One of the hottest restaurant trends of the 21st century has been hitting central Iowa in full force in recent years.
Tapas (small, shared plates) are having a real moment.
The movement could be triggered by nutrition listings, the desire to indulge in a communal experience or a closer eye on budgets. These restaurants — and their crowd-favorite recipes — are worthy of a culinary crawl.
The Cheese Shop
Address: 833 42nd St., Suite B
Cuisine: Comfort food
Highlights: Homemade pate, local cured meats (hey there, La Quercia!) and snacks like Marcona almonds, olives and assorted jams join row upon row of cheeses to graze upon. Grab a bottle of beer or wine off the wall, then build your own board or try one of the Cheese Shop’s ever-changing monger or charcuterie boards.
Don’t miss: Creamy, cheesy fondue — served with baguette and cornichons — is available each Wednesday from 2-7 p.m. ($15 for two, $30 for four).
Address: 210 10th St.
Highlights: There’s a good reason why there’s often a line for a seat, even at the bar, during this downtown bistro’s all-night happy hour every Tuesday. In addition to $5 martinis, beer and wine, oysters are just $1 each.
Don’t miss: Why doesn’t every restaurant cook fries in duck fat? Oh yes, because then Django’s would feel a bit less splurge-worthy. Try an order for $8.99 (or $4 during happy hour) or enjoy them poutine-d (topped with beef, cheese curds, mushrooms and onions) for $8.99 or $13.99, depending on your appetite.
Address: 208 Court Ave.
Highlights: While this made-famous-by-The-Bachelor bar is known for its drinks, sharable items like sliders, tacos, bruschetta and mussels make its dinner menu stand out from the Court Avenue competition.
Don’t miss: Smothered tots ($16), loaded up with turkey, gravy, mushrooms, cheese curds and a fried egg, are made for soaking up RoCA’s signature cocktails.
Address: 1301 Locust St., Suite C
Highlights: Think you have to save your pennies to dine at Proof? Think again. Everything on the new happy hour and after hours menu (available from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 p.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays) is less than $20, including roasted bone marrow, kebabs and a sizable charcuterie spread.
Don’t miss: Sure, hummus sounds like “diet food,” but it sure doesn’t taste like it at Proof. Dip flatbread and fresh veggies into a super-smooth dish of chile butter-drizzled bean dip for just $8.
Address: 2931 Ingersoll Ave.
Highlights: Eatery A’s claim to fame is its daily 3 to 6 p.m. half-off pizza, beer and wine happy hour. But its appetizers (grilled halloumi cheese), full entrees (cauliflower and chickpea falafel) and desserts (salted caramel budino) make it well worth the occasional wait, too.
Don’t miss: Vegetables take on new life in Eatery A’s “Oven Sides” section of the menu. Grab an extra glass of water to counteract the heat in the fiery baba ghanoush ($5) or savor the restaurant’s signature North African flavors in the honey- and harissa-laced Moroccan carrots ($5).
Address: 2712 Beaver Ave.
Cuisine: New American
Highlights: With an ever-changing menu that highlights chef Zach Gutweiler’s ingenuity, orders as tame as beet curly fries sit alongside roasted bone marrow.
Don’t miss: Taco Tuesdays every Wednesday. Each hump day, Reed’s offers three new tacos, usually a meat, seafood and vegetarian recipe, for $3.50 each.
Address: 6611 University Ave., Windsor Heights
Highlights: This new kid on the Windsor Heights block has been packed with crowds since day one (Feb. 7). As if you’d expect anything less from Mike Crownover (formerly at Lurra Cucina) and David Baruthio (of Baru 66, Prime and the Whiskey House fame).
Don’t miss: Crave-worthy vegetables (yes, we said it!) by way of the “roasted trees” ($3 for a small or $5 for a large), caramelized cauliflower and broccoli topped with almonds and served with a buttermilk and blue cheese sauce. Feeling more like fair food? Opt for the tenderloin schnitzel sliders ($10 for three), breaded pork, celery relish and chipotle aioli sandwiched between brioche.
Address: 12851 University Ave., Suite 400, Clive
Highlights: From slow-roasted prime rib and fried avocado to goat cheese and prosciutto bruschetta, Trostel’s Dish — with a slightly more communal menu than its sister restaurant Trostel’s Greenbrier — will be a hit with the entire family.
Don’t miss: One version of the crispy flatbread pizza is topped with iconic Iowan sausage from Graziano Brothers, rich San Marzano tomatoes, basil and mozzarella ($12).
Save your appetite for ... Harbinger
Address: 2724 Ingersoll Ave.
Highlights: With a focus on hyper-local, vegetable-focused cuisine, Alba and Eatery A natives Joe Tripp and Jason Simon plan to open the newest tapas stop in the former Bistro Montage space this March.