Des Moines meals, sweets and experiences to indulge in this Valentine’s Day

‘Love’ by Robert Indiana, part of the Pappajohn Sculpture Park in Des Moines, makes for a romantic photo-op. — Courtney Guein/Little Village

No matter your relationship status or feelings surrounding Valentine’s Day, it’s a convenient excuse to indulge in a fancy meal, cocktail, dessert, or all three. Spend Tuesday, Feb. 14 in good spirits — and out of the waiting area — by supporting local businesses, planning ahead and getting straight to the good stuff.

Paint the Town Rosso

Hello, Marjorie, an “experience-focused bar in the heart of downtown Des Moines,” boasts a bountiful cocktail list and a flattering neon sign. — Lily DeTaeye/Little Village

OK, so you’re planning to eat out on Valentine’s Day night with that (or those) special person(s) — hear me out for a moment. There are many wonderful places to treat yourself to a nice dinner, and many will inevitably be very busy. Wherever you end up, be sure to be extra patient with restaurant workers; you don’t want to be responsible for making the day of love feel like another amateur night for bar staff this close to St. Pat’s. Remember to RSVP as soon as you can if you have your heart set on going out on the 14th.

To me, nothing screams Valentine’s Day in Des Moines more than Centro, the classic long-standing Italian restaurant on Locust and 10th. It’ll be busy, of course, but if you can, try snagging a seat near the front windows and bar with the high-top tables and chairs. I’ve always thought it feels a bit more intimate and relaxed in that spot. Their menu is robust, yet not overwhelming, full of familiar, cherished Italian dishes. A few of my favorite meals on the menu are George’s Favorite Pizza, (named after George Formaro, Centro’s owner) which consists of mozzarella, Graziano’s Italian sausage, roasted red pepper, red onion and red sauce; the tomato basil soup with cheese tortellini; and Centro Salad with Italian greens, Gorgonzola, toasted pecans, red onion and balsamic vinaigrette. Yum!

Noodle Around at Home

IMHO, there are two excellent ways to eat your way through Valentine’s Day at home. One of my resolutions for the new year is to cook more. I have countless NYT Cooking and Bon Appetit recipes saved and am always looking for an excuse to dedicate a few hours to the kitchen. That being said, pick out the recipe, make yourself a list and head out to your favorite grocery.

Red wine for sale at Gateway Market, 2002 Woodland Ave, Des Moines — Sid Peterson/Little Village

You’ll find me heading to Gateway Market for last-minute ingredients, dessert and wine. Their dessert section is divine, specifically their cakes. I predict I’ll be grabbing myself a couple of their pink champagne cupcakes and a bottle of red.

Hanging plants, potted plants, bouquets and other Valentine’s gifts are aplenty at Gateway Market. — Sid Peterson/Little Village

You may be thinking, Cooking an elaborate meal on a Tuesday night? No thank you! Fair enough! If you’re spending V-Day in DSM, the good people at Lucky Lotus will hook you up with exceptional take-out. You truly cannot go wrong with anything on their menu. If there’s two of you eating, I’d recommend ordering a few entrées and an appetizer to share. Sky’s the Limit is a great noodle option: rice noodles stir-fried in a tangy savory sauce with green onions, bean sprouts and peanuts. Or, if you’re feeling a bit bolder, try a platter of Laap, Laos’s national dish: minced protein of your choice tossed in aromatic herbs and spices. The dish is served with sticky rice and lettuce.

Even the waiting area is romantic at Lucky Lotus, 2721 Ingersoll Ave, Des Moines. — Sid Peterson/Little Village

An Art Fair Affair

If you haven’t been to an art event at Mainframe Studios yet, here’s an excellent chance! Tangerine Food Company’s annual Come Pho Luv event on the Saturday before the 14th is perfect for partners, pals or those flying solo.

A ticket to the event will include four food stations that’ll include pho, fried chicken, crepes and more. Guests will also receive five beer samples from Peace Tree Brewing. In addition to soaking in the excellent food and beverages, plan on partaking in many art experiences throughout the evening. There will be live music, a floral photo backdrop, tarot readings and workshops offered by Mainframe artists. Clay & Slay, an LGBTQ+ and woman-owned business will be offering two create-your-own-earrings workshop sessions for event-goers. Join them in creating a pair of your own polymer clay earrings.

Other sweet treats around the metro…

LeeTy Delight’s banana pudding cinnamon rolls at Slow Down Coffee Co.

Four 12-packs of French macarons from la mie Bakery

The Honeybee latte + a pastry from Scenic Route Bakery

Charcuterie and a bottle of red wine to share from Clyde’s Fine Diner

Bon Appétite French-Inspired Cuisine Gift Box from the Allspice Culinarium

A box of champagne donuts from Hiland Bakery

The Champagne donut from Hiland Bakery, one of several great donut destinations in Des Moines. — Lily DeTaeye/Little Village

Seasonal fruit pie from Pie Bird Pies

Cheese Bar’s classic fondue

Tiramisu from Smokey Row Coffee Co.

The Valentine’s Day Stuffed Cookie Box from Oh High Bakery

A refreshing spirit or house cocktail from the Bartender’s Handshake (Tip: Ask for the We’ll Take It From Here. Answer a question or two from a BH bartender and they’ll create something new, specifically for you!)

This article was originally published in Little Village Central Iowa issue 011.