Holiday weekend in Des Moines

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This weekend seems to be the official holiday kick-off in central Iowa.  On Thursday night, Valley Junction celebrated Jingle in the Junction, and on Friday night East Village offered its Holiday Promenade. Both events featured horse-drawn rides, holiday lights, and visits with Santa. Downtown Ames celebrated a similar event on Friday.

I attended none of these. My excuses were many, mostly family commitments and distain for really wretched weather.

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But Saturday morning my daughters, Katie and Lauren, and I headed for Des Moines to spend the weekend together and get a jump on the holidays by shopping and eating too much. We started out at the Winter Farmers’ Market at Capital Square (top). We bought our usual: cheese, bread, popcorn, dip and cheeseball mixes, pastries, and nuts. (“Farmers market” is a bit of a misnomer, but they did have a few vendors with produce, eggs, and meat.) We tasted fresh salsa, salivated over cinnamon rolls, and talked ourselves out of buying the vintage wool mittens above. I did buy a cute Christmas bracelet, though.

Having eaten our fill of breakfast pastries, we headed for Jordan Creek Mall. I promised to buy coats as pre-Christmas gifts for both girls, and I was looking forward to seeing the new Crate & Barrel pop-up store. We were successful at finding coats at Younkers; we browsed Crate & Barrel (kind of small and crowded, but fun) and Pottery Barn Kids (I love that store); and bought a few things at Forever 21 and Dry Goods. The mall is definitely beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.

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By now it’s mid-afternoon and we’re hungry. So we head back downtown. Our destination: Zombie Burger in the East Village. This may be the most incredibly popular Des Moines restaurant that I’ve never been to. Three reasons: I’m not crazy about waiting for a table (and the place is always crazy-busy), I don’t like zombies, and I don’t eat burgers. But a quick peek at the menu online put my mind at ease that I wouldn’t go hungry, with lots of non-meat appetizers and sides – plus, any burger can be made with a veggie patty instead of meat.

IMG_9688At 2:30 in the afternoon, we figured we’d have the place to ourselves, but we still had a 45-minute wait. This is one popular place. We killed time reading the silly, zombie-pun-filled menu and taking pictures of the zombie art. Oh, and people-watching. It’s an interesting clientele.

When we finally got a table in the dining room, we ordered a basket of fries with dipping sauce and three zombie burgers: a “28 Days Later” veggie burger with blue cheese and caramelized onions, “Dawn of the Dead” with bacon and a fried egg, and the “Raygun” with Monterey jack cheese and guacamole but minus the fried jalapenos. And I got a shake with coffee and vanilla ice cream.

IMG_9705The menu is filled with odd-ball combinations like the “Trailer Trash Zombie” burger — with American cheese, fried pickle, chicken fried bacon, cheese curds, and ranch — the “Walking Ched” with a deep-fried macaroni-and-cheese bun, and the “They’re Coming the Get You Barbara” with two grilled cheese sandwiches as the bun. (Yuck.) The unique “brain-freeze” shakes come with or without booze, and some are topped with sugary breakfast cereals. The whole thing is a bit odd, but fun. (And I do appreciate the creativity.)

Stuffed, we did some shopping in East Village, poking around in Porchlight Antiques and Found Things. We would have shopped longer, but we were tired of walking outside in the cold so we checked into our hotel, the historic Hotel Fort Des Moines. At 10th and Walnut, this is a great location, with Centro, Exile Brewing, Americana, Proof, the Gaslamp, the sculpture garden, etc. all within easy walking distance. Unfortunately, the temperature was hovering around 12 degrees and we were thoroughly cold. We rarely get to spend “girl time” together, so we didn’t mind hanging out in the room for awhile, just talking and laughing and sipping a little cocktail we’d brought along (I like to plan ahead).

Later, we ventured downstairs to Django, the French restaurant connected to the hotel (but a destination in itself). We were not terribly hungry from our earlier zombie meal, but we wanted a little something. We sat in the cozy dark-wood bar area and ordered two appetizers (a cheese plate and crab cakes) and more cocktails. It’s fun to have daughters old enough to share drinks with.

We slept well enough that night, even though the hotel reminded both girls of the Overlook Hotel from “The Shining” (“REDRUM!!!!!”)

This morning we had trouble deciding where to go for Sunday brunch. Would it be Americana Restaurant at 13th and Locust? Centro? Back to Django?

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IMG_9711We opted for Centro at 10th and Locust, just a block from our hotel. The menu was perfect: mostly egg dishes, with yummy sides and South Union bread. I ordered the wild mushroom omelet with Centro potatoes and great coffee. Lauren had stuffed French toast, and Katie went for the fried egg sandwich. And then we ate off each other’s plates. It was a great ending to a fun weekend.

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