These are the oldest Des Moines restaurants still in operation
Des Moines is full of places where you can grab a meal and enjoy a bit of history.
Some of the places you eat at most often just might be among the city's oldest still-operating eateries. Nothing says quality like longevity.
Only restaurants established in the 1970s or before made this list of Des Moines landmarks.
Established in 1967
What started as a grocery store has flourished into a citywide empire under the stewardship of current 4th Ward Councilman Joe Gatto and his co-owners. But its original south side location offers plenty of classic Italian dishes for lunch and dinner. Start with some homemade fried ravioli and then enjoy Amaggio, your choice of meat or fish with pasta and Amaggio sauce made with olive oil, white wine, lemon juice, garlic and basil.
Location: 2320 S. Union St., Des Moines
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 to 10 p.m.; Saturday, 4 to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 5 to 9 p.m.
Established in 1917
Stepping into Bauder's is like taking a step into the past - 1917 to be exact. Grab a seat at the counter and try the egg salad sandwich, tuna melt or the Roosevelt Special (turkey with Swiss and mustard grilled on a hoagie bun). Order a shake, sundae or flavored soda to go with your meal. In the summer you can order homemade peach or strawberry ice cream. Or go for one of the signature Bauder's peppermint-chocolate ice cream bars. Donut King donuts are also sold here.
Location: 3802 Ingersoll Ave., Des Moines
Hours: Tuesday through Friday, 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Saturday, 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sunday, 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; closed Mondays
Contact: (515) 255-1124; Facebook
Bianchi's Hilltop Restaurant
Established in 1950
Since 1950, Bianchi's Hilltop Restaurant has been a family-owned Italian eatery — famous for its pizza and pasta dishes. The neighborhood mainstay offers homemade, thin-cut onion rings in several sizes, baked cavatelli with bread and salad, and Italian sausage sandwiches with cheese on Vienna bread. Try the butter-fried chicken livers.
Location: Hilltop Center, 2820 Hubbell Ave., Des Moines
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4:30 to 9:30 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4:30 to 10:30 p.m.; Saturday, 4:30 to 10:30 p.m.; closed Sundays.
Established in 1977
The original Bordenaro's was opened in 1977 and has been a south side pizza and pasta mainstay ever since. Though the Drake neighborhood outpost Bordy's recently closed, the original restaurant remains a longtime neighborhood favorite on Southwest Ninth street, always the place to stop if you're craving anything with red sauce and a side of onion rings.
Location: 6108 SW 9th St., Des Moines
Hours: Monday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4:30 to 10 p.m.; Tuesday, 4:30 to 10 p.m.; Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4:30 to 10 p.m.; Thursday, 4:30 to 10 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4:30 to 10 p.m.; Saturday, 4:30 to 11 p.m.; closed Sundays.
Established in 1978
Food, fun and booze are the calling cards of Chicago Speakeasy, which opened in 1978. Look for prime rib, steaks, seafood, pasta, chicken, ribs, chops and sandwiches as well as a salad bar featuring more than 50 homemade items. Try one of six surf-and-turf style Mafia's Combinations with prime rib or sirloin steak and a choice of shrimp, scallops and king crab legs.
Location: 1520 Euclid Ave., Des Moines
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday, 4 to 10 p.m.; closed Sundays.
Established in 1963
Enjoy a full menu of appetizers, soups, salads, steaks, sandwiches, seafood, chicken, pizza and pasta classics at this family-owned Beaverdale landmark that's been around since the early 1960s. A 10-ounce prime rib special for $18 is available on Mondays, and enjoy half-price wine with the purchase of two $17 or more entrées on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Look for steak de Burgo with garlic butter cream sauce and Boursin-stuffed mushrooms.
Location: 2816 Beaver Ave., Des Moines
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 5 to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5 to 11 p.m.; closed Sundays.
Chuck Celsi's Tavern Restaurant
Established in 1945
Recently renovated, this historic restaurant in Valley Junction has been serving great food and drinks to the metro for three-quarters of a century. It's a tale of the Rilei and Celsi families and their recipes, which have been passed down for generations. Try the crunchy hand-cut deep-fried mozzarella sticks and the Italian grinder with homemade Italian sausage simmered in a special sauce and topped with mozzarella cheese and oven-baked on a fresh hoagie bun. Or check out the legendary thin crust pizza and pasta dishes. Tavern now has two locations in West Des Moines (Tavern Pizza & Pasta Grill) and a food truck.
Location: 205 Fifth St., West Des Moines and 1755 50th St., West Des Moines
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Established in 1956
This restaurant was originally established by Chuck and Elizabeth Bisignano. At this family restaurant serving Italian-American fare, you can enjoy a full line of appetizers, salads, pasta dishes, pizza, burgers and sandwiches, and Italian entrées of chicken, steaks and seafood are available. Keep a keen eye out for the Italian fried chicken, which is battered in Parmesan cheese, Italian herbs and spices served with two sides, along with the hand-breaded tenderloin sandwich.
Location: 3610 Sixth Ave., Des Moines
Hours: Tuesday through Thursday, 4:30 to 9:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 4:30 to 10:30 p.m.; closed Sundays and Mondays.
Established in 1964
Donut King recently reopened two locations in the metro making its fresh, sweet doughnuts in a variety of flavors and styles including honey-dipped (glazed), chocolate-frosted, toasted coconut, long johns, pecan and chocolate rolls along with powdered and sprinkled doughnuts. But the doughnut shop had its start in 1964.
- 3304 E. University Ave., Des Moines
- 3802 Ingersoll Ave. inside Bauder's
- University: Tuesday through Sunday, 6 a.m. to 12 p.m.; closed Mondays.
- Ingersoll/Bauder's: Ingersoll/Bauder's: Tuesday through Sunday, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.; closed Mondays.
Contact: (515) 274-9892; Facebook
Felix & Oscar's
Established in 1975
One of a handful of places in Des Moines serving Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, F & O's — as it's commonly called — has been open since 1975. Go for a baked pasta dish like cavatelli with Graziano Italian sausage or meatballs, and enjoy plenty of appetizers, sandwiches and burgers. Lunch specials and a kids menu are also available. But be sure to save room for the house special dessert: a fried cookie dough sundae.
Location: 4050 Merle Hay Road, Des Moines
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
George the Chili King Drive-In
Established in 1952
Appearing in both the written works of Bill Bryson and featured on Guy Fieri's "Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives," George the Chili King has been in operation since it was founded downtown in 1920 and moved to its now-classic location at the corner of Hickman and Merle Hay roads in 1952. George Karaidos Jr. and his family continue to churn out endless vats of thick, saucy chili served over hot dogs and Coneys alongside massive pork tenderloins.
Location: 5722 Hickman Road, Des Moines
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Established in 1912
Some of the most well-regarded Italian restaurants in Des Moines make sure to remind their diners in bold lettering that they're sourcing sausage — and often other ingredients — from Graziano Bros. on the south side. So it only makes sense that this institutional grocery would have its own sandwich counter where it offers a variety of Italian sandwiches, hot and cold.
Location: 1601 S. Union St., Des Moines
Hours: Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Contact: (515) 244-7103; Facebook
Henry J's Taco House
Established in 1973
Proving that legends never die, this south-side taco institution weathered an oncoming car through its building at the end of 2018, but it didn't take long for the restaurant to return to its mission: providing Des Moines with crispy fried tacos and unimpeachable Tex-Mex, just as it's done for nearly 50 years.
Location: 2201, 2920 SW Ninth St., Des Moines
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Contact: (515) 243-3144 ; Facebook
Jim's Coney Island
Established in 1971
At Jim's Coney Island on the south side, you can enjoy hot dogs, burgers, tenderloins and fries just as the restaurant's been making them since 1971. Chili is sold here by the bowl, pint, quart or gallon. As its motto says, "Everybody Loves a Coney."
Location: 3700 SW 9th St., Des Moines
Hours: Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.; Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.; closed Sundays.
Contact: (515) 243-9608; Facebook
LJ's Burgers & Ice Cream
Established in 1972
Since 1972, Americana classics like burgers and soft-serve ice cream have been featured at LJ's Burgers & Ice Cream, formerly known as Little John's. Tenderloin sandwiches are also served here. Try a mushroom and Swiss burger followed by an Avalanche — choose your favorite candy and have it blended into LJ's soft serve.
Location: 3702 2nd Ave., Des Moines
Hours: Monday through Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday, 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Leaning Tower of Pizza
Established in 1965
For more than 50 years, this landmark has been baking pies with its signature caramelized edges, and it now has a location on the DMACC Ankeny Campus for hungry college students. Create your own pizza or try one of Leaning Tower's specialty pies like the Harrington — homemade Italian sausage, pepperoni, cheddar and mozzarella cheeses and zesty sauce. But don't forget about the thick-cut onion rings served with a side of house dressing and the spaghetti and meatball dinner served with garlic bread and a dinner salad.
Location: 512 SW Third St., Ankeny
Hours: Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Contact: (515) 964-0401; ltpizza.com; Facebook
Established in 1963
In 1963, Chuck Lacona sold pizzas out of the back of a Cushman cart with use of a CB radio. Fast-forward to 2019, and this restaurant is still using the same family recipes, including a red sauce that simmers for six hours; hand-made potato focaccia; jumbo-sized cavatelli using a special machine, and served classically with Des Moines' own spicy Graziano sausage; and dressings from scratch — including its popular creamy Parmesan.
Location: 3825 121st St., Urbandale
Hours: Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday, 4:30 to 9 p.m.; Sunday, 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.; closed Mondays.
Maxie's Restaurant & Lounge
Established in 1967
This place has been a Des Moines dining institution for lunch and dinner since 1967. Daily specials abound here. Enjoy the "Best of Des Moines" onion rings or the spinach-artichoke dip with crispy pita points. Choose from a variety of Maxieburgers for lunch. For a filling dinner, try the "Maxie" Special — a seasoned 7-ounce grilled sirloin served with two butterflied breaded shrimp, choice of potato, onion rings, salad and dinner roll.
Location: 1311 Grand Ave., West Des Moines
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 to 9 p.m.; closed Sundays.
Established in 1946
A Des Moines staple, the Lacona family opened Noah’s on New Year's Eve in 1946 as a lunch counter. Enjoy classic Italian dishes like veal alla mozzarella, Calabrese-style lasagna, or the fried chicken, pizza and steak. Don’t pass up the complimentary garlic knots and try to save room for a slice of the San Francisco blackout cake, lemon fantasy, coconut whiteout cake or chocolate windmill cake.
Location: 2400 Ingersoll Ave., Des Moines
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to midnight; closed Sundays.
The Original Jesse’s Embers
Established in 1963
Open since 1963, Jesse’s Embers is known for steak and seafood. Diners can watch as their food is cooked on the open flame grill. Open for lunch and dinner, order the Emberburger (1/2 pound sirloin beef patty), the open pit French dip, filet mignon or the "Deena's Slippers" — beer-battered lobster tails.
Location: 3300 Ingersoll Ave., Des Moines
Hours: Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m.; Saturday, 5 to 10 p.m.; closed Sundays.
Orlondo's On Park Bar & Grill
Established in 1978
Located off the Great Western Trail, Orlondo's On Park Bar & Grill has been serving pizza, pasta and sandwiches to hungry diners since 1978. Try the cavatelli with red sauce and mozzarella. Or share a 16-inch Orlondo's Combo pizza with sausage, pepperoni, mushroom, onion and sweet roasted peppers.
Location: 4337 Park Ave., Des Moines
Hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.; Monday, 4 to 12 a.m.
Established in 1957
Pagliai's had its roots in Iowa in 1957, with "tomato tarts" being sold in a bar in Ames. That tradition is carried on by the family in Pagliai's menu consisting of starters, salads, calzones, pasta, sandwiches, and, of course, pizza in thin crust, double crust, or pan styles in three sizes. For something different, go for the Italian stroganoff with sliced ribeye, red peppers and mushrooms served over wide noodles.
Location: 5312 Merle Hay Road, Johnston,
Hours: Monday and Tuesday, 4 to 9 p.m.; Wednesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 to 9 p.m.; Saturday, 4 to 9 p.m.
El Patio Mexican Restaurant
Established in 1941
First opened in Valley Junction in 1942 and a resident of Ingersoll Avenue since 1951, El Patio is one of Des Moines' oldest Mexican restaurants. With its comfortable summer patio, this is the place to relax with some margaritas and blue corn enchiladas.
Location: 611 37th St., Des Moines
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 5 to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 5 to 9 p.m.; closed Mondays.
Contact: (515) 274-2303; Facebook
Polito's La Pizza House
Established in 1952
Polito's La Pizza House opened in 1952 as Russ & Abbie's La Pizza House on Des Moines' south side. . People could watch the pizza being made and the restaurant quickly becomes a place where local high school and community sports teams gathered. Enjoy homemade thin crust pizza, fried chicken dinners and baked cavatelli dinners.
Location: 1440 Maury St., Des Moines
Hours: Tuesday through Thursday, 4 to 9 p.m.; Friday, 4 to 10 p.m.; Saturday, 4 to 9 p.m.; closed Sundays and Mondays.
Contact: (515) 288-2211; Facebook
Riccelli's Italian Restaurant
Established in 1964
Since 1964, Riccelli's has been serving Italian-American food in Des Moines' south side. Steak de Burgo can be found here, along with sandwiches, salads, appetizers, pasta dishes and seafood. Onion rings are the thing here in small, medium and large sizes. But don't forget about the 8- or 10-ounce prime rib special served on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, served with a salad, a side of spaghetti and a choice of potato.
Location: 3803 Indianola Ave., Des Moines
Hours: Wednesday through Saturday, 4 to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.; closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
Contact: (515) 288-7755; Facebook
Rice Bowl Restaurant
Established in 1963
Rice Bowl Restaurant began serving Cantonese-style cuisine to hungry diners in Beaverdale in 1963. And it is still family owned and operated today. Known for its egg rolls and fried rice, don't forget to try other Cantonese specialties like et and sour, shrimp with lobster sauce and bean sprout chop suey with mushrooms.
Location: 2607 Beaver Ave., Des Moines
Hours: Monday through Wednesday, 11:15 a.m. to 2:15 p.m.; Thursday through Saturday, 11:15 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. and 4:30 to 9 p.m.; closed Sundays.
Established in 1973
Since 1973, the loosely translated “scorned cow” has been serving up Scorno’s pizzas made with Mama V’s secret family recipes as well as homemade Italian sausage, meatballs, onion rings and cheese sticks. Chow down on a homemade sausage and capicola sandwich served on Vienna bread with red sauce and mozzarella.
Location: 1930 SE 14th St., Des Moines
Hours: Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 9 p.m.; closed Mondays.
Smitty's Tenderloin Shop
Established in 1967
Smitty's Tenderloin Shop has been serving its larger-than-life loin sandwiches since 1967 in varieties such as vegetable, chili-cheese, taco and, of course, the classic king. Now in its third generation of family ownership, not much on the menu has changed over the years. You can still enjoy burgers, sandwiches, side orders, shakes and malts.
Location: 1401 Army Post Rd., Des Moines
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; closed Sunday.
Established in 1961
Though the first location on Easton Boulevard is gone, this local chain has cemented its place in the hearts of Des Moines residents. The unmistakable fluffy flour taco shell filled with a choice of ground beef, bean, chicken, steak or pork with shredded lettuce and cheese is a favorite.
Location: Six locations across the metro.
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; closed Sundays.
Ted's Coney Island
Established in 1955
As the name suggests, you can get Coney Island dogs at Ted’s Coney Island, established in 1955. You can also get gyros, Grecian grilled chicken sandwiches and burgers. Baskets will fill you up — they include fries, onion rings and coleslaw.
Location: 3020 Ingersoll Ave., Des Moines
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday, 10:30 to 8 p.m.
Contact: (515) 243-8947; Facebook
Tursi’s Latin King
Established in 1947
Latin King didn’t add Tursi’s to the name until 1983, when Bob and Amy Tursi bought the restaurant. Jim and Rose Pigneri originally opened Latin King in 1947. Never fear. The two families both hailed from Terravecchia, Italy, before immigrating to the United States.
Order up dishes served family-style including the Tursi's for the King with a 16-ounce New York strip or Tursi’s for the Queen with a beef tenderloin. Everything comes with pasta with sauce. Go authentic Italian with the chicken spiedini, pepper steak with garlic mashed potatoes or pasta with homemade meatballs. And much of Latin King's produce is grown on the property.
Location: 2200 Hubbell Ave., Des Moines
Hours: Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 to 10 p.m.; Friday, 4 to 10 p.m.; Saturday, 4 to 11 p.m.; closed Sundays and Mondays.
Was your restaurant in Des Moines established in the 1970s or before and you don't see it on this list? Please email Brian Carlson to be added.