates and high foot traffic, restaurants in Des Moines have been stepping their game up, more and more, every year. If your entire life is involved in the crops for that current season, you might want a little insurance. Combined with so many farmers in the state, the insurance industry boomed. With the increase in capital, comes an increase in population, which means a higher demand for more eateries. Lunch and dinner restaurants starting, growing, and spreading. As my cravings come to a boiling point, I reach my destination

The front door is already open, I ask to sit with a view of the main dining room, and order a single espresso. Sugar dispenser is my hand before it even hits the table. Chunks of sugar rain into my cup. As I finish up my first blog post, I start asking myself, what really makes Des Moines such a great place? It's the people. The people try.

I leave a good tip as I finish up my beverage. While not striving to be the biggest, prettiest, or even the cheapest, the city of Des Moines is exactly what the people living in it want it to be. The easiest.

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Author: Davis Ward