Cadry’s Kitchen has been quiet while I took to the skies and went to my hometown, Des Moines, Iowa, to visit family and unwind. I’ve heard it said that our perceptions of a location say more about us than the place itself. That’s certainly true when it comes to going home again. There was a time in my life when every visit back meant hitting up the same old haunts I frequented in high school, going to the same places that resonated with me at seventeen. After a while those places didn’t fit me anymore. Just as I might feel rather conspicuous wearing clothes that were favorites in 1993 or teasing up my hair in the same way that was all the rage in the halls of my high school, as adults we have to rediscover our hometowns or else they can seem stale, as if they’re stuck in a time warp.
After toying with the options of bike riding on one of Des Moines’ many picturesque bike paths or taking a boat ride on one of the state’s human-made lakes, we landed instead on the East Village. With my mom as tour guide, we ventured to downtown Des Moines. The East Village is full of quaint shops selling clothes, kitchen gadgets, and the work of local artists, eateries, and also includes the state’s Historical Building. We browsed the Historical Building’s gift shop and then caught a trolley-shaped bus that runs every ten minutes. The D-line is a free and fun way to explore downtown Des Moines.
Outgoing locals chatted with us as we rode to Ritual Cafe, a coffee shop with an all vegetarian menu and a relaxed vibe. We started our meal with chips and garlicky salsa and then shared a delicious grilled vegetable sandwich on fresh bread from the South Union Bakery. The roasted red pepper hummus smeared on the sandwich gave an almost pizza-like quality. Finally, we capped the meal with a peanut butter cookie.
The staff was friendly and laid back, and Ritual Cafe seemed like one of those places where you could easily linger playing a game with friends, reading the newspaper, or in my case, bonding with mom.
After clicking pictures of Des Moines’ impressive capitol building, we left downtown and made our way to New City Market on University near Waveland Park to stock up for that evening’s dinner.
(Update: New City Market has closed. Check out Gateway Market, Campbell’s, Whole Foods, or Trader Joe’s instead.)
Few places make me feel more at home than a local natural foods store. New City Market is cozy but very well stocked. In addition to a nice selection of organic produce, they have a bulk section that includes bulk spices, which is great when visiting from out of town and buying a whole bottle of spices would be unnecessary. They also have a good selection of specialty foods like Coconut Bliss, Earth Balance, Vegenaise, and Tofurky sausages.
If you plan on heading to the Des Moines area, other vegan-friendly restaurants that are worth a visit include Fresh Cafe & Market, Cool Basil and Jason’s Deli in Clive. Cool Basil serves spicy and flavorful Thai food and has tons of easily veganizable options. Just tell them no fish sauce or oyster sauce and that you’re vegan. Lots of their menu items can be made with tofu or extra vegetables. Jason’s Deli also has a few veganizable options on their menu and a really nice salad bar with many organic offerings. I especially enjoy their chickpea, kidney bean, and edamame salad with cilantro.