Restaurant: Smokey Row | Twitter: @smokeyrow | 1910 Cottage Grove, Des Moines, IA 50314 | 5/22/2016



Grace: 3.5/5

Josh:  3.89/5.00


Why Smokey Row?

Josh:  We tried going one Sunday a couple months back but it was PACKED with people and there were no open seats (disclaimer: don’t expect a seat at noon on a Sunday). We went at 2:00 this time with better success.

Grace: We wanted a light, casual lunch – this fit the bill!

The Meal

Josh: After a Saturday night that ended in late night Fuzzy’s Tacos downtown, I wanted to get a simple sandwich combo. I settled for the “Chicken Ranch” which includes “grilled chicken, bacon, swiss cheese, lettuce and ranch dressing on a fresh croissant”.  


This was a solid sandwich. The croissant was very soft and flaky and it was the highlight of the sandwich. I have always been a croissant man and that’s my go-to at most bakeries. This croissant would be on the “above average – pretty good” scale. The rest of the sandwich did it’s job as well. The chicken was yummy and the other ingredients did their job. This is a sandwich that I’d come back to again.


The one negative is that all their sandwiches (not paninis though as Grace will tell you) are served with kettle chips. I’m personally not a kettle chip (or really any chips) fan in general so that part was whatever.


I also have to add that I had a Green River with my meal. I am in LOVE with this drink but I rarely have it. Some of the only places I know that have it is Smokey Row and the Iowa State Fair. If you’ve never had it, it’s very sweet, green and delicious. Needless to say, I had to get one.

Before you stir
Before you stir
After you stir
After you stir

This drink was nomomom. The sweet syrup mixed with the fountain soda and it was a nice summer treat that I haven’t had since the fair last summer.

Lastly, Grace and I had to split their prized shake. “The  Smokey Row Shake” is either a chocolate or vanilla shake with shots of espresso and whipped cream. Grace and I split one and it was worth it.


We got the chocolate shake (duh. You should always go chocolate). and it was great. You could really taste the coffee flavor that it advertises. Though it’s good, it’s overpriced ($5.35) in my opinion.


Grace: I also got a sandwich – Turkey Bacon Panini. It had roasted turkey, bacon, roasted red peppers, lettuce, provolone, and a garlic aioli and was served on ciabatta. It was delicious! Pretty garlicky, which isn’t a problem for me, but for the garlic-sensitive, you’ve been warned.


I am also kind of sad that Smokey Row doesn’t offer options for sides. My sandwich came with chips and salsa, and while their salsa is delicious, it didn’t really go with my Italian-tasting panini. Weird combo, didn’t finish chips. Sad!


Now that I am venturing back into the world of eating dairy (with a lot of success so far, yay!), when Josh suggested a Smokey Row shake, I was all over it. Chocolate ice cream, espresso shots, whipped cream, oh baby.


The downside? This shake. Takes FOR. EV. ER. to make. I think I waited for 10 minutes. I’m not exaggerating. It was kind of annoying.

I’ll admit…I still think B-Bop’s has the best shakes around. This one was good, but overly sweet (I thought), even with the espresso. It didn’t measure up to the Bop’s!

Our chips were barely touched :(
Our chips were barely touched 😦

Atmosphere, Service, Price

Grace: I love the atmosphere of Smokey Row. I know my sister goes to the original location in Pella a lot to study/do homework/hang out with her friends, and it is perfect for people doing just that.


(Fun fact: I once had a job interview at Smokey Row for an independent marketing company. The guy stood me up for our breakfast interview. Slept right through it. Turns out that was how the whole business ran. But it was a cool place to – potentially – have an interview as well, if you don’t have an office. I still got a coffee out of the deal, so we good, fam.)

Smokey Row has counter service, but they have menus at the beginning of the line that you can take back to your table. I like this because it means you, ideally, don’t have to hold up the line if you can’t decide what you want. You can wait til you figure it out, then walk right up and order.

Again…in theory. I’m sure that doesn’t always happen, but the physical menus are a nice touch.

The view out the window at our table. Merica.
The view out the window at our table. Merica.

Price-wise, Smokey Row is comparable to Palmer’s, Panera, etc. Definitely affordable, and very delicious! We didn’t have coffee while we were there, but I’ve had it many times and it is also wonderful!


Josh: Smokey Row is very spacious inside compared to the OG in Pella. This Smokey Row has good seating options and even a patio. The nice, open, and wide space promotes a cool feel to it. With it being so close to Drake, you will see a lot of students hanging out with friends or studying. This means that it will be very busy on the weekends, so plan accordingly.


You order at the counter and they bring you your food which is a concept you see at other sandwich shops in the metro. The prices (besides the shake I talked about earlier) are very good. My sandwich was $7.50 and you can get a burger for around $6 too (depending on what you get). Staff is friendly and a lot of them are college aged. Go to Smokey Row if you want good food and a neat atmosphere.



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