Fernando’s Mexican Grill

get-attachment-28.aspx get-attachment-27.aspxMan, I love me some tacos!  There sure are a lot of choices in town with at least one Mexican Restaurant in every neighborhood and a good number of seriously good taco trucks to choose from (mostly on the East side of town) taking up residence in parking lots, so I was surprised to find such awesome tacos (and food in general) at Fernando’s Mexican Grill in the Drake neighborhood.


I have yet to visit when the owner isn’t working behind the counter himself making small talk and making sure guests are happy.  I love local places where it’s just as much about the feeling of being welcome as it is about the food.


get-attachment-29.aspx IMG_8142The setup is kind of like a Pancheros or Qdoba, except this food is much more authentic. Fresh corn tortillas for tacos and a variety of fresh fixings to choose from make Fernando’s stand out.  I don’t think you can go wrong with anything on the menu really since you get to top your burritos, tacos or quesadillas with whatever you like from salsas and veggies to crema and cheese.


Like I said, the style is that of a Panchero’s or Qdoba where you order and build your order at the counter, but the product is definitely not in the same category.  For a quick, budget-friendly lunch or dinner with taste that will leave you craving more, Check out Fernando’s on University in Des Moines.  Its’ right near Mars Cafe near Drake University.  I think you’ll like it!

La MONA Panaderia

IMG_3900IMG_3899So our plan the other night was to finally get to the Sunday Soul Food buffet at Patton’s restaurant on East Grand Ave (not far from the State Capitol), but sadly it was closed.  The sign on the door said that the owner was ill with pneumonia, which is so sad because I just met her when she was on the radio show with Michael Libbie last week before my Friday segment.  Hope she is feeling better quick!

So we decided to stop in to the Mexican bakery next door on our way over to Los Laureles for dinner instead. (More on Los Laureles in a later post.) But, I’m so glad we stopped in!  The sign on the door said 12 for $6.50 and I couldn’t believe how many fresh items there were at 5pm!  The owner (who didn’t speak a lick of English) was so sweet.  I love this place!

IMG_3898 IMG_3896We took the hint from other customers that we were supposed to grab a tray and some tongs and fill er’ up.  You could mix and match from well over 30 different baked goods.  We piled high and grabbed a coke and tres leches cake to go.  Boy are Josh’s coworkers going to love him tomorrow.

I know there are some other bakeries like this in town and I’m on a mission to try them all now.  There was actually one right across the street from this one that we’ll make it over to soon, but we were so excited to try our goods from this one that we didn’t make to over this visit.

IMG_3910Let us know if you’ve tried it and what your favorite pastry  is!

Right now I’m digging this here tres leches cake!

Soul Food Festival – Des Moines

IMG_3793 IMG_3804Guys…I think I was meant to live in the south because some of my favorite food is this stuff right here.  Ok, maybe most of you can relate to my love of fried chicken, gumbo, dirty rice and sweet potato pie.  OMG, this sweet potato pie!

I’m talking about the annual Soul Food Festival that they hold at the Forest Ave. library.  It’s the first Saturday of March every year, and its awesome.

Basically they set up a feast of the most delicious food and you pay per item and enjoy.  Items are between $.75 and $1.00 so it’s

IMG_3794 IMG_3801the best deal in town.  And the best part is that the money raised supports the friends of the Forest Avenue library.

If you missed this year’s festival, mark it on your calendar for next year!  Like I said, it’s the 1st Saturday in March, you won’t be sorry.

You can peruse the menu above, but my faves were the red beans and rice and sweet potato pie, it was hands down the best I’ve ever had.  I’m going to go dream about it now.

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IMG_3964 IMG_3965If you like Open Sesame in the East Village, or just enjoy a good gyro, you’ll love sister store, Gazali’s!  Owned by the same family, Gazali’s is more of a quick-service restaurant (you know, order at the counter and pay and then chose your own table and clear your own table) as opposed to the full service Open Sesame, but you’ll still get the quality food like at Open Sesame.  The menu is a wide selection of gyros including spicy, classic, garlic chicken, falafel and more with side salads, hummus and even gyro quesadillas.


While I had heard of Gazali’s before, I hadn’t been in and I’m not really sure why.  The location is pretty convenient.  It’s right next to the Varsity Theater in the heart of the Drake neighborhood. Right across from the Drake Law school.


IMG_3978Owner, MJ was nice enough to invite us in the other day and we got to sample the garlic chicken gyro and classic gyro.  Both were awesome!  I was impressed with the fresh sliced gyro meat (shawarma) that was cooking right there. A lot of times you get that “steak-ums” type chopped and formed meat which I don’t care for, but not here.


IMG_3981I especially loved the sauce with the garlic chicken gyro.  The service was ultra quick and the staff was very friendly.  And I got a kick out of the decor which included these guys —>


IMG_3968MJ has plans of expanding to the open space next door and offering live music and an expanded menu.  I can’t wait to check that out along with the Italian restaurant he’s developing in the East Village.


IMG_3975Lots of exciting stuff going on for these guys!  Check Gazali’s out for a lunch option if you’re nearby or work downtown (my hubby was able to get here in 8 minutes for lunch from downtown).


IMG_3973Show them some love by following them on Facebook and Twitter

Pizza Ranch – Waukee, Altoona & Urbandale

IMG_3744 IMG_3884As we mentioned on Facebook and Twitter the other day, we are proud to welcome Pizza Ranch (Waukee, Altoona & Urbandale) as a new blog sponsor.


I think you’ll be hard-pressed to find an Iowan who hasn’t been to (or is at least familiar with) a Pizza Ranch, but we wanted to share some of the cool things about out local Pizza Ranch locations!


IMG_3883 IMG_3888These three locations are all owned by a super-nice, local couple who loves to support our community.  You’ll always see them doing a charity event at the restaurant to support local athletics or organizations.  They offer community impact nights every Monday and Wednesday!  And who are we kidding?  Who doesn’t love their pizza and award-winning fried chicken.  I may also be a little addicted to the cactus bread and ice cream.  I’m also psyched that they offer gluten-free pizza too!


IMG_3883 IMG_3745Don’t forget that kids under 10 eat free with adult buffet purchase on Tuesdays (one kid free per paying adult).  They also offer a seniors lunch day on Wednesdays!  They pride themselves in being a great value for families with great service in a clean environment.


And don’t forget about the party rooms!  They offer rooms you can reserve for parties and special events.  Feel free to call any of the locations for more info about the community programs they offer, parties or just to tell them how much you like the cactus bread! Yum!


Please show them some love by “liking” your local Pizza Ranch location on Facebook to keep up to date on special events and promotions! Waukee Pizza Ranch, Urbandale Pizza Ranch, Altoona Pizza Ranch.

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-Altoona – 515-967-8800

-Urbndale – 515-331-4610

-Waukee 515-978-6603



Golden Triangle

IMG_8718 IMG_8711There’s a (fairly) new Thai restaurant in town!  Of course I’m a little tardy to the party here posting this review. But it’ll be worth it, I promise!

We had a great lunch at Golden Triangle restaurant in Des Moines a few weeks ago.  This place is seriously a contender with some of the other favorites in very close proximity like Fawns, Cafe Fuzion and Thai Flavors.  And they just added Louisiana crawfish to their menu as evidenced by their most recent Facebook post…interesting.

IMG_8714 IMG_8716Anyway….We stuck to the Thai options are were not disappointed!  I had a few friends along who had been before and recommended that I try the Pho and Larb and I always tend to get my initial impression of a place by testing out their yellow curry.  So we tried them all and would order them all again!

The service was very efficient and the servers were very friendly.  It has been unfortunate that the restaurant hasn’t been very busy the last few visits we’ve made.  Part of the problem may be that it’s tucked behind a building across the IMG_8720 IMG_8719street from Lutheran Hospital and you can’t see it from the road.  I haven’t seen much advertising, so I’m guessing there hasn’t been much.

The servings were generous. The Pho would have served 4 and even with my hearty appetite, I had leftovers.  The yellow curry was delicious. I would have preferred fresh potatoes to compliment the fresh peppers, but the creamy coconut sauce more than made up for it.

It really is conveniently located right off of exit 8b on 235, so if you are headed that way (or even make a special trip), or just want to try something new, give it shot!


Happy Lunar New Year!

IMG_3302 IMG_3311Happy year of the sheep! This is the third year in a row we’ve had the pleasure of attending the Lunar New Year celebration hosted by the Korean Cultural Center of Des Moines.  It has been held at the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Beaverdale each year and is a great, low key way to introduce your family to a different culture for a day. Here is our post with some photos from last year: .


IMG_3333IMG_3378I’ll of course remind you on our Facebook page when the event is coming up again next year, but go ahead and follow them to learn about other events coming up (like CelebrAsian).


IMG_3320 IMG_3317We had fun learning how to roll Kimbap, watching the program, playing games and doing crafts and I most definitely look forward to enjoying the Bulgogi with rice, noodles, kimchi and soup (they even offer gluten-free) every year!  And the best part is that all of this is free!  The suggested donation is $5 per plate for the food, but it is all worth so much more.


ps. Thanks to Kristine from the Cultural Center for snapping this family photo of us!


You say Strudl Haus, I say Heaven

get-attachment-50.aspx get-attachment-58.aspxOne of our favorite Farmer’s Market vendors has set up shop on the South Side.  The Strudl Haus opened last month at 1951 Indianola Ave., near Principal Park in Des Moines.  And what an awesome addition to the area!  You can stop in for pastries or a latte to go or stay and enjoy some authentic Austrian cuisine for breakfast, lunch or dinner!

The prices are incredibly reasonable and the food is just terrific.  The have a base menu and then you can check out their Facebook page (here) for changing weekly specials like suppes, salats and schnitzel! Yum!  Here is an example of the menu from this week…

get-attachment-49.aspx 1797522_782215705199652_194431916243452403_nWhen we visited last, Josh enjoyed a dutch letter and along an omelet and I had the Austrian Breakfast which included a selection of meats and cheeses served with eggs and homemade jellies and bread.  Nathan had the nutella crepes which were fantastic and priced at only $4.50.  He’s been begging me for more since we left!

I definitely recommend checking out the Strudl Haus as soon as you can!  I mean like, right now…go for lunch…you won’t be disappointed!

Sully’s on Grand

1423859072590Have you checked out Sully’s Irish Pub’s revamped website lately?!  They’ve been doing a great job appealing to all ages and making the Pub welcoming and fun for everyone.  You may have remembered when we first introduced Sully’s on Grand in West Des Moines as sponsors and fantastic supported of EPLDSM.  You can check out that post here.

1422454987247They’ve made the Pub super biker-friendly and have been hosting bike-ride events!  They had one this winter and keep an eye out for many more this summer I’m sure!   They’ve been offering fun Happy Hour specials and bringing in the most in demand beers and spirits!

sully's-120x36-list+of+eventsThe Pub and website look great and they have tons of fun events planned!  Of course their most popular event is coming up soon and that’s their annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration.  But they aren’t just celebrating it one day this year, they are having a “Practice Day” on February 14th, an Irish Pub Sing along on February 18th, a whole two weeks worth of St. Patrick’s Day “warm-up” specials and more!

14224552363771423779542894And  don’t forget about the 32nd Annual Friendly Sons of St. patrick 5k & 10k Run/Walk on March 29th!

Check out their events calendar for more details about all of these fun events at and just stop in to say hi to two of the most friendly Pub owners in town, Amy and Bill!



“I did it all for the Snookies”

Another summer-time favorite spot is Snookies Malt Shop on Beaver Ave in Beaverdale.  Who doesn’t love an old-fashioned ice-cream shop that serves shakes, sundaes, slushes and dips.  They’ve been around for more than 25 years and the location has been an ice cream shop since the 50’s.
They gave everyone a scare last year when there were rumors circulating about Snookies shutting their doors for good.  The owners wanted to retire so luckily they found new owners to save the day.
My kid’s favorite part of getting a milkshake is the cookie they add to the straw.
I’m a fan of the good-ole banana split and for about four and a half bucks, it’s a good deal.
They have limited inside and outside seating and they even have a drive-though.  But, those that live in the area choose to walk on over and eat their treats on the walk back home.
We are so glad there are some locally-owned ice-cream shops around town.  What a refreshing alternative to the big chain places!  
Notes: They only accept cash! So make sure you plan accordingly for your trip. And dogs are welcome too!  They may even have a treat just for them.