As we were driving toward the Greater Des Moines Botanical Center last Sunday, we started realizing that the road leading there was chock-a-block with parked cars. Sure enough, we weren’t the only people with cabin fever, eager to get out of the house albeit not into the bitter cold tundra that is Iowa right now.
The Botanical Center is smartly offering blues concerts every Sunday from Jan. 7 through March 25 and I heartily recommend. The music – by local favorite Bob Pace, who I’m told plays regularly at The Gas Lamp downtown, although not to as huge a crowd as provided last Sunday at the Botanical Center – was good, as was the people watching and the very welcome green and leafy tropical hothouse setting. What a joy to see growing and flowering plants, especially at this time of year. The sun poured through the center’s glass dome, reminding us what it felt to actually feel almost hot. It felt great.
Avocado fries and a view at The Republic
Afterwards, we stopped at The Republic on Grand, the very stylish but welcoming bar at the top of the six-story AC Hotel in Des Moines’ East Village that I’d yet to visit, mainly because I don’t go to bars much. This one has great views of the city and was quiet and welcoming. We had some outstanding avocado fries (avocado slices dipped in what looked like chickpea batter and fried) — delicious!
The new St. Kilda Bakery & Cafe, tucked away in an emerging downtown neighborhood of old brick warehouses converted into lofts and newly constructed apartment buildings, grabbed my attention initially because its owner is London-born and Australian-raised and promised an “Australian-style cafe.” That’s new for Des Moines. Then I learned from a friend – a Des Moines native who lives in Brooklyn’s stylish Prospect Heights neighborhood – that St. Kilda’s owner previously ran a bar/restaurant in her NYC neighborhood. (Apparently he’s married to a Des Moines native, hence the move here…)
Anyway, St. Kilda (named after the owner’s hometown near Melbourne) has an urban contemporary vibe and “modern, healthy-style” food, based on my first lunch there last month. Located in the attractively renovated warehouse now known as the Harbach Lofts, south of MLKing Parway downtown (a few blocks northwest of Principal Park, home of Des Moines’ minor league baseball team, the Iowa Cubs), St. Kilda is a small but airy tan-grey-white space with pale hard wood, concrete and redbrick. My friend Denise and I shared the avocado toast (an entree that appears to be all the rage today) and a steak salad with a poached egg on top. Both were attractively presented with clever ingredients (beyond smashed avocado, the toast included charred corn, feta, tomato salsa; the surprisingly light steak salad included figs, pears and a bacon vinaigrette) — so not as ordinary or easily-made-at-home as you might think. I look forward to trying dinner there sometime soon. (Here’s DSM Mag’s take)
A hall full of food truck fare?
Looking forward to checking out The Foundry which opened recently in West Des Moines’ Valley Junction. See: Details here!
The invigorated Hoyt Sherman continues to offer great performances, most recently one last Monday by one-of-a-kind singer/songwriter Regina Spektor who soldiered her way through 2.5 hours of performing almost completely solo on stage, sometimes accompanying herself on piano or guitar, even singing a Capella, while battling bronchitis. Pretty gutsy and very talented. So pleased that Hoyt Sherman is once again offering phenomenal shows (Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson, Ben Harper, Lucinda Williams, Regina…to name a few)!
Here it is! Click here! (This is the photo taken by my friend Denise…that was used below. And yes, that’s me riding….)
Good thing Dirck remembered that there is a new place to stop, as we were riding our bikes on the Neal Smith Trail near Birdland Marina on Des Moines’ East Side Sunday. We rode right past Captain Roy’s, without noticing it, but backtracked and found a pleasant little clearing with outdoor tables and a deck overlooking the Des Moines River, as well as a food truck serving burgers and chicken and waffles and a small building with a takeout window for beer and other drinks. We sat in the sunshine, watching the occasional boat go by on the Des Moines River, enjoying a late summer/early fall day.