14 new Des Moines-area restaurants for 2021

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has been tough on bars and restaurants nationwide, it apparently hasn’t dampened local entrepreneurs’ drive to open new restaurants — or the Des Moines community’s desire to patronize them.

“If this pandemic has shown us anything, it’s how much people love great food,” said Joe Tripp, owner and chef at Harbinger and soon-to-be restaurant Basic Bird Korean Fried Chicken, which currently operates out of the Harbinger space. “I think customers still have a desire to go out, and if anything it’s stronger than ever.” 

Here are 14 restaurants coming to Des Moines in 2021 including three breakfast- and brunch-only spots; a couple of breweries; new locations for existing restaurants; food trucks and catering businesses turned brick-and-mortar; Ethiopian, Korean and Mexican restaurants; and a popular national chain opening its first Des Moines-area location.

Basic Bird Korean Fried Chicken

When the pandemic hit and Joe Tripp’s restaurant Harbinger closed to in-person dining, his small-plates tasting menu didn’t lend well to takeout. He and his team had already been developing a new fast-casual restaurant concept: Basic Bird’s Korean Fried Chicken. So, they made a quick pivot and started offering Korean fried chicken and sides out of the Harbinger space at 2724 Ingersoll Ave. in Des Moines. The concept has proven popular, and Tripp is planning to open Basic Bird as a stand-alone restaurant in 2021, as soon as he finds the right location. 

Website: https://www.harbingerdsm.com

Big Al’s BBQ

When he was a kid, Al Laudencia's mother taught him how to do chores around the house, including cooking. "She was preparing us for something," Laudencia said. His mother passed away from breast cancer, but Laudencia teaches those same lessons to the people he employs at his two restaurants. "You won't starve and you will always find a job," Laudencia said. Here he's shown at his home on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020, in Adel, Iowa.

Al Laudencia closed the Army Post Road location of Big Al’s BBQ in November and is moving it to a new spot in West Des Moines. As at its other location in Adel, Big Al’s new spot will feature Southern-style barbeque, burgers and sides.

Address: 1960 Grand Ave., West Des Moines

Opening Date: First week of February

Website: https://www.bigalsbbq.net

The Breakfast Club

The Breakfast Club

This new breakfast concept has a large group of owners from local establishments like Gusto Pizza, Juniper Moon, Wellman’s Pub and 1908 Draught House. The new spot is meant to be fun and lively, and will include a full bar, full coffee service and an extensive breakfast menu with lots of new takes on breakfast, including a boozy “cereal flight,” s’mores donut holes, eggs Benedict four ways and a large selection of burgers that can be ordered vegan as well.

Address: 212 E. Third St., Des Moines (former Dumpling Darling location)

Opening Date: Late January

Chuck’s

Chuck's Restaurant

This Highland Park mainstay was founded by Chuck Bisignano in 1956 and remained in the family until 2014, when it was purchased by Emily and Lucas Jones. The 65-year-old restaurant in a 125-year-old building was in major need of renovation, so it closed in October for a full remodeling funded in part with grant money from the Neighborhood Development Corp. and Invest DSM. When the restaurant reopens it will continue to feature the pizza, onion rings and other Italian fare it’s known for.

Address: 3610 Sixth St., Des Moines

Reopening Date: Spring 2021

Website: chucksdsm.com

Des Fresh

Des Fresh started off as a food truck vending at the Downtown Farmer’s Market and various areas throughout Des Moines. After great success with the food truck, owners Timonthy Kommavongsa and Stephanie Cox decided to open a storefront featuring their signature items such as seasoned chickpea patties, waffles topped with crispy chickpea patties, lentil nachos and tofu burritos.

Address: 550 S.W. Ninth St., Suite 116, Des Moines

Opening Date: January

Website: @desfreshfoods on Instagram and Facebook

Early Bird

This brunch-only restaurant with two Nebraska locations has been voted best brunch in Nebraska, and now it’s making its way to the Des Moines metro. Highlights are several varieties of eggs Benedict, “hash holes,” pancakes and breakfast cocktails such as an espresso old fashioned and orange boozius. 

“Brunch concepts have gained tons of popularity in major metro areas and coastal cities, so it’s time for the Midwest to partake,” said owner Kendall Owen. 

Address: 9250 University Ave., West Des Moines

Opening Date: May

Website: www.earlybirdbrunch.com

Flame the Taqueria

Arturo Mora Mora, the owner of Flame the Food Truck, is opening Flame the Taqueria in a brick-and-mortar location. The menu will feature tacos with fillings such as al pastor, carne asada, shrimp and locally grown wild mushrooms. In addition to tacos, Flame will offer burritos, huaraches, tortas, Jarritos Mexican sodas and local beer. 

“When you walk the streets of Mexico you find little taco shops with good beer and different kinds of tacos with a casual atmosphere,” said Mexico native Mora Mora. “I wanted to bring this feeling to the Des Moines area.”

Address: 5765 Merle Hay Rd., Johnston

Opening Date: Late January

Website: www.flamethefoodtruck.com 

Gursha Ethiopian Grill

When Salah Salah took over the Drake neighborhood’s Hilal Groceries from his father, he noticed that the Ethiopian bread injera made from teff flour was a huge seller. When he decided to open an Ethiopian restaurant, he thought he might have to teach people about the food, but he has been pleasantly surprised by the enthusiastic response he has received.

“Since we announced the restaurant the feedback has been outrageous,” Salah says. “People are really excited about it. At first people get hooked on the bread, and then they find out how much they love the unique spices and texture of the food.”

Address: 2316 University Ave., Des Moines

Opening Date: January

Website: www.facebook.com/GurshaEthiopianGrill 

Hot Tamale Catering

A year ago Angie Ramos started selling tamales, enchiladas, rice and other Tex-Mex favorites she’s been making since she was a child. She did great business with orders cooked and packaged to-go out of a trailer in her driveway, so she decided to expand her business to a brick-and-mortar location in Windsor Heights. She anticipates that she’ll still do mostly to-go business, but there will also be a small dining area with five tables.  

Address: 7220 University Ave., Windsor Heights

Opening Date: February

Website: www.facebook.com/mexican.cater

Kinship Brewing Company

The outside of Kinship Brewing is seen on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020, in Waukee, IA.

This 13,000-square-foot brewery on 6 acres in Waukee is located just off the Raccoon River Valley bike trail on Sunrise Drive. In the spring and summer it will open its outdoor beer garden and half-acre dog park. It currently offers its own craft beers as well as cocktails, wine and local ciders. Knead Pi + Q and Up in Smoke BBQ food trucks are regulars at Kinship, which plans to start serving food from its own kitchen in the spring.

Address: 255 N.W. Sunrise Drive, Waukee

Opening Date: Opened Jan. 1

Website: www.kinshipbeer.com 

Lachele’s Fine Foods

Cory Wendel has been executive chef at several local restaurants, most recently Aposto, and is now opening his own place. Lachele’s Find Foods, named for his wife, will have a comfortable, casual atmosphere featuring classic smash burgers, weekly specials, breakfast options, a curated selection of beers, and desserts from local bakeries.

Address: 2716 Ingersoll Ave., Des Moines (formerly Uncle Wendell’s BBQ)

Opening Date: February

Website: www.instagram.com/lachelesfinefoods 

Rori’s 

Rori’s is a new venture for Simon Goheen, who also owns the popular nearby restaurant Simon’s. Rori’s will be a breakfast-only spot open daily that Goheen says will feature “homey service, reasonable prices and good food” such as breakfast bowls, Belgian waffles and traditional breakfast favorites.

Address: 6587 University Ave., Windsor Heights

Opening Date: Late February

Steak and Shake

Restaurant owner Ryan Winter poses for a portrait at Steak 'n Shake on Jan. 7, 2021 in West Des Moines. The spot is the first of its franchise to be established in the Des Moines metro, complete with a countertop ordering system and digital kiosks.

After more than a year of construction, COVID-19 and equipment-related delays, the Des Moines metro’s first Steak ‘n Shake of the popular chain opened Jan. 11. It features burgers, chili mac, chicken tenders and a variety of shakes.

Address: 815 S. 51st St., West Des Moines

Opening Date: Opened Jan. 11

Zora

Zora is under construction at the former Waverly bar site at the southwest corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway and Ingersoll Avenue. When completed, Zora’s two-story, 6,000-square-foot structure will include a rooftop patio that will be lit in the evening. Zora will be a bar-restaurant with a full-service kitchen and an emphasis on American-style foods such as hamburgers. During the noon hour during the workweek, Zora expects to cater to area workers. In the evenings, it will likely draw 20- to 30-year-olds. 

Address: 2120 Ingersoll Ave., Des Moines

Opening Date: Spring 2021

Website: www.zorabarrooftop.com