Best cafes in Des Moines for fall drinks and things to do
Hello Hello! I’m Hannah, the Register’s retail reporter, and me and my Akita mix, Sheba, are new to Des Moines – so let’s be friends!
Welcome to Off Hours, a new weekly newsletter on all entertainment matters from the Des Moines Register. Written by occasional guest reporters and writers, we can’t wait to show you what we do during our off-peak hours – from camping to concerts to hooking and everything in between. Can we have three cheers for the weekend?
Here’s the deal: Moving sucks. There’s heavy furniture, a lot more junk to pack than you ever thought possible, and a lot of novelty and change. My dog ââis in a panic and it’s expensive and stressful.
To clarify, I am one of the newbies to the registry. I arrived in the metro in May 2021 from the Quad Cities. It’s not far, but it’s still a lot of boxes.
Six months later, I can happily say that Des Moines is starting to feel right at home. The summer has finally cooled and I am settling in to the rhythm of the city as fall approaches.
* Follow the applause *
My first order of business was to find a reliable source of caffeine. Finding a great cup of local coffee after a move is my favorite way to feel at home in a new city. There’s something about establishing a new routine that helps me feel great – and coffee is a real staple of my routine.
Fortunately, Des Moines is full of local cafes. The first one I visited, of course, was the one within walking distance of my new apartment.
On the edge of historic Sherman Hill, where oak trees frame century-old homes, sits Smokey Row Coffee. Smokey Row’s location contributes to its appeal, especially in the fall, when the towering trees turn from green to yellow to orange.
It’s a simple treat to wander around the neighborhood, counting the squirrels and dogs on their way to pick up an oat milk-iced Americano (and maybe a piece of tiramisu). Maybe I’m just addicted to caffeine and sugar, but Smokey Row is where I first felt at home in Des Moines. It’s often very busy with students buried in laptops and textbooks and smiling people happily talking about their days.
Having coffee in Smokey Row, usually with a book or a friend, made me feel like I was part of the Des Moines neighborhood and ecosystem. When you’re new to a city, sometimes you just need to find the perfect mug.
My Top 3: Des Moines cafes for cozy fall drinks
1. Coffee in a garland: Attached to the East Village location of Raygun is Daisy Chain. Formerly a Mars Coffee establishment, Dan Bosman opened the reinvented coffee bar in 2020 with a menu built around his own locally harvested honey. Enjoy Dan’s beekeeping and order a honey latte with honey and cinnamon, a honey and lavender latte, or a refreshing honey lemonade.
2. The Slow Down Coffee Co.: Tucked away in historic Highland Park in Des Moines, Slow Down Coffee Co. is truly a gathering place. Stop in for a book club meetup or poetry reading while sipping on one of their seasonal slime-worthy lattes. Brown Sugar Bourbon, S’mores and Salted Maple Black Walnut are currently in rotation.
3. West End architectural recovery: The custom furniture and event salvage center doubles as a coffee bar – and it’s one of the coolest places in Des Moines. I’ve been catching up on their HGTV series since doubling down on a Cubano and a White Chocolate Raspberry Latte on a recent visit. Pro tip: Order first, then give yourself plenty of time to browse the rooms full of ancient treasures as you sip.
Following:Off-peak hours: âMeatâ with the best butchers in the Des Moines region, yoga in a plant oasis and cheesy corn cakes
Eat this, drink that
Pumpkin Rangoonies, $ 6 for four: Lucky Lotus Pumpkin Rangoonies – deep-fried wontons stuffed with pumpkin puree with cream cheese and mixed with cinnamon sugar – are the hot treat we all deserve this fall. I’ll hang on to anything pumpkin spice stuff until after Thanksgiving (at least), so I ordered a sweet pumpkin nut spice Thai tea with coconut milk ($ 4) for complete the perfect dessert.
You understand:Lucky Lotus is open for lunch and dinner on weekdays, dinner on Saturdays, and closed on Sundays.
Army and Navy, $ 9: When I first moved to Des Moines, people always asked me if I had ever visited Bartender’s Handshake. I’m happy to report that the hipster cocktail bar lives up to the hype. Their Army & Navy interpretation was divine. Egg whites and nutmeg added a creamy warmth to the classic tangy cocktail.
You understand: Open everyday from 2 p.m. to 12 p.m.
48 hours off
Thursday evening: Start your weekend early with drinks and retail therapy during the Valley Junction Sip & Shop from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Participating local retailers offer drinks while customers shop. Five Monkeys Inc., a paint pottery workshop, is keeping the party going from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. so buyers can customize their own ceramic wine glasses for $ 25.
Friday night: On the first Friday of each month, Mainframe Studios has a free open house style event where you can visit artist studios while enjoying food and live music curated around a particular theme. This Friday, stop for a celebration of Latin and black culture that includes film screenings, photo exhibitions, and a fashion and flower parade. Don’t miss the fun from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. or you’ll have to wait until December.
Saturday night: I’m the newest Iowa Wolves fan since moving to Des Moines – I love watching basketball. Find me cheering them on during the Des Moines NBA G-League basketball team’s season opener on November 6 against Sioux Falls Skyforce at Well Fargo Arena. The game starts at 7:00 p.m. and ticket prices vary.
Following:Off Hours: Celebrate Halloween in Des Moines with Scary Movies, Pie in a Glass and Murder Mysteries
As her review on GoodReads puts it, Trick Mirror is about “the incentives that shape us and how hard it is to see yourself clearly in a culture that revolves around you.” I just finished Jia Tolentio’s Trick Mirror and have so many thoughts. Get it from Beaverdale Books to enjoy it with one of these cozy lattes and let’s start a book club!
Around the city
My day job
Thanks for reading and hanging out with my words! Pull me a DM on Twitter @byherodriguez, or follow my work at the Registry. Lately I’ve been writing about the pandemic’s effect on Thanksgiving shopping, the Hy-Vee shenanigans, and the latest Valley West Mall news. Check back next week to hear from our first guest writer, Barb Becker, the brewer at 515 Brewing in Clive.
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