As a recently transplanted Iowan, I couldn’t help but get a bit homesick when I noticed my favorite greasy spoon was featured in the Washington Post’s “At the Diners” series, a part of their Campaign Trail blog.
The Waveland Café, in Des Moines, Iowa, is a diner so unpretentiously authentic it can almost dare to make a lifelong Iowan feel out of place. As a playground for political and media types leading up to the influential Iowa Caucuses, the café serves coffee and hash browns with a side of local politics.
With aptly-chosen words, Des Moines local dining critic D.V. Wagman sums up Waveland:
Endearingly tacky, wholeheartedly unhealthy, and often overly crowded, it is nevertheless one of the most delightful places in Des Moines. Personified, it would be a bizarre genetic mixture of mouthy Roseanne Barr combined with cartoonist R. Crumb’s Keep On Truckin’ guy.
Though Des Moines has its share of trendy brunch spots, Waveland remains one of the places to grab brunch on the weekends. Bear in mind: This is blue-collar Iowa, so brunch at Waveland means hearty helpings of artery-clogging skillets and omelets heaped with toast and hash browns. As much a part of this Des Moines institution as the windows proclaiming “Stop in & ‘Ketchup’ with the Best,” the sassy waitresses are immortalized in paint on the sunny mural-covered (and syrup-splattered) walls.
But if your idea of brunch requires a Bloody Mary, by all means head next door to Waveland Coffee Shop, an old stand-by that seeps a different kind of authenticity. The dark, cavernous tavern has been around since Prohibition (during those days, the place served “near beer”) and a now-antique Waveland Coffee Shop sign hangs above the bar as proof. Their fiery Bloody Mary is the house specialty, infused with a delicious horseradish and garnished with spicy pickled okra.
Play your cards right, and the Waveland Café waitresses might even slip next door to bring you breakfast at the bar.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Waveland Café (+1 515 279 4341) and Waveland Coffee Shop (+1 515 255 5171) are located side-by-side at 4708 University Ave.
Photos: Tory Thaemert Olson