Des Moines is an easy halfway stop between St. Paul and Kansas City, so I enjoyed lunch there on the way to and from Kansas City Veg Fest. Dumpling Darling recently opened their Des Moines location and it’s a beautiful space with lots of light. We ordered steamed and fried dumplings, plus japchae. The only challenging thing was that vegetarian and vegan dishes are marked by a V and a v, which are not easy to differentiate on their menu board. So we first tried to order vegetarian dishes, and when I told the person at the register that our meal would be vegan, they had to point out the vegan dishes.
Japchae is a Korean stir fry noodle dish, and I love the crispy little veggie pieces. We made the mistake of mixing in all of the gochujang, which made it too spicy. Gochujang is the red chili paste you see in the center of the dish above. It’s delicious but can easily overpower other flavors, like it did with the japchae. I would order this again but be more careful with the gochujang.
The steamed kimchi dumplings are good, but the fried chipotle tofu dumplings are where it’s at. The smoky chipotle flavor really takes it to the next level.
Dumpling Darling is across the street from Molly’s Cupcakes, and Happy Cow said they regularly have chocolate and vanilla cupcakes so we decided to check them out. We were pleasantly surprised to find a strawberry shortcake cupcake and even more pleasantly surprised to find out that it’s a filled cupcake!
Growing up, my family occasionally had angel food cake with strawberry glaze (both pre-made and purchased at the grocery store), and that’s what this cupcake reminded me of. It was heavenly.
On our way home, we stopped at Brightside Kitchen which recently opened inside Mercy Health and Fitness Center – how cool is that? This plant based eatery offers fresh, vibrant flavors, and my favorite was the Buffalo Piadini which is like a pressed tortilla. I’m normally not big on celery, but it’s a great addition in this case.
The bowl of the day was an Asian Bowl with a whole slew of things from edamame to mung beans to carrots to noodles, plus greens and a carrot ginger dressing. They change up the bowls every few days.
We topped off our Brightside meal with two yummy scones: Orange Walnut and Blueberry Buckwheat. One thing I especially love about their scones are that they’re not too big, so you won’t feel like you’re overindulging. It’s been fun trying new spots the past few times I’ve been to Des Moines, and the city is much more vegan-friendly than most people probably think.