Spring Break — that glorious week off from school — is here. Even if you are long graduated, take a much-needed day off and treat yo self to the exotic cuisine of far off destinations, right here at home!
Alohana Hawaiian Grill
Nay Baccam, operator of this island-inspired restaurant, is insistent on bringing true Hawaiian flavors to the Des Moines area. She recommends a couple of different options for a mental escape beyond our landlocked state. The Hawaiian BBQ Chicken ($6.99) is always served with traditional side dishes of rice and macaroni salad. If the dish is not served with the two, Baccam says it is not a true Hawaiian dish.
Expand tastes with grilled SPAM musubi. Much like sushi, the grilled meat is served on top of steamed rice, wrapped in seaweed. At $1.29 a piece, pop these as a snack or order multiple pieces to make a meal.
"Hawaiian food is such a mixed culture of Polynesian, Asian and American food," Baccam said. "Part of the cuisine is about the portions, if you compare entrees with other restaurants the price point is great."
Complete the meal with a variety of 100% Aloha juice made in Hawaii with different kinds of tropical fruit.
Find it: 802 S.E. Oralabor Road, Ankeny
Hours: 10:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Contact:facebook.com/pages/Alohana- Hawaiian-Grill, 515-964-2800
Dos Rios Cantina
Couldn't make it to Cancun? That's OK. Dos Rios brings the flavors from south of the border to Court Avenue. The dishes reflect distinct influences from South American countries like Argentina, Cuba and Brazil. Leave the swimsuits and surfboards at home, but if the sun is shining, you can rock your stunner shades on the patio.
Begin with the obligatory tableside guacamole. Each is a benevolent portion of freshly chopped and mixed avocados, onions and spices served with seasoned, crunchy and unbelievably delicious tortilla chips.
Order from the Bandejos de Tacos for three hand-pressed tacos snuggled up nicely alongside rice and black beans. Keep it Lent-friendly with the adobo shrimp or vegetarian with the charred veggie option.
Of course any tropical menu would not be complete without a margarita. A bit on the pricier side, but promising in alcohol, the el mayor margarita ($13) completes your spring break staycation day drinking. The drink derives its name from the base El Mayor Anejo, shaken with Cointreau, lime juice, sweet agave syrup and topped off with Grand Marnier foam.
Saving cash for a real trip? Hit up happy hour from 4-7 p.m. for $5 margaritas, infusions and sangrias, and enjoy $5 appetizers like gorditas and crispy calamari.
Find it: 316 Court Ave.
Hours: 11 a.m.-close Monday through Saturday
Take a trip across the pond to waltz under the lights of the Eiffel Tower — or try the Bistro Montage. This window-lined corner on charming Ingersoll Avenue serves up delicious French dishes, from the traditional to the contemporary.
One of the best kept culinary secrets of Des Moines? Chef Enosh Kelley's lunch menu at Bistro Montage. For $10.50, enjoy a steak or vegetarian crepe served with homemade chips and a cup of French onion soup or fresh side salad. Both options are packed full of goodness. Still hungry? Add $2 for the seafood crepe option, rolled up with shrimp, scallops, lettuce, cabbage, tomato and a tantalizing tarragon aioli.
Linger a moment longer in the land of cheese and wine or indulge in a dreamy dessert, such as the Dentelle Croustillante. Sweet and decadent, pistachio puree is folded into whipped cream and sandwiched between two chocolate cookies. Silky ganache, nutty pistachio pieces and a ruby-red cherry top it all off.
Find it: 2724 Ingersoll Ave.
Hours: 5 p.m.-close Tuesday through Saturday