Des Moines’ fifth annual Restaurant Week kicks off Friday and continues through Aug. 26. The event is a celebration of all the delicious food Des Moines has to offer, and the creative ways talented local chefs can prepare it.
Thirty restaurants will create special fixed-price menus to showcase their cuisine. Diners will pay $25 for two lunches, or $25 for one three-course dinner, an easy-on-the-wallet price for quality food with a local, seasonal focus (such as Django’s Sunstead Farm tomato, prosciutto, spinach, onion and basil pizza, and Luna Bistro and Catering’s achiote rubbed barramundi, made with potatoes, Iowa sweet corn hash and cilantro lime butter).
“It’s a great opportunity for people to get out and experience new restaurants and eateries they wouldn’t have otherwise,” said Anthony Johnson, executive chef at Mojo’s on 86th. “From a customer’s point of view, it’s a great value and encourages them to try places they may not have at full price. From a restaurant’s point of view, it’s a good opportunity to create a special menu and play around with fun things they may not have initially thought of trying.”
Johnson’s ever-changing menu at Mojo’s always features “as many fresh and local ingredients as I can use,” he said. Restaurant week is no different, although preparing a menu around fresh ingredients in advance can be a hurdle during restaurant week. “It’s a challenge to use local stuff,” he said. “You plan in your mind that certain produce should be ready and at its peak, but you never know how the weather and other natural effects can increase or prohibit production.”
Johnson plans to serve Iowa sweet corn soup, which he said may or may not pan out, thanks to the drought and poor crop. But plenty of other options, including his pumpkin gnocchi with creamy mushrooms and Gorgonzola, and a pastrami and cured salmon croissant will be ready to go.
The West Des Moines Marriott’s new restaurant, Two Rivers Grille (which opened in May of this year), is also participating, and putting a local stamp on its widely embraced American-style bistro food. Its bistro tender de burgo, for example (the restaurant’s version of the Des Moines classic steak de burgo), is made with Graziano sausage and will be served with local produce. Lump crab gazpacho, salmon provencal and a Gran Marnier creme brulee are a few other Restaurant Week menu items.
Des Moines Restaurant Week
What: A showcase of the city’s great restaurant scene and talented chefs
When: Friday through Aug. 26
Where: 30 area restaurants
Cost: $25 for two lunches or $25 for one three-course dinner
• Baru 66
• Bistro Montage
• Cafe di Scala
• Chef’s Kitchen
• Cosi Cucina
• Court Avenue Restaurant and Brewing Co.
• Dos Rio
• Gino’s West Glen
• Trostel’s Greenbriar
• Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse (both locations)
• Latin King
• Luna Bistro and Catering
• Mojo’s on 86th
• Raccoon River Brewing Co.
• Splash Seafood Bar and Grill
• Taki Japanese Steakhouse
• Tally’s Restaurant, Bar and Catering
• Two River Grille