Warming Up, Part 1

Jesse's Embers is known as a hot spot for a great steak.
Jesse’s Embers is known as a hot spot for a great steak.

By Wini Moranville

Owing to the early arrival of winter, I recently posted a query on my Facebook page: What’s the coziest restaurant in Des Moines? Besides Noah’s Ark.

I took Noah’s out of the running because, for me, this time-honored Ingersoll Avenue venue is the most obvious go-to spot for the kind of midcentury charm that warms you through and through. Settle into a booth or into one of the banquettes in the Fireside Lounge, order a glass of wine and a pizza–it’s one of the best places to be on a cold winter night.

Here are some of the most popular suggestions that readers offered:

  • Jesse’s Embers: Of course! This snug spot also offers the sense of well-being that midcentury restaurants pull off so well. Great steaks, too. (3301 Ingersoll Ave.; 255-6011)
  • Simon’s (also known as J. Benjamin’s): I haven’t been in years, but this pizza-pasta place offers a quintessential neighborhood vibe, and plenty of people on my page gave it a thumbs up. (5800 Franklin Ave.; 255-3725)
  • Café di Scala: This former Sherman Hill mansion will hit the spot when you’re craving something warming (and romantic) on date night. (644 18th St.; 244-1353)
  • Fire Creek Grill: A number of people gave a shout-out to this West Des Moines venue. There’s a toasty-warm glow here, thanks to stone fireplaces in every room. (800 S. 50th St., #110, West Des Moines; 224-0500)

Woody’s Smoke Shack: This venue near Drake University also got some thumbs-up action. The old storefront does have a charming vibe–especially if you can snag a booth. (2511 Cottage Grove Ave., 277-0005)

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