Closing the Deal
Best place for a business conference
Holiday Inn University Park
The formula for success for Holiday Inn University Park has been the combination of renowned ownership and a well-respected brand, says Stephanie Tigges, the director of sales.
The 17-year-old property is owned by John Q. Hammons Hotels Inc. Under Hammons’ ownership, the facility is maintained to the highest standards, Tigges said. The Springfield, Mo.-based company owns several other premier hotels in the Midwest, which gives it insight into the amenities business travelers most desire.
“It’s a beautiful facility, and we renovate often,” Tigges said. “Our brand is Holiday Inn, so we have Holiday Inn standards as well as John Q. Hammons standards, which makes for a strong product.”
Business users have 15,000 square feet of meeting space at their disposal, which can be configured to accommodate a small meeting of 12 people to a conference of 1,200. Another benefit of using the conference center facilities is the hotel’s “outstanding audio visual department,” Tigges said.
“We are well-equipped to handle the technology needs that come with business meetings, and if there’s something that we don’t have, we have a contract with a local company to bring in anything we can’t get.”
Tigges said the Holiday Inn University Park is the second-largest hotel with a conference center and guest rooms in the Des Moines area, and though competition is growing with other area hotels, it will continue to hold its competitive edge.
“People love our atrium area with a waterfall, and overall, we have a really great product to sell,” Tigges said.
RUNNERS-UP: Foxboro Square; Des Moines Marriott.
Best restaurant for a business breakfasat
Iowa Machine Shed Restaurant
Look past the overall-clad service staff and the comfortable country feel of the Iowa Machine Shed Restaurant and you’ll see business breakfast meetings in progress many mornings during the week, according to restaurant management.
Mark Bierman, general manager of the Iowa Machine Shed, said people are drawn to the restaurant for a variety of reasons, many of them having to do with size.
“With the size of our restaurant, people don’t have to wait to be seated and they don’t feel pressured to leave once they’re here,” he said. “Our tables are oversized, and can hold up to 12. Business diners have more room for their laptops, and room to spread papers out on the tables.”
The restaurant can seat up to 550 guests, and the size of its physical plant is mirrored by the size of its portions, Bierman said. Whether the customer orders a skillet, biscuits and gravy or another made-to-order breakfast, they will not leave hungry, he said, especially considering there are free refills on potatoes and bread, and if you ask, you can get an extra egg for no charge.
As if the selection of comfort foods, natural light and cheerful yellow walls in the dining area weren’t enough to put the guests at ease, the service staff at the Iowa Machine Shed will, Bierman said.
“Everyone feels welcome here,” he said. “I say treat them as if they’re entering your home. Treat them how you want to be treated.”
RUNNERS-UP: Panera Bread Co.; Renaissance Savery Hotel.
Best restaurant for a business lunch
Tursi’s Latin King
Minutes away from downtown on Hubbell Avenue, you’ll feel as if you’ve been transported into an Italian villa when you enter Tursi’s Latin King, says owner Bob Tursi.
The Latin King has been a Des Moines landmark for more than 56 years, with Tursi as the owner for the past 21. Over the years, the restaurant has established a peerless reputation, Tursi said.
“We’re always trying to find the best menu items and make things run smoother for the customers,” he said. “We’ll take care of the customer at the Latin King as good as, or better than, any place in town.”
Lunch time is a popular time to visit the Latin King, Tursi said, as customers can get smaller portions of their favorite dinner menu items for very reasonable prices, along with two daily specials.
“Our most popular lunch item is the chicken spiedini – it’s our boneless breast of chicken, rolled onto a skewer, marinated and rolled in Italian bread crumbs, and then charbroiled and comes out with a special sauce, Amogio,” he said.
“We’re putting an affordable lunch out very quickly, and we have a great atmosphere, so people feel comfortable coming in with their clients and associates,” Tursi said. “People are as comfortable in our place as they would be at their own kitchen table.”
RUNNERS-UP: Mondos; Centro.
Best restaurant for a business dinner
801 Steak & Chop House
A high-profile building in downtown Des Moines contains a nationally recognized restaurant and a favorite among business travelers, the 801 Steak & Chop House.
Located in the 801 Grand building, the tallest skyscraper between Omaha and Chicago, the 801 Steak & Chop House has received dining awards from Wine Spectator magazine and is the only Iowa winner of the DiRoNa award for Distinguished Restaurants of North America. Such honors have attracted people from all over the country to the d restaurant, says Sheri Osborn, bar manager and sommelier [wine steward].
“Our busiest nights of the week are Monday through Thursday, with out-of-town clientele,” Osborn said. “We really rely on the business traveler or people downtown doing business.”
The 801 Steak & Chop House makes an ideal setting for business dinners, with private meeting rooms that can accommodate up to 60 people and private dining areas seating up to 14. Guests find the atmosphere as impressive as the food, and selecting 801 Steak & Chop makes a “confident statement” about you and your business. Its atmosphere, art, wine and cigars, menu and service, and the private settings contribute to a “yes” environment. As Osborn says, “with live Maine lobsters and USDA prime cuts of meat, guests will be pleased.”
RUNNERS-UP: Mondos of West Des Moines; Tursi’s Latin King.
Best brown bag lunch
Palmer’s Deli and Market
Palmer’s Deli has attracted a strong lunchtime trade with its sandwiches, soups, salads and tempting desserts since its first location opened in Urbandale 17 years ago. Now the Palmer family is preparing to expand to a fourth location, one with new menu items and innovative ideas.
The new Palmer’s Deli, slated to open this fall, will be the largest yet, with more than 8,000 square feet of space. It will be in the old Walgreens store at the corner of 29th Street and Ingersoll Avenue. Joe Palmer, who co-owns the restaurants with his parents, Gayle and Carol, said customers at the new deli will notice more menu items to go, extended hours, a great breakfast menu and an enlarged retail area, for starters.
Palmer said the new location will serve the Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway area, as well as the new downtown housing. Downtown dwellers or people on their way home from work will be able to pick up gourmet-to-go dishes or small grocery items, almost like an upscale market, he said.
RUNNERS-UP: Noodle Zoo; In the Bag.
Best bar to go to after work
Mondo’s of West Des Moines
Mondo’s of West Des Moines has earned the best after-work bar award for three years in a row, and to see why, start by following your nose to the free appetizer buffet offered every night during happy hour. Bar manager Ben Norris said people like to treat themselves to the assortment of appetizers and drink specials after a day of work.
This time of the year, Mondo’s bar patrons take their socializing out to the three-season patio, Norris said, but not for a lack of space inside.
“The bar itself can accommodate up to 250 people,” Norris said. “We rarely reach that capacity, so the atmosphere stays very personable.”
Despite the appeal of the outdoor patio and live music on the patio in the summer, it’s the winter months when a crowd really seems to be drawn in to Mondo’s bar. When it’s cold outside, the bar area takes on a different personality, and becomes more active, Norris said. But year-round, a friendly staff, ample space and a great reputation keep the bar at Mondo’s a popular choice, Norris said.
RUNNERS-UP: Winston’s Pub and Grill; Jimmy’s American Café.
Best bar to entertain clients
Mondo’s of West Des Moines
If you and a client want a break from the office scene, you can stop by Mondo’s of West Des Moines any time during the afternoon and take advantage of its all-day happy hour, with many specialty drinks discounted to $3. Once you’re in, you may not want to leave. The Mondo’s team sets up its complimentary appetizer buffet at 3:30 p.m., featuring quesadillas, chips and salsa, homemade dips and more, says Ben Norris, bar manager.
Then, when real hunger strikes, Mondo’s will serve a meal that is sure to impress a client, Norris said. “It’s just a great atmosphere here, and a great place to come and have a nice dinner and to get away,” he said.
Mondo’s, the Italian word for “world’s,” wants to be a one-stop place for serving and entertaining customers and their business guests. The staff stands by its reputation for serving food that will satisfy a sophisticated palate without a pretentious attitude. Business leaders and their clients will feel at ease with the good food and spacious bar and restaurant seating.
RUNNERS-UP: Suites of 800 Locust Hotel and Spa; Centro.
Best sporting even to take a client
Iowa Cubs game
This year will go down in the record books for the Iowa Cubs for more than one reason. Not only has the ballpark’s name changed from Sec Taylor Stadium to Principal Park, but great weather and fan support have also been a constant.
Attendance this year has reached new levels, says Jeff Lantz, director of media relations for the Iowa Cubs. If the pace continues through the final two weeks of home games, the old attendance record of 509,384, set in the 2002 season, will be shattered.
“We’re definitely going to set a new record,” Lantz said. “It’s probably going to reach 540,000 to 550,000.”
Besides pleasant weather, the I-Cubs benefited from having a series of four games against Edmonton moved to Des Moines due to the Edmonton stadium being temporarily closed. Turnout was “incredible” during that whole series, Lantz said.
The I-Cubs staff has also stepped up their marketing efforts this year, extending their group sales efforts to communities outside Greater Des Moines.
“We’ve done radio spots in Iowa City and Fort Dodge, and invited whole communities out for a special night at the ballpark,” Lentz said. “We’re letting people know that the Iowa Cubs are here, and it’s not just a Des Moines thing anymore.”
RUNNERS-UP: Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino; Allianz Golf Championship.