All of us work well in different environments. Some of us need total peace and quiet. Some of us want to work with the music pumping through our earbuds. Some of us want to work in public places with others who are socializing or working around us. We're all different and unique. For me, I enjoy the energy of a coffee shop where I can tap into free WiFi, guzzle down bottomless mugs of flavored coffee, and watch the wide spectrum of people as they come and go all day.
That's what I love about Smokey Row in Des Moines and it's why most of the posts you've read on Iowa Adventurer has been written from either a table or booth at the nearly never quiet coffee shop.
There are two parking lots associated with this property and both are usually always full of cars.
It's located in the Sherman Hill National Historic District (home of the wonderful Hoyt Sherman Place), which is near the intersection of I-235 and MLK Jr. Parkway, one of the busiest connection points in all of Iowa.
It's across the street from The Kathedral, a very beautiful and historic church that is being renovated. They always have lots of flags flying.
Smokey Row got it's start at locations in Mahaska and Marion Counties and then expanded into Polk County. In recent months, they've announced that they are also opening a location in the sprawling suburb of Ankeny.
Smokey Row roasts their own coffee beans and sell a wide array of beverages, desserts, ice cream, and food.
Every day they offer one of their flavored coffees as the special and then serve some of their usual brews. I almost always go with the flavored coffee and then add a little cream. On the day I wrote this post, it was the creme brulee flavored coffee. One of my favorites is their chocolate cherry. The best part? When you are enjoying the coffee in the restaurant...the mugs are bottomless (meaning unlimited refills).
Of course, you can get coffee to go or even get service through a drive-thru window.
On this particular Sunday, I showed up around lunch time and decided to also order a sandwich. I got one of the bacon cheeseburgers, which comes with a side order of chips and a generous pile of pickles. I've been known to enjoy their turkey paninis as well as their famous chicken pot pie biscuits.
Patrons order food and beverages at the counter and they either call your name when it's ready or they will bring it to you if you ordered food.
As you are waiting in line, you have to pass a whole cooler full of beverages, a display case full of pies, and a selection of other sweet treats.
You always know what the flavored coffee is for the day as they have a full bag of it in front of the cash register as you order.
There is a whole wall of bagged coffees and other coffee related merchandise for sale. If you brew coffee at home, there's a healthy selection of it for sale.
There's also a big selection of branded apparel from sweatshirts and t-shirts to hats.
This location is located within in an old brick structure. It has a very industrial feel with hardwood floors, exposed duct work, brick walls, and lots of big windows. There is a wide array of seating options from booths to tables. They are all a little bit different, which gives the place a nice eclectic feel.
You can even sit at the old fashioned soda counter near the ice cream cooler.
There are also two smaller rooms that can be closed off for private events. One of them is usually available for general seating.
However, there is another one on the far southern part of the restaurant that is available by reservation.
On this particular day, there was a backgammon tournament going on. However, I've seen it being used from everything from baby and bridal showers to political events and small meetings.
It's pretty common to find lots of people working on laptops, utilizing the free WiFi. I also see lots of meetings, both business and social, occuring. I've witnessed dates, and wedding planning, and prayer groups. It's a great place to see and be seen. I often will find local television personalities, politicians, and other notable people at Smokey Row. When I worked for the Senate Minority Leader, I used to set up meetings here with lobbyists. It's definitely a place to see people and be seen. Thus, it's also a great place to promote whatever event or cause you are helping with. The multiple bulletin boards are always full of community announcements.
I have yet to find a coffee shop that is open seven days a week with a wide variety of hours that also offers the kind of environment that allows me to get content posted to this site. Thus, Smokey Row is the unofficial coffee shop of Iowa Adventurer. Of course, I'm always open to someone "officially" sponsoring me. Inquire within! ;)
As I am out and about, since I really love coffee, I always enjoy going to coffee shops in both larger and smaller towns. I've profiled several over the past 20 months, including Saints Rest in Grinnell, Cabin Coffee in Clear Lake, Linden Street Coffeehouse in Lamoni, Magpie in Decorah, Greene Bean in Jefferson, Fantasia in Sheldon, Ross Street Roasting Company in Tama, Java Joe's in Des Moines, Brewhemia in Cedar Rapids, and the Corner Sundry in Indianola.
I hope to get to the other Smokey Row locations in the coming months and years. These places help build the community within the towns they are located. In the meantime, I'll continue to frequent the Des Moines location as long as you'll continue to read these posts. As always, I welcome your suggestions of places to visit and profile whether in Polk County or any of the other 98 counties in Iowa. If you have a good idea or would like to host the Iowa Adventurer, please drop me a note through this website.