Six specific tips from local food experts

Want to test a restaurant? Order the roast chicken.

Over the last few weeks, dsm organized a series of focus groups with local restaurateurs, food producers, food writers, community leaders and others to discuss food, dining and agriculture. What are Central Iowa’s best assets and toughest challenges? What would it take to make Des Moines a world-class food destination? And how could dsm support those efforts?

The “big picture” discussions were fascinating, with plenty to chew on. But the opinions really started to fly when we asked for specifics. Here are just a few tasty bites of news you can use right now.

Jessica Dunker, president and CEO of the Iowa Restaurant Association, encouraged folks to order the roast chicken when they’re trying a restaurant for the first time. If the kitchen team does that well, chances are, they do other things well, too.

Kathy Fehrman, who co-owns Oak Park, said don’t be shy about eating at the bar, not only at Oak Park but other popular spots like Aposto and Jesse’s Embers. You can scoot in without a reservation, order from the main menu and enjoy top-notch service.

Kevin Hall with the Iowa Pork Producers Association recommended pulled pork from the Flying Elbow in Marshalltown, which recently won the association’s annual Pulled Pork Madness competition.

Sammy Mila, who owns Crème, slathered praise on the chicken kebabs with green sauce at the Green Olive. She said the sauce “is everything chimichurri wants to be.”

Jennifer Miller, a former Des Moines Register food writer who now works for Grinnell Mutual, talked up the Dutch Letter Twister at Goldie’s Ice Cream Shoppe in Prairie City. Their version of Dairy Queen’s Blizzard is studded with crushed-up bits of pastry. But hurry: They serve it only in May.

Karla Walsh, who writes for dsm and publications nationwide, recommended the book “Unreasonable Hospitality,” by the New York restaurateur who was 26 when he took charge of a struggling eatery named Eleven Madison Park. Barely a decade later, it was named the best restaurant in the world.

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