Top List 2013

Let the people decide. That’s the idea behind dsm’s Top List, and for the fourth year in a row, you let us know your top choices for dining and drinking, shopping and playing. On the list that follows, the top vote-getter in each category is listed first, followed by the runners-up.

Around Town

Top historical building:
Iowa State Capitol /tourCapitol.aspx
Runners-up: World Food Prize Hall of Laureates; Salisbury House & Gardens
Staff pick: World Food Prize Hall of Laureates

Top contemporary building:
Des Moines Art Center
Runners-up: Des Moines Central Library; 801 Grand
Staff pick: Des Moines Central Library

Top nonprofit organization:
Animal Rescue League of Iowa
Runners-up: Children and Families of Iowa; Easter Seals Iowa
Staff pick: Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines

Top local attraction:
Iowa State Fair
Runners-up: John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park; Science Center of Iowa
Staff pick: Des Moines Art Center

Top residential neighborhood:
Runners-up: Sherman Hill;
South of Grand
Staff pick: Owl’s Head Historic District


Top golf course:
Waveland Golf Course
Runners-up: Wakonda Club;
Des Moines Golf and Country Club
Staff pick: Wakonda Club

Top private party room:
Des Moines Embassy Club
Runners-up: Des Moines Golf and Country Club; Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar
Staff pick: 801 Chophouse

Top annual fundraiser:
Bravo Gala
Runners-up: Make-A-Wish Foundation Gala; Winefest Des Moines and Easter Seals Pony Express Ride (a tie)
Staff pick: Bravo Gala

Top spot to enjoy nature:
Gray’s Lake Park
Runners-up: Water Works Park; Saylorville Lake
Staff pick: Brenton Arboretum

Top hotel:
Des Moines Marriott Downtown
Runners-up: The Suites of 800 Locust; Embassy Suites Hotel Des Moines Downtown
Staff pick: The Suites of 800 Locust

Top bike trail:
High Trestle Trail
Runners-up: Bill Riley Trail;
Neal Smith Trail
Staff pick: High Trestle Trail

Top Iowa “staycation”:
Lake Okoboji
Runners-up: YMCA Camp in Boone; Honey Creek Resort
Staff pick: Honey Creek Resort

Top family attraction:
Runners-up: Iowa State Fair;
Science Center of Iowa
Staff pick: Living History Farms

Eating and Drinking

Top wine list:
Runners-up: Jasper Winery;
801 Chophouse
Staff pick: Splash Seafood Bar & Grill

Top fine-dining restaurant:
801 Chophouse
Runners-up: Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar; Alba
Staff picks: Baru 66, Alba

Top casual restaurant:
Jethro’s BBQ
Runners-up: Mavericks Sports Pub; Centro
Staff pick: Louie’s Wine Dive

Top restaurant for appetizers:
Trostel’s Dish
Runners-up: Django; Jethro’s BBQ
Staff pick: Alba

Top bakery:
La Mie Bakery
Runners-up: Scratch Cupcakery;
South Union Bakery
Staff pick: La Mie Bakery

Top restaurant for steaks:
801 Chophouse
Runners-up: Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar; Jesse’s Embers
Staff pick: 801 Chophouse

Top chocolate shop:
Chocolaterie Stam
Runners-up: Chocolate Storybook; Godiva Chocolatier
Staff pick: Chocolaterie Stam

Top spot for seafood:
Splash Seafood Bar & Grill
Runners-up: Waterfront Seafood Market and Restaurant; Hoshi Sushi
Staff pick: Splash Seafood Bar & Grill

Top pizza restaurant:
Fong’s Pizza
Runners-up: Gusto Pizza Co.; Centro
Staff pick: Gusto Pizza Co.

Top spot for barbecue:
Jethro’s BBQ
Runners-up: Smoky D’s BBQ;
Woody’s Smoke Shack
Staff pick: Woody’s Smoke Shack

Top coffeehouse:
Smokey Row Coffee Co.
Runners-up: Zanzibar’s Coffee Adventure; Starbucks
Staff pick: Ritual Café

Top new restaurant:
Exile Brewing Co.
Runners-up: HoQ Restaurant; Mavericks Sports Pub
Staff pick: Wasabi Tao

Top ethnic restaurant:
A Dong
Runners-up: Cool Basil; Thai Flavors
Staff pick: Wasabi Tao

Top romantic restaurant:
Café di Scala
Runners-up: Bistro Montage;
Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar
Staff pick: Bistro Montage

Top restaurant to impress VIPs:
801 Chophouse
Runners-up: Centro; Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar and
Django (a tie)
Staff pick: 801 Chophouse


Top bridal shop:
Schaffer’s Bridal Salon
Runners-up: Bridal Boutique;
David’s Bridal
Staff pick: Dornink

Top shop for women’s clothing:
Blond Genius
Runners-up: Von Maur; Aimée
Staff picks: K.Renee,
Sahar’s Fashion Gallery

Top shop for men’s clothing:
Runners-up: Mr. B; Von Maur
Staff pick: Mr. B

Top shop to buy shoes:
Von Maur
Runners-up: Blond Genius; DSW
Staff pick: Von Maur

Top specialty market:
Gateway Market
Runners-up: Whole Foods Market; Trader Joe’s
Staff pick: Gateway Market

Top wine shop:
Ingersoll Wine & Spirits
Runners-up: Gateway Market;
Jasper Winery
Staff pick: Ingersoll Wine & Spirits

Top furniture store:
Homemakers Furniture Inc.
Runners-up: The Mansion;
Projects Contemporary Furniture
Staff pick: Projects Contemporary Furniture

Top jewelry store:
Josephs Jewelers
Runners-up: Anglo International;
Blond Genius
Staff picks: 2AU Ltd., Elements Ltd.

Top shop for vintage goods:
West End Architectural Salvage
Runners-up: Hill Vintage & Knits;
Found Things
(Disclosure: Hill Vintage & Knits is owned by dsm style director Jessica Miller.)
Staff pick: Beaverdale Vintage

Top floral shop:
Boesen the Florist
Runners-up: Hy-Vee Inc.;
Divine Flowers by Saley
Staff pick: Boesen the Florist

Top auto dealer:
Willis Auto Campus
Runner-up: Bob Brown Chevrolet
Staff pick: European Motorcars

Top children’s store:
Pink Hippo
Runners-up: Von Maur;
Baby Gap/Gap Kids
Staff pick: Von Maur


Top caterer:
Taste! To Go Catering & Events
Runners-up: Hy-Vee Inc.;
Gateway Market
Staff pick: Taste! To Go Catering & Events

Top hair salon:
Salon Utopia
Runners-up: Salon Bliss; Serenity
Staff pick: Salon Spa W

Top spa:
The Spa at West Glen
Runners-up: Sahar’s Salon and Day Spa; East Village Salon and Day Spa
Staff pick: The Spa at West Glen

Top dry cleaner:
French Way Cleaners
Runners-up: Crown Cleaners;
Victoria Cleaners
Staff pick: French Way Cleaners

Top lawn care service:
Lawns Unlimited
419-8321 (no website available)
Runners-up: A+ Lawn & Landscape; Perficut Lawn & Landscape
Staff pick: Wright Outdoor Solutions

Top Local Attraction
Iowa State Fair

top1Wind power:
The wind turbine on Expo Hill produces enough energy to provide the equivalent of one quarter of the Iowa State Fairgrounds’ energy needs year-round. That’s about the amount of energy needed to power the entire fairgrounds, including the midway and all its rides, during the 11-day fair.

Magnificent flying machine? Meh…
Amelia Earhart saw her first plane at the 1908 Iowa State Fair and was not impressed, calling it “a thing of rusty wire and wood and looked not at all interesting.”

The Women’s Rubber Chicken Throwing Contest held at Pioneer Hall was originally the Rolling Pin Throw. It was changed several years ago for safety reasons.

Notable debuts in fair food history:
Chocolate-covered cheesecake on a stick, 1996; pork chop on a stick, 1999; deep-fried candy bars, Twinkies and Oreo cookies, 2003.

3000 E. Grand Ave.; 262.3111

Top Nonprofit Organization
Animal Rescue League of Iowa (ARL)

top2Unique rescues:
A serval (a medium-sized African wildcat), a Bengal tiger, macaque monkeys and an alligator.

Largest recent rescue:
More than 250 dogs from a puppy mill in north-central Iowa and 39 horses in Carroll County.

For the love of pit bulls:
“Ambass-A-Bull” is a nationally recognized and award-winning pit bull dog awareness and adoption program. The goal of the program is to reverse negative stereotypes about the breed and promote pit bull awareness and education through positive interaction with the community, including school and nursing home visits. The ARL’s “spokesdog,” Freedom, is a pit bull.

Cost to care for an animal:
$12.50 per day, on average

Number of animals cared for:
The ARL cares for more than 20,000 animals each year. The number includes animals taken into care as well as those in low-income assistance programs.

5452 N.E. 22nd St.; 473.9101;

Top Pizza Restaurant
Fong’s Pizza

top3What’s in a name:
Inspiration came from the name “Fong’s” on a vintage poster. The owners thought it was catchy and that it also captured the essence of what the menu offers.

Most popular pizza:
Crab Rangoon, which outsells the next top-selling pizza by six to one. The morning before the Super Bowl, Fong’s sold 108 large crab Rangoon pizzas.

Strangest pizza topping:
Taco chips. “Someone ordered a pizza with taco chips and honey once,” says Gwen Page, general manager and an owner. “Call it creativity or the munchies.”

That helmet?
Customers don the helmet when attempting the Super Terrific
Kamikaze shot.

“Fongolians” unite:
Regular customers are known as Fongolians, or “ambassadors to the Fong,” who can guide new “Fongers” around the menu and restaurant. “Fongolians can be anyone who appreciates the creativity and fun that goes into our restaurant,” says Page. You can become “Fongolian of the Month” by emailing a fun photo of yourself to

223 Fourth St.; 323.3333;

Top Dry Cleaning Service
French Way Cleaners

French Way opened in 1909. Mike McBroom bought the business in 1974.

What’s in a name:
Dry cleaning was invented in France in the mid-1800s, hence “French Way” Cleaners.

Dry it:
The process is called “dry cleaning” because it doesn’t use water, but it does use a series of chemical solvents to clean the fabric.

At the 413 Euclid Ave. location, there are two statues of men blowing French horns. The building was originally constructed in 1909 to house the business.

Excellence in Historic Preservation from the city of Des Moines; beautification award from the Highland Park Business Club; plant design award from American Dry Cleaner magazine.

Several locations; 243.4264;

Stories in this section written by Sara Judson Brown.
Model: Amy Roder
Faviana red gown and jewelry all from Schaffer’s Impromptu in West Des Moines.
Photos by Duane Tinkey

You May Also Like

The List May/Jun/Jul 2013

Buz Brenton Chaden Halfhill Lynnae Hentzen David Hurd Hannah Inman Linda Kinman Kent Newman ...


Tracy Duran-Torres Art for Life In junior high school, Tracy Duran-Torres got into trouble ...

Where They Create

Take a peek into these local artists’ studios, spaces that nurture the imagination and ...