Eating out again: Here's what's new and changed in Des Moines metro post-pandemic

Elle Wignall
Des Moines Register

It's finally summer and this one, especially, we're ready to get out and try new restaurants after an era of home cooking, takeout orders and tired baking trends.

Even with the odds stacked against them, Des Moines metro restaurants found creative ways to survive. New food options have appeared every month. Take-and-bake kits, to-go cocktails and pop-up concepts were little beams of light at the end of a long, uncertain tunnel.

So, let the oven gather dust. Go out for that special cup of coffee. Grab lunch on-the-go or splurge on happy hour as you return to your offices. Explore the city’s newest restaurants or wine and dine with your friends and family at long-time favorites.

Here's a helpful guide to what's new, still great and worth a stop.

— Elle Wignall, Register dining reporter

Local dining guides

Patio season is underway, and we've rounded up the best of the best: If you can't decide where to soak up the sun, use this list to choose your adventure.

Explore all that local producers have to offer at area farmers' markets: It's well-known that the Downtown Farmers' Market is back after a year off, but other metro markets are also making a return with different dates and seasonal produce.

Metro restaurants are still offering great take-out and delivery options: Here are nine places to try if you aren't quite ready to dine in. 

University Avenue corridor in the Drake neighborhood home to several diverse newcomers: Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, new restaurants continued to populate storefronts near Drake University. Here are seven places to check out. 

Here are 14 new restaurants that have opened or plan to open in 2021: From brunch to date night, these eateries offer new experiences for  metro residents' taste buds. 

New grub to grab this summer

Good News Darling, an experimental cocktail parlor, opens downtown:The bar is nestled within Hello, Marjorie and serves culinary-focused cocktails in an intimate space. 

Black Cat Ice Cream returns in new location and Home Sweet Cone debuts in Waukee: Cool off with a cone of locally-produced ice cream at two new locations.

Chicken Heat food truck turns the spice up a notch with Nashville chicken sandwiches: Try their hottest sandwich, the Holy Heat, for a chance to make it on the wall of fame, or cry trying. 

Lachele’s Fine Foods, boutique diner, thrusts customers back in time with classic diner feel: Ingersoll Avenue's newest burger joint smashes the patties so thin the edges crinkle and serves these juicy creations on an extra-sesame-seeded bun with a signature sauce.

Build your own loaded French fry basket at new food truck What the Fries: Choose from four cuts of fries and countless toppings or try a specialty creation like funnel cake fries, which make Ingersoll Avenue smell like Adventureland, according to customers.

Second Franka Pizzeria location opens in Clive this August: The owners of St. Kilda Surf & Turf pivoted to pizza during the pandemic and have seen success with their wood-fired, Neapolitan-style slices. 

West Glen Town Center gets new Italian-American restaurant, Anna Dolce: A collaboration between two hospitality groups, Anna Dolce puts a fresh spin on classic Italian dishes. 

More:The Des Moines metro is growing fast. Here are some of the biggest projects happening around town

Take a trip out of town for a new dining experience

Bambino's Bino Burger takes the crown in this year's Best Burger contest: Located in Ossian, Iowa, population 800, the Bino Burger shines with a no-fuss, 7-ounce patty and customizable toppings.

Find your favorite hamburger at one of these top burger joints around the state: Every year Iowans vote on the best burger across the counties. How many of the winners and finalists have you tried?

Changes around town

Table 128 leaving Clive after almost a decade: The upscale, modern American cuisine restaurant is moving to Des Moines proper, but West Des Moines diners have until July 24 to eat in the original space.

Eastside landmark Latin King changes ownership:After 38 years the Tursi family sold the Italian-American eatery to a Kansas City-based restaurateur with other Des Moines establishments. Bob Tursi has been the face of Latin King for decades, and long-time patrons and staff weighed in on the legacy he leaves behind. 

The state of the industry

COVID-19 jeopardizes future of Iowa's small-town restaurants: Rural restaurant owners struggled to stay in business and faced different challenges than their city counterparts.

Des Moines entrepreneurs pivot to food businesses during pandemic: With the uncertainty of the job market during COVID-19, some locals took matters into their own hands with fresh food concepts.

Iowa makes it easier to dine with your dog: Iowa bars and restaurants are no longer required to apply for a waiver to allow pet dogs on outdoor patios.

As crowds return to indoor dining, restaurants struggle to hire enough help to keep up: The restaurant hiring crisis felt around the country is creating long waits and impatient customers and has some wondering where all the workers went.

Downtown restaurants still see slow business as workers trickle back: Downtown Des Moines' business district restaurants have largely been supported by weekday lunchtime crowds, but that customer base disappeared during the pandemic.

It's a seller's market:Your guide to real estate in the Des Moines metro

Foodie events to add to your calendar

World Food & Music Festival returns to Western Gateway: This September, Iowans can eat their way around the world without venturing far from home at the 17th year of this multicultural festival.

This list will be updated throughout the summer — check back as we add more.

Elle Wignall covers dining for the Register. Reach her at Follow her on Twitter @ElleWignallDMR.