Wasabi’s crispy Brussels sprouts make for a splendid appetizer to any of the restaurant’s meals.
Writer: Karla Walsh
Like many things during 2020, the “research” of keeping up with the local food scene looked different last year. Rather than visiting five pizza places in one week to dine in—as I did to do the reporting for dsm’s “Slices of Heaven” feature pre-pandemic—many of the meals the dsm editors and I enjoyed “out” were via takeout. (In case you missed the story, ordering food to go is just one of 10 ways local restaurant owners say that you can help them hang in there. Click here for nine more ideas.)
So as we embark on a new year, the editors and I looked back to round up our most memorable meals. Read on for our picks, and after that, head to our Facebook page to share yours.
Joe Tripp, the chef/co-owner of Harbinger, has been nominated for five James Beard Awards for the innovative and upscale cuisine he created first at Alba and now at Harbinger. But many of the Harbinger plates are so intricate that they don’t translate well into the to-go model. So in spring 2020, Tripp and his team tested out a new concept: Korean fried chicken. And goodness, the carryout-only concept was such a bright spot of 2020 (don’t miss the double-dunk chicken and the Korean cheese corn) for me that I hope it flies into its own brick and mortar in 2021. (2724 Ingersoll Ave.; harbingerdsm.com)
Catering by Cyd
With many larger-scale events like weddings, corporate lunches and galas canceled, chef Cyd Koehn quickly adjusted her business model to offer themed family-size meals, snack boards, tapas and more. The value Koehn offers simply can’t be beat: Everything we’ve tried feeds at least twice as many people as it promises—and all the dishes have been stellar. dsm editor-in-chief Christine Riccelli especially raves about the “French Favorites” dinner, which features a fresh garden salad, pan-roasted chicken paillard, a pistachio-crusted potato and leek galette, and an apricot, peach and almond galette with homemade whipped cream. (5405 N.W. 78th Court, Johnston; cateringbycyd.online/s/shop)
You can savor remarkably fresh sushi at home, thanks to seamless direct online ordering (psst—remember to skip those third-party apps if you can!) and easy curbside carryout at Jay Wang’s Wasabi family of restaurants. You won’t go wrong ordering to-go from any of the five locations: Waukee, Ankeny, Johnston, Des Moines and Ames. The only way you can go wrong, in my opinion, is not adding the crispy Brussels sprouts appetizer to your meal. (Five locations across Central Iowa; wasabidsm.com)
While we miss seeing Eatery A’s industrial-chic dining room and bar area packed full of smiling faces during their daily happy hour, we certainly have been indulging in our fair share of their pizzas—and the rest of chef Keith Johnson’s wide-ranging menu. When I called to alert the host that I had arrived to pick up my curbside, not only was she already waiting for me outside my car window, but she also was holding a box that had a personal note written on top. Now that’s service. (2932 Ingersoll Ave.; eateryadsm.com)
Craving a quick and crazy-affordable meal that’s healthy-ish too? Riccelli and her family often order from Dirt Burger, which, she says, is “definitely one of my consistent go-to takeout spots. The burgers are high-quality, healthy, and filling—and offer superb value, too.” Topping out at $8 max for anything on the 100% plant-based menu, the bean- and veggie-based burgers are piled high with flavor-packed toppings and pair wonderfully with the “Dirt Balls,” potato, quinoa and flax croquettes that are somewhat reminiscent to hush puppies. (407 E. 5th St.; dirtburger.us)
When I asked my social media network what they couldn’t have made it through 2020 without, I was reminded of one of the newest Ingersoll gems: Lucky Lotus. Their Southeast Asian fare—including curries, noodle entrees, rice dishes and my personal-favorite scallion flatbread Bing Bing Wraps—travel beautifully. They also feature often-vegan or gluten-free ingredients. (2721 Ingersoll Ave.; luckylotusdsm.com)
With remarkable value and wildly consistent execution, executive chef/partner Derek Eidson and his team crank out French fare just as impressive as ever. Yes, even while they’re also serving the George’s Burger Joint menu to-go. I picked up a couple different salmon entrees during the pandemic and was blown away how the chefs somehow aced the sear without overcooking the center, and how much everything I devoured stood up after the commute home. (1420 Locust St.; djangodesmoines.com)