Power dining in Des Moines – really? If Time – Lifers insist…..


I have friends who work at Time Life publications in NYC who are no doubt very excited at the prospect of moving to Des Moines if there is some sort of merger with Des Moines-based Meredith Corp. NOT. But should it come to that – and it’s not clear that it will – Business week has an amusing story about where to power dine in Des Moines. Frankly I think that’s an oxymoron. People don’t power dine here – that I’m aware of – which is one of the city’s many charms. I could add a few other places to their list…if people just want a good lunch rather than face time.

For what it’s worth – here’s the story below. I disagree on a few points: (although I don’t power dine, especially at lunch. I have been to most of these places, most often for dinner. And I’m not a power broker…)

– Zombie Burger is a fun Hipster burger joint – and almost anti-power dining. Unless you consider pink-haired tattooed boys and girls to be power brokers.

– Alba’s waitstaff is not surly – in my limited experience. Try the guiness shortribs (at dinner at least).

– The Centro and Embassy Club write-ups are the most dead-on

–  For power brokers, I’d add 801 Grand Steakhouse – has that stuffy clubby old white guys with cigars feel, not exactly the hip magazine crowd.

New York’s publishing industry has dined out on lavish expense accounts across Midtown Manhattan for decades. But for the legions of workers at Time Inc., the largest magazine publisher in America, the institution of the “power lunch” may soon experience a stark change of scenery, should Meredith Corp. (MDP) purchase most of Time Inc.’s magazines from Time Warner (TWX) and relocate the operations to Meredith’s headquarters in Des Moines.

For those new to Des Moines’s dining scene, here’s a handy guide.

1. Centro

Helping New Yorkers Feel at Home: Three dishes with “New York” in the name

Funky Decor: A former Masonic Temple

Liquid Lunch: $2 up-charge for hard liquor served “neat.” Where have we heard this before?

Sample Menu Item: Buttermilk Fried Chicken Salad, $15.50

Diner Online Review: “The waiter dude definitely showed some professionalism.”

Power Table: “Undoubtedly table 49,” says Centro co-founder and partner Paul Rottenberg. The corner four-top banquette “provides equal parts privacy and an ideal vantage point to scan the main dining room.” The table’s prime location makes it “enviable for any mover and shaker.”Courtesy Centro

2. Des Moines Embassy Club

Helping New Yorkers Feel at Home: Must be a member to dine here

Funky Decor: 101-year-old chandeliers

Liquid Lunch: Martinis made with fresh ingredients from herb gardens surrounding the restaurant

Sample Menu Item: Lobster Spaghetti, $17

Diner Online Review: The first rule of Embassy Club is that nobody talks (online) about Embassy Club

Power Table: Three “Say Yes” tables, which according to culinary director Michael LaValle are usually occupied by “the president of the bank downstairs, the lead counsel at a local law firm, and the retired head of an insurance company.”

3. Alba Restaurant

Helping New Yorkers Feel at Home: Notoriously slow and surly waitstaff

Funky Decor: Doors suspended from the ceiling

Sample Menu Item: Duck Terrine & Fried Egg sandwich, $7.50

Diner Online Review: “Salt is not a flavor like everywhere else we ate.”

Power Table: “Um … I guess you could sit near the window,” says owner Jason Simon. “You can see the Capitol Building. That’s kinda cool.”

4. Django Restaurant

Helping New Yorkers Feel at Home: iPad drink menu

Funky Decor: Midwestern French

Liquid Lunch: Absinthe cocktail

Sample Menu Item: “Le Cheeseburger,” $9.99

Diner Online Review: “OMG bacon syrup … you MUST try.”

Power Table: The “Wine Alcove” is a prominent spot, says general manager Mike Crownover. “You’ve got the wine shelving area on one side of your table, and windows on the other. It’s windows and wine. It’s very popular for business lunches.”

5. Zombie Burger

Helping New Yorkers Feel at Home: “Dead Moines” burger a punny reminder that you now live in the middle of nowhere.

Funky Decor: Zombie wall murals

Liquid Lunch: Milkshake spiked with booze

Sample Menu Item: “We’re Coming to Get You Barbara” grilled cheese, $11.79

Diner Online Review: “The staff is pretty hot” (not that it matters or anything).

Power Table: Chef and co-owner George Formaro recommends one of only two communal tables in the center of the dining room. “Their prominent location and bar height makes them the most visible and hard-to-get seats in the restaurant,” he says.

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Filed under Des Moines, DINING

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