John & Nick’s

IMG_3755 IMG_3754So I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when we decided to try out John & Nick’s Steakhouse in Waukee.  I had heard some mixed reviews, but certainly love Chicago Speakeasy (anyone remember my dine and dash story?) on the east side, so thought I might like it.


Anyway, we finally made it in and had a great experience!  They take call-ahead seating which it the first plus.  There was a 45 minute wait on a IMG_3756Friday night and they were right on.  It was exactly 45 minutes.  They have a lounge to wait in and have a drink (or more) if you like.



They have a great salad bar that is included with most main entrees and an impressive wine and cocktail menu.  While John & Nick’s is fancy enough for a date night, it was also family friendly with plenty of reasonably priced kids menu options.



IMG_3767 IMG_3774We started off with some really good cocktails and some bacon-wrapped scallops.  We were impressed with both.


We ordered the peppercorn-crusted steak with mashed and the crab-stuffed shrimp with steak and a side of spaghetti  My steak was a little over-done for medium, but it was still flavorful and I’m sure they would have fixed it right away had I asked.


IMG_3757 IMG_3760They had some great dessert offerings and of course the kiddo went with the chocolate lava cake. It didn’t disappoint this little lava cake connoisseur.


We all agreed we’d be back soon.  Our waitress was attentive and friendly, the atmosphere was relaxed and the salad bar, cocktails and our entrees were really good.  Definitely the only local option like this on the west side of town!  I liked it!

Des Moines Performing Arts 2015-16 Season Announcement

FullSizeRenderDes Moines Performing Arts Announces 2015-2016 Season
Willis Broadway Series Season Ticket Packages on sale now
· National tour of the Iowa-based musical THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY to launch at the Des Moines Civic Center
· Willis Broadway Series line-up includes the 2014 Tony Award® winner for Best Musical, A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE & MURDER, and Disney’s smash-hit, NEWSIES
· Fast-talking Tupperware® lady Dixie Longate returns to the Temple Theater with a new production, swapping out her Tupperware bowls for a mechanical bull
· The Dance Series and the Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield Family Series momentum continues with diverse programming and community engagement

DES MOINES, Iowa – Today Des Moines Performing Arts, Central Iowa’s premier not-for-profit performing arts organization, unveiled its highly anticipated 2015-2016 Season, including the announcement that THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY national tour will launch at the Des Moines Civic Center in November. In all, 22 productions were announced as part of the Willis Broadway Series, the Prairie Meadows Temple Comedy Series, The Dance Series and the Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield Family Series.

“It’s always exciting to announce a new season and we’re especially proud to launch the national tour of THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY,” says Des Moines Performing Arts President and CEO Jeff Chelesvig. “It makes sense for this fantastic musical with Iowa ties to launch the national tour in its own backyard, just like we did for STATE FAIR in 1995 and THE MUSIC MAN in 2001.”

For each of the series, season tickets are the only way to guarantee the best seats at locked-in prices. Season ticket packages for the Willis Broadway Series are on sale now and start at $151 for the five-show package. The Prairie Meadows Temple Comedy Series, The Dance Series and the Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield Family Series season ticket packages will go on sale later this spring and summer.

Des Moines Performing Arts is offering a five-show season ticket package for the Willis Broadway Series. The 2015-2016 Willis Broadway Series Season Ticket Package includes:
· DIRTY DANCING (Sept. 15-20, 2015 at the Civic Center) – Based on the 1987 hit film of the same name, this worldwide smash hit tells the classic story of Baby and Johnny, two fiercely independent young spirits from different worlds who come together in what will be the most challenging and triumphant summer of their lives.
· THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY (Nov. 28 – Dec.5, 2015 at the Civic Center) – National Tour Launch! Based on the novel by Robert James Waller and one of the most romantic stories ever written, this Iowa-based musical shares the unforgettable story of two people caught between decision and desire, as a chance encounter becomes a second chance and so much more. Featuring gorgeous, soulful music by composer Jason Robert Brown, who won two 2014 Tony Awards for Best Original Score and Best Orchestrations, this stunning production has a book by Pulitzer Prize winner Marsha Norman and direction by Tony Award winner Bartlett Sherr.
· DISNEY’S NEWSIES (Jan. 12-17, 2016 at the Civic Center) – Based on the 1992 film of the same name and winner of the 2012 Tony Awards for Best Original Score and Best Choreography, Disney’s smash-hit NEWSIES tells the captivating story of a band of underdogs who become unlikely heroes when they stand up to the most powerful men in New York.
· A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE & MURDER (Feb. 2-7, 2016 at the Civic Center) – Getting away with murder can be so much fun… and there’s no better proof than the hilarious hit show that won the 2014 Tony Award® for BEST MUSICAL―A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE & MURDER! As one most gentlemanly NPR critic put it, “I’VE NEVER LAUGHED SO HARD AT A BROADWAY MUSICAL!”
· CABARET (March 1-6, 2016 at the Civic Center) – Direct from Broadway, the acclaimed masterpiece returns to Des Moines! As part of their 50th Anniversary Season, the critically acclaimed and award-winning Roundabout Theatre Company is proud to present Sam Mendes (Skyfall, American Beauty) and Rob Marshall’s (Into the Woods and Chicago, the films) Tony Award-winning production of CABARET. Come hear some of the most memorable songs in theatre history, including “Cabaret,” “Willkommen” and “Maybe This Time.” Leave your troubles outside – life is beautiful at CABARET, John Kander, Fred Ebb and Joe Masteroff’s Tony-winning musical about following your heart while the world loses its way.

Worth noting is that Des Moines Performing Arts is an investor in the national tour of DIRTY DANCING. Additionally, the organization was an investor in the Broadway production of THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY through the Independent Presenters Network, a consortium of 40 of the nation’s leading touring Broadway presenters.

In addition to the five-show package, a strong line-up of package add-ons is also programmed. The package add-ons include:
· THE ILLUSIONISTS – WITNESS THE IMPOSSIBLE (Oct. 23-25, 2015 at the Civic Center) – Direct from Broadway, seven of the most incredible illusionists on earth will perform jaw-dropping talents of grand illusion, levitation, mind reading, disappearance and a full-view water torture escape.
· THE WIZARD OF OZ (Dec. 15-20, 2015 at the Civic Center) – Developed from the ever popular MGM screenplay, this enchanting adaptation contains the beloved songs from the Oscar®-winning movie score, all the favorite characters and iconic moments, plus a few surprises along the way, including new songs by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber.
· RIVERDANCE – THE 20TH ANNIVERSARY WORLD TOUR (March 18-20, 2016 at the Civic Center) – Back by popular demand and in celebration of their 20th anniversary, the international Irish dance phenomenon returns with a new show featuring new lighting, costumes, projections and a new dance number.
· ANNIE (April 15-17, 2016 at the Civic Center) – A brand new incarnation of the iconic original, which won seven 1977 Tony Awards, the world’s best-loved musical returns in time-honored form with unforgettable songs like “It’s a Hard Knock Life,” “Easy Street,” “I Don’t Need Anything But You,” plus the eternal anthem of optimism, “Tomorrow.”

· THE BOOK OF MORMON (May 3-8, 2016 at the Civic Center) – Back by popular demand after two record breaking engagements in 2013 and 2015, THE BOOK OF MORMON, the nine-time Tony Award-winning musical from the creators of “South Park,” will return to Des Moines for a limited one-week run.

In addition to these high-caliber Broadway productions, Des Moines Performing Arts will co-present SUTTON FOSTER IN CONCERT with the Des Moines Symphony on Feb. 20, 2016 at the Civic Center. Foster is a two-time Tony Award winner who will perform songs from the great American songbook including Cole Porter, Stephen Sondheim and many more!

“We’re able to attract these world-class productions because of our extraordinarily strong season ticket base,” says Chelesvig, adding that this current season has 11,474 season ticket holders. “Top Broadway producers love bringing their touring productions to the Civic Center because our audiences are responsive, smart and genuinely enjoy their experience.”

The 2015-2016 Willis Broadway Series represents 38 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Revival of a Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical, Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical, Best Original Score, Best Orchestrations, Best Direction in a Musical, Best Choreography and Best Costume Design.

Des Moines Performing Arts also announced high-caliber line-ups in the Prairie Meadows Temple Comedy Series, The Dance Series and the Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield Family Series.

“We’re committed in continuing to present diverse programming that’s notable and accessible,” says Eric Olmscheid, Des Moines Performing Arts Director of Programming and Education. “The Prairie Meadows Temple Comedy Series, The Dance Series and the Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield Family Series are wonderful examples of how Des Moines Performing Arts is fulfilling its mission of engaging the Midwest by offering world-class entertainment, education programs and cultural activities.”

The Prairie Meadows Temple Comedy Series will celebrate its eighth season with a familiar face or two who will offer up a new twist on tickling the funny bone.

· DIXIE’S NEVER WEAR A TUBE TOP WHILE RIDING A MECHANICAL BULL AND 16 OTHER THINGS I LEARNED WHILE I WAS DRINKING LAST THURSDAY (Dec. 8, 2015 – Jan. 3, 2016) – Dixie Longate, the fastest-talking Tupperware lady you’ll ever meet, returns to Des Moines with a new show where she swaps her Tupperware bowls for a mechanical bull. Put on your cowboy boots and walk into her favorite honkytonk as she shares lessons learned after a hard night of drinking.
· MY FUNNY VALENTINE (Feb. 2-7, 2016) – Date night just got funnier with comedian Pat Hazell (Seinfeld, Tonight Show) and comedienne Karen Morgan (2012 winner of The Improvs National Comic Search), as they join forces for an evening of hilarious and heartwarming stand-up comedy about relationships, dating, parenting and family life. Free relationship advice also provided!
· BROADWAY’S NEXT H!T MUSICAL (April 12-17, 2016) – Back by popular demand after its first engagement at the Temple Theater in 2013, BROADWAY’S NEXT H!T MUSICAL is the only unscripted theatrical awards show where master improvisers gather made up, hit song suggestions from the audience and create a spontaneous evening of music, humor and laughter.

The Dance Series will celebrate its sixth season with these internationally acclaimed dance companies.
· PILOBOLUS (Nov. 10, 2015 at the Civic Center) – Named after a barnyard fungus that propels its spores with extraordinary speed, accuracy and strength, PILOBOLUS forms diverse collaborations that break down barriers between disciplines and challenges the way people think about dance. They first performed at the Civic Center in 2011 in The Dance Series’ first season.
· JESSICA LANG DANCE (Feb. 11, 2016 at the Civic Center) – Founded in 2011, JESSICA LANG DANCE is a New York City-based dance company dedicated to creating and perform­ing the work of Jessica Lang. As part of this engagement, JESSICA LANG DANCE will audition and select local dancers to restage a selection from the company’s repertory. Auditions will be held in the fall of 2015 and the local dancers’ experience will culminate when they perform the restaged piece as the opening act for JESSICA LANG DANCE.
· RIVER NORTH DANCE CHICAGO (April 21, 2016 at the Civic Center) – Led by Artistic Director, Frank Chaves, the company is currently celebrating its 25th Anniversary (2014-2015). Knock-out dancers, athletic prowess, bold music and commanding choreography are the hallmarks of this jazz-based company which has established itself as one of the Windy City’s leading dance companies and one of this country’s most popular repertory companies.

Before and after each performance, audience members will have an opportunity to connect with the company’s artistic staff and dancers through DANCEtalks. Local dancers will also get the unique opportunity to learn directly from members of each company at dance master classes.

Celebrating its seventh season, the popular Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Family Series brings five fun-filled productions enjoyed by children between ages four through 10.
· GOODNIGHT MOON AND RUNAWAY BUNNY (Jan. 9, 2016 at the Civic Center) – An innovative double-bill adaptation of Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd’s beloved bedtime classics, the acclaimed Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia will perform whimsical puppetry and evocative original music to bring a new sense of appreciation to stories that have delighted several generations.
· PETER AND THE WOLF DES MOINES SYMPHONY FAMILY CONCERT (Feb. 13, 2016 at the Civic Center) – Each character from Sergei Prokofiev’s PETER AND THE WOLF will come to life through the joyous sounds of the Des Moines Symphony, as Peter explores life beyond the walls of his home and learns about survival.
· THE CAT IN THE HAT (April 2, 2016 at the Civic Center) – Based on the popular story by Dr. Seuss, a rainy afternoon is transformed for Sally and her brother when the most mischievous cat wearing a tall, red-and-white striped hat appears at their door.
· EGG (April 9, 2016 at the Temple Theater, Package Add-On) – Three madcap birds go on an adventure of a lifetime as they grapple with growing up and giving in to their natural instincts to take flight. This is a non-verbal show.
· SAN JOSE TAIKO (May 14, 2016 at the Civic Center) – Six years after their first performance at the Civic Center in 2010, SAN JOSE TAIKO will return with a fully choreographed, theatrically lit extravaganza, creating a contemporary musical style while respecting taiko’s Japanese roots.

Ticket holders can also enhance their theater experience by attending the Discovery Party, a free event before the Civic Center engagements in the lobbies one hour before each performance. The Discovery Party offers art activities, musical demonstrations and other fun family programs designed to enhance the performance.

Des Moines Performing Arts estimates that all four series will attract more than 200,000 patrons for the 2015-2016 Season.

Only season tickets guarantee the best seats at locked-in prices. Here is when season ticket packages are available to purchase for each series:
· Willis Broadway Series – On sale now and start at $151 for the five-show package.
· Prairie Meadows Temple Comedy Series – Will be on sale in April and start at $55 for the three-show package.
· The Dance Series – Will be on sale in April and start at $50 for the three-show package.
· Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield Family Series – Will be on sale in July and will be $35 for the four-show package.

Rockin’ the Tapas at RoCa

get-attachment.aspx get-attachment-18.aspxThe newest Court Avenue dining establishment, aptly named Restaurant on Court Ave (or RoCa) definitely rocked our world during our visit last month.

The tapas (or shared plates concept) is in full trend and RoCa is doing it right.

We had a reservation, but it seems other people are loving the relaxed atmosphere where it’s easy to chat with friends and enjoy some great cocktails and food just as much as we did, so a table wasn’t ready for us when we arrived.  But have no fear, the excellent wait staff promptly brought us some complimentary bubbly to make our wait a little more enjoyable.

IMG_0763_2 IMG_0764_2They have regular tables, but they also offer some couches with coffee-type tables to sit at as well to make it feel more homey.  They fill up fast though, so they are hard to snag at the busy times.

We were seated shortly thereafter and there was no shortage in selection from meatball sliders to a charcuterie plate, smothered tots to flatbread and even some entrees including chicken saltimboca and ribeye.

get-attachment-16.aspx get-attachment-19.aspxI really can’t wait to get in to try more of their unique offerings and more craft cocktails!  I was especially fond of the Champaign cocktails.

I love that they are open for lunch as well as dinner Tuesday’s thru Saturdays.  This was a great place for a girls night out (I was lucky enough to have my friend Lisa along from Pineapple Ink to capture a few great shots of our meal), but would be a lovely date-night location as well.  Perhaps a dinner destination before or after a show at the Civic Center?  We’ll be back soon to try some different tapas! Who wants to come with to share?!

Cooking with George

IMG_2965-e1424446685390-225x300IMG_2977-e1424446780190-225x300We had the pleasure of attending a cooking class at Malo at the Des Moines Social Club last weekend, lead by Chef George Formaro.  It was a great experience and if you have to opportunity to sign up for one of the remaining classes in the series coming up, do!  There is one March 7th and one April 10th.  E-mail: to sign up.



IMG_2990IMG_2998-e1424446660732-225x300The first hour, Chef Formaro demonstrated the recipes giving his hints and tips along the way.  We got to munch on chips and salsa and sip margaritas during the presentation.  Then we got to indulge in the 4 course meal with wine pairings.  A great date-night for $65 per guest.



IMG_3004-e1424446709800-225x300You even get print-outs of the recipes to try at home.  Of course Chef George claims the “secret is in the technique” so maybe we’ll just stick to letting him cook these wonderful dishes for us =)  They are able to accommodate food allergies if requested too.  Check it out.





The Hippest Movie Theater in Town

 I just love catching a flick at the Fleur Cinema & Cafe.  While it’s name corresponds to the location, this cinema is definitely a little different from the rest.

While you’ll find some first-run mainstream films, you’ll also find a lot of interesting independent films too.  If you are planning a date-night and nothing in the “regular theater” looks good.  Check out what’s playing at the Fleur Cinema.  There is sure to be something playing here that you’ll want to check out.

From the cozy waiting area to the up-scale snacks like wine, cheesecake and Italian creme soda along with popcorn and regular soda, your experience is always a little better here.

You can join the rewards club and earn free movies and snacks.  There is always parking available without having to beat the mall crowds.  And the theater is clean, the art and furniture in the lobby are contemporary and the the theaters are homey.  What was the last movie you saw at the Fleur Cinema?  If you can’t remember, maybe it’s time to look up the schedule and catch a show this weekend!

Dishcrawling on Ingersol

We had a great time at the latest installment of the Des Moines Dishcrawl.  This time we were crawling around Ingersol Ave in Des Moines.  We hit up three popular area restaurants and then had cupcakes catered by a newer bakery in town.

We started at Noah’s Ark.  We’ve been to Noah’s Ark before and enjoy it a lot.  But we had yet to try the pizza there.  I’m so glad we had the opportunity to try it!  It was pretty awesome.  Crispy thinner crust with quality ingredients made for a great pie.  The Bayou pizza was the hit of the table with fire roasted creole tomatoes, prosciutto and goat cheese. Yum!  They also offer gluten free pizza.  We’ll be back for pizza here!

The second stop was Palmer’s Deli.  They had a selection of sandwiches and pasta salad.  They were good, but not sure that they showcased the awesomeness of what Palmer’s is capable of.  It was nice that we had the party room all to ourselves and were able to hear about the charity that was supported by this particular Dishcrawl, Bidwell Riverside.  A portion of each ticket sold for Dishcrawl events go to a selected charity.

We crawled over to Wellman’s Pub for the third stop.  We started off this meal with chicken tortilla soup.  It got some mixed reactions at the table.  One diner mentioned that it was similar to a Velveeta party dip and I would agree.  Tasty, but not too noteworthy.  The next course though was their signature wings which were delicious.  The sweet chili sauce was very good and the buffalo was pretty spicy.  They also served a breaded porkloin sandwich with the thin and crunchy onion rings that we love so much from Wellman’s.  Very good.

Tuesday night at 8pm is trivia night at Wellman’s and Mandi (The Dishcrawl Coordiantor) made sure we hit it just right to get to play.  Really good prizes and a fun host.  Check it out! Prizes after every round and Wellman’s gift cards for the winning team.

The highlight of the evening for me was the dessert.  I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Rogue Sweets specializes in Vegan and Gluten Free cupcakes.  Their signature cupcake is a Gluten Free/Vegan Puppy chow cupcake and it was delicious!  They also brought Vegan Maple Bacon cupcakes!  Yes…Vegan.  No one could tell it wasn’t real bacon until they told us. They also brought tipsy turtle cupcakes which were a hit as well.  “Like” them on facebook and tell them we sent you for free delivery on your next order!

If you are sad now that you missed this installment, no fear!  There is another event coming up on June 17th! 7:00pm!  You can buy tickets here. Use code: eatplaylovedsm5off for $5 off each ticket you buy! Hope to see you at a Dishcrawl soon!

Quinton’s Bar & Deli

One of my favorite family-friendly lunch spots in town is Quinton’s Bar and Deli in the East Village.  If you can get there before noon, you shouldn’t have a problem finding a spot on the street nearby.  And even at the noon hour it isn’t too bad to find a spot, you might just have to walk a little bit.  And remember to bring some change for the meter if it’s a week-day.

Quinton’s offers a nice variety of salads, sandwiches, burgers, bread-bowl soups and spuds.  These spuds are HUGE!  They are actually two potatoes put together filed with gooey goodness like cheese, chili, sour cream, chicken and more!

I also really like their kid’s menu.  They offer chicken strips, cheeseburgers, grilled cheese, pb & j, mac and cheese or turkey and cheese severed with fries or chips, a drink and a fruit cup for around $5.  My kid loves it here because they remove the crust for him and grill his pb sandwich.  Very accommodating.

The service has always been friendly and the Foosball table and arcade video game is a help by keeping my kid occupied while waiting for food.  The atmosphere is isn’t louder, so louder kids probably wont bother other diners that might be on their lunch break.  The restaurant is pretty big.

Consider Quinton’s for a casual, family-friendly meal.  If you are looking for a more adult experience, they offer trivia on Wednesday nights and have happy hour daily from 3 to 7.  Check it out!

Cabo Sol

You may have driven by one of the newest Mexican restaurants in town, Cabo Sol.  It’s located right off of Mills Civic in West Des Moines.  It’s a welcome addition since the recent closing of Los Cabos in West Glen that we really enjoyed.

I knew I was going to like this place when we were greeted with our chips and salsa and $3.99 margaritas in fun flavors like mango, watermelon, peach and lime.  The watermelon was really good!

The restaurant is clean and welcoming with bright colors and friendly staff.

The food was typical of what the Mexican restaurants in the area offer.  Lunch and dinner specials including tacos, enchiladas, tamales and fajitas.

My mom and I shared fajitas while my hubby got a combo plate.  The fajitas were good.  Not the most well-seasoned that I’ve ever had, but I appreciated that they weren’t swimming in grease like you find at some other places.  The heaping plate of sides helped make it a satisfying meal.  Josh enjoyed his combo platter although they brought him a beef enchilada when he ordered chicken.  He said the tamale filling was excellent and the pork was very spicy like he likes it.

I’m excited to have another lunch or dinner option in WDM that isn’t just another chain.  So if you are looking for a tasty, filling lunch or dinner, check out Cabo Sol.  And try a frozen margarita!

Cool Basil for Hot Thai food!

I have been totally impressed with the Thai restaurants in the area.  Cafe Fuzion and King & I are usually my go-to places.   I had gone to Cool Basil a few times in the past and Cafe Fuzion’s Pad See Ew and King & I’s Yellow Chicken Curry seemed to win out for a while.

BUT, my friend Staci suggested Cool Basil in West Des Moines for a girl’s night out last week and I’m so glad that she did!  Best Pad Thai in town hands down.  Not overly greasy and not too heavy on the fish sauce like some other places in the area tend to make it.  I found myself craving it again the next day.  I resisted

We started out with the appetizer sampler and it was good.  Heavy on the fried items, but good if that’s what you’re going for.  I would have liked to see fresh Summer Rolls (rice paper w/rice noodles and veggies) like at King & I, but the sauces that came with were tasty as well.

I really liked the choices on the kids menu.  If your kid isn’t ultra-picky, there are some great, affordable choices.

The restaurant has a cozy feel that makes for a great place for a date-night, friends-night or family dinner.  

I also appreciated some of the unique menu items like Pumpkin Curry and Basil Scallops.  Can’t wait to try those!

As the sign points out, they have a sushi happy-hour on Monday and Tuesday evenings too.  The service is friendly and appropriately paced for a busy restaurant.  

I was super impressed with this visit and will certainly be back to try some more dishes.  This is one of the more popular Asian restaurants in town for a reason!  Good job Cool Basil!


South Union Bread

If you’re in the mood for a soup, salad or sandwich on the freshest bread ever, stop by South Union Bread Cafe.  It’s right on Locust street downtown, next to Centro.  This is Chef George Formaro’s lunchtime cafe and it shows in the quality of the ingredients. 

The lunch rush can be busy but the line moves pretty fast.  They are open from 11-2 Monday-Friday and is a hot spot among downtown employees.

They have a huge salad bar and the bread is baked fresh daily.   They also do brown bag lunches and platters which you can order online and pick up in a separate line when you get there to beat the crowd.

You can’t go wrong with just about anything you order.  The soup is hot, the potato salad is addictive and the sandwich meats are all fantastic.  

Whether you need a new idea for your next office lunch, or just want to try something new, check out South Union Bread Cafe for lunch.