The Des Moines Downtown Farmers’ Market has nearly 300 vendors and is always worth a visit on Saturday mornings, especially if you’re extra hungry like I was on a recent trip.
But instead of just filling my belly, I decided to do my best to find the best eats available at the farmers’ market and share that information.
Here are my recommendations:
Best Overall: Sheepgate – French Toast Skewer – $6
Sheepgate, a new vendor, brought the house down with its skewer. It’s less so a skewer and more so a paper dish with French toast and whipped cream. The bread used for the French toast was not any normal store brand bread; it was made from homemade banana bread. It was very flavorful and made this the best French toast I have ever eaten. It has been a long time since I have been impressed by a new food item at the farmers’ market.
I could have stopped at the bread, but after taking a bite of the whipped cream, I was shocked by its freshness! It clearly hadn’t come from a can and was flavorful. The warmness of the bread and the chillness of the whipped cream created a perfect contrast. Sheepgate’s unique take on French toast with fresh whipped cream made this newcomer the best.
Most Unique: Bubble Tea Kups – Mango Bubble Tea Smoothie – $6
Another new vendor to the farmers’ market, Bubble Tea Kups had an interesting yet refreshing drink. A few years ago, I tried bubble tea and did not enjoy it. On this hot, sweltering day at the farmers’ market, I decided to give it another go. However, this time it was in the form of a bubble tea smoothie, and it revitalized me after being beat down by the sun. I enjoyed the added milky texture versus the typical bubble tea.
The black pearls AKA tapioca balls made the smoothie better. These tiny black balls provided a smooth surface when sipped through the straw. My only issue came when I was only sucking up the black pearls. Without being overly sweet, this smoothie provided a perfect complement to other farmers’ market foods.
Biggest Portion: Pupusas – El Salvador – Bean & Cheese Pupusa – $6.50
I got a lot of pupusa for $6.50. So much so that I could not eat it all because I needed to finish my food list. In an alternate timeline where I devoured the entire thing, I would have taken a nap right there on the sidewalk for a couple of hours.
This thick griddle cake made of corn meal and filled with bean and cheese was tasty. It was ideally cooked and not too tough to chew. The coleslaw helped balance the pupusa’s hot temperature. The sauce was savory and fortunately not spicy. The thick and creamy beans tasted like fresh refried beans. The cheese did not stand out to me, but the griddle cake’s flavor was too good not to enjoy. There are a variety of pupusa options customers can choose if bean and cheese is not the ideal choice.
Most Satisfying: Queen’s Pretzels – Pretzel Bites – $5
While not the healthiest choice, the pretzel bites coated in butter had an excellent taste. They were cooked perfectly and, thankfully, were not overly salty. The bites were served in a cup, which made it handy for me to carry around the farmers’ market as I shopped.
The nacho cheese served with the pretzel bites was top-notch. This cheese is like any nacho cheese found at the concession stand of high school sporting events: Highly processed, weirdly thick, and downright appetizing. The cheese did not help my calorie count but dipping my bites into this nacho cheese made for a mouthwatering experience.
Most Surprising: Holy Biscuits – Biscuit with Raspberry Jam – $4
This was the best bang for my buck at the farmers’ market. When I got the biscuit, I was shocked by the amount and flavor of the jam. All the jam made this buttermilk biscuit messy to eat, but every bite was worth it. The raspberry was very tart on its own, but the biscuit helped tame that. This was one of the best biscuits I have ever tasted. It wasn’t too crispy or doughy and was perfectly cooked.
I also tried the strawberry rhubarb jam. It was a great decision. This jam was sweet and I enjoyed it slightly more. I recommend both jams and for $4, this biscuit and jam was rewarding.
Pro Tip: As a reward for reading the entire article, here is my pro tip: Arrive at the farmers’ market between 7-9 a.m. Vendors are less busy, the walkways are less claustrophobic, and you will not be as hot in the summer sun.
by Sean Dengler
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