Des Moines: Diamond of the Midwest

des_moines_03Des Moines is nothing short of a rare gem.  A unique and polished beauty.  A product of her environment and it’s inhabitants.  Growing up I always hated Des Moines.  I aspired to things “greater” than could be offered in my mini metro.  Things I thought only existed in Chicago, New York, San Francisco.  I saw nothing but a dull rock, and I underestimated the combination of elements that would convert this city into a stone to be treasured.  Des Moines’ culture is a pairing of traditional Midwestern manners with a hint of big city hip.  Our proximity to Chicago and Minneapolis ensure easy access to the bustling metros, and our nationally centralized location and world-renowned work ethics invite some of the largest corporations to plant roots in our midst.  Despite the economic stresses of the past several years, Des Moines seems to have flourished with enthusiastic and motivated entrepreneurs taking flight and thriving.  And here are a few of my favorite shining facets….

  • The Cheese Shop – http://thecheeseshopdsm.com/
    • This charming shop is right off the 42nd street exit, and has a hole-in-the-wall NYC vibe.  You can dine on their fresh small plates, or house favorites like mac-n-cheese.  I’ve never had something I didn’t rave about.  You can pair a wine with something stinky, or enjoy a juice with something mild.  Not a cheese expert?  That’s ok, because they are.  Without the snooty pretentious thing.  They’re like a little family of cheese-loving hippies that set camp in Des Moines  And we’re lucky they did.
  • The Tyler Osby Team (at Fairway Independent) – http://applywithtyler.com/
    • In need of a mortgage or refinancing?  Get in touch with Tyler Osby.  His business is his passion.  He makes mortgage fun.  Or at least MORE fun than they might otherwise be.  There are no surprises, no bullshit, and no corporate pencil pushing.  Just Tyler and his team busting their asses for you regardless of your individual circumstances.
  • La Mie – http://www.lamiebakery.com/
    • I can not say enough about La Mie…in part because every time I’m there my mouth is stuffed with pastries.  Simply the best pastries around.  A perfect contemporary location for catching up with friends or leading a business meeting.  Try their egg whites with spinach and avocado.  Or indulge in their almond bars and piles of pastries.  Good god.  The coffee is sinful and the service impeccable.  Take a load off and soak in the aromas of La Mie.
  • Hinge – http://hingeon5th.com/
    • This badass new store rocks everything from vintage decor and comedic signage, to jewelry and funky clothing.  My future purchase plans include an Octopus necklace I’ve been eyeing, and a real cow skin rug.  The chocolate milk kinda cow.  Valley Junction is home to Hinge, and lucky for me I suspect they’ll be in business for years to come.
  • The Village Bean – http://villagebeanco.com/
    • One day, I stumbled into The Village Bean for my regular and inquired about almond milk being available.  They didn’t have any, but the owner heard my request and appeared from the back.  He said if I could spread the word, he would be more than happy to buy some almond milk to have on hand.  Now just about many members of our gym (just down the street) frequent this customer-focused coffee-house to get a friendly caffeine fix.
  • West End Architectural Salvage – http://www.westendsalvage.com/
    • If you don’t know about West End, you live in a cave.  In the heart of downtown, it’s an old brick building that houses some of the most amazing vintage pieces available.  From around the country, Don Short and his crew round-up spectacular junk and transfer it into custom designs that aw and inspire.  The marvelous maze of vintage collections will hold you hostage, so wear your walking shoes and bring your plastic.
  • CrossFit 8035 – www.crossfit8035.com
    • Call me biased (as one of the owners), but I love our beautiful box.  Just off East 6th Street near the Capital, our location makes for easy access to anybody Downtown or on the interstate.  Our gym is clean, and our trainers and members are welcoming.  We destroy workouts as a community and encourage personal development mentally, emotionally, and physically.  Join us!
  • Waveland Café – https://foursquare.com/v/waveland-cafe/
    • I was never a hashbrown fan.  Until Waveland Café.  Two words; everything – hashbrowns.  The crispy fried potato goodness is always prepared fresh.  They’re mixed with fresh veggies of all sorts, given a kick with some jalapenos, and topped with just enough cheese.  A small side will leave you full, happy, and hankering these tasty taters for days following.
  • Screenscape Studios – http://www.screenscape.tv/
    • Think production studios only exist in Hollywood?  Think again.  Screenscape Studios is one of the largest production houses in the Midwest and can attend to a variety of on-screen needs from commercials and web videos, to interactive games and applications.  The people are passionate, the work is wonderful, and the location is local.
  • Des Moines Art Center (Restaurant and Rose Garden) – www.desmoinesartcenter.org
    • The Des Moines Art Center is not just a killer gallery of great artistic treasures.  It’s also home to a restaurant (soon to be Baru at the Art Center) that serves the most wonderful plates to guests seated near a crystal clear pond.  And it’s back yard happens to be a natural reflection of the art inside, with a rose garden that makes for an awe-inspiring walk or a colorful photographic backdrop.  For food or frolicking, don’t overlook the Des Moines Art Center.
  • Hiland Bakery – http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/62/670840/restaurant/Highland-Park/Hiland-Bakery-Des-Moines
    • I love doughnuts.  All kinds.  I consider myself a bit of an expert on the subject matter.  I enjoy Dahl’s doughnuts quite a bit, but nothing can compare to the Hiland Bakery doughnuts.  Get there early (before 7:30am) if you’re in need of some delicious doughy delicacy, because when they’re gone they’re gone.  And to miss out is oh-so-sad.

The pursuit of exquisite gemstones is an ongoing conquest.  People worldwide appreciate the value and beauty of a rare stone.  Raw and buried, the greatest rocks in the world are often hidden from view.  But with the right people, and the right tools, a stone can be retrieved, polished, and cut into a precise and brilliant beauty.  Des Moines is rare moon rock.  A 50 carat find.  The blue heart from The Titanic.  A freakin flawless diamond.  A Midwest gem.  Behold her dazzle.

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