When I started dreaming of this blog I wanted to incorporate local businesses that did great things for their community (using local products, staffed local, and involved in the Des Moines area). My first thought was ZANZIBAR’S!!! Owner, Julie, and I played e-mail tag for a week or so and finally made it through the holidays where we could make plans to meet each other and this is the awesomeness that came of our meeting.
First, let me begin by saying that Zanzibar’s has the best coffee in Des Moines, Iowa, hands down, and I will leg wrestle anyone who disagrees. Secondly, regardless of the least desirable parking, I will wedge my semi-new car between traffic to get my coffee and rosemary bagel (to sum it up, I’ll fist fight someone for good coffee, you have been warned). Thirdly, the clientele blows my mind-the diversity and sense of community would bring me back even if the coffee was mediocre. Last time I sat and enjoyed coffee at their wonderful spot on Ingersoll, I sat next to a gentleman in scrubs (hey hey!), a father and son were sharing a pastry, and there was even a time I brought a date here, which is a big step to share your favorite coffee spot. That’s my top 3, albeit, there’s plenty more reasons to keep me coming back.
I met with the owner, Julie, on a beautiful Friday afternoon in January. Julie was kind enough to reschedule with me after my dog took off for a couples hours to tour our Beaverdale neighborhood without permission that previous Wednesday. I purchased an Americana, my go tot beverage of choice, and I sat at a comfy table for two towards the front of the building where light floods in through the stained glass that over looks their wonderful collection of plants. Let me be honest, any place that displays house plants are part of their decor makes me feel at home and happy. We started our conversation by getting down to business, exactly how I like to get down.
Julie started Zanzibar’s in August of 1993, a big on taking with the floods of ’93 still on people’s minds, after working at a shop in Southern California-she pauses to thank a patron as they leave. After deciding Southern Cali wasn’t for her she came back to Iowa to be close to family and open a shop, she knew the support and need for a shop of this kind of local shop would be found here. Although, her intention and motivation wasn’t to stay here that’s since changed and she’s proud of her community. Julie’s been roasting coffee beans since they’ve opened-pretty much-their roaster arrived late, just a while after opening, but since it arrived she’s been roasting beans like her job depends on it…oh wait. She said at any given time they have thirty to forty varieties of blends to sell. I, as an indecisive shopper, find that to be more than enough options. I enjoy their house blend, but Julie suggests trying an Ethiopian, unique, full flavored, although you shouldn’t limit yourself to trying new things.
Recently, a friend showed me a airo press, which I’m very interested in trying and Julie reassured me makes a wonderful cup of coffee. Just as a testament to how much Zanzibar’s is loved locally, this same friend told me he likes me even more knowing that Zanzibar’s is my favorite. I’m okay with the judgement, coffee is important to my lively hood – and NO that’s not being dramatic. Personally, Julie and I both enjoy our french presses, but I’m willing to try anything that doesn’t include Folgers or a pot that has a timer on it.
While I was in Washington in early December I took Zanzibar’s with me, yeah yeah, the coffee capitol of the US and I took coffee. I did make it to two shops, one where I had a vanilla honey and rose latte. Usually, I don’t need fancy coffee, but hot damn it was delicious. Don’t get me wrong, I occasionally love a soy mocha or foo-foo latte, but I’ll be honest, I love my coffee to taste like coffee. Julie enjoys a traditional cappuccino, frothy foam and all-what you thought cappuccinos came from a machine at Casey’s? You are wrong.
I spoil myself with a rosemary bagel from time to time, but these aren’t made in house. Don’t fret, everything is made local-the farthest being from Atlantic, Iowa, but let’s settle this now- Iowa is local, no matter what corner of the state you come from. Being from a smaller town in SW Iowa, an hour and a half drive isn’t far. Shout out to my small business gal, Mrs. Mimi’s in Atlantic, Iowa. I find it comforting that she describes her clientele as an eclectic and diverse group of people. She also says her business is like a second home and that makes me smile because we’re not all bless to feel that way about our jobs.
As a local person I’m always interested in what people love about their community and where they go and what they do.
Julie enjoys more rummage shopping than retail shopping, but she frequents Back Country Outfitters & Eden. As a busy gal she finds herself shopping more on vacations, but will head down to Pella for shoe store she loves there. She also likes to wander around the East Village and Valley Junctions. Food, like me, depends on mood. There are a lot of great choices in DSM, so my list is extensive as well. Julie’s includes: Thai Flavors, A-Dong, Indian Star, local taco trucks, and Django. I personally approve any of these choices, but ethnic food any time makes me a happy girl.
Head over to see Julie and her staff at Zanzibar’s Coffee Adventure at 2723 Ingersoll Avenue, Des Moines, IA 50312 or at their website zanzibarscoffee.com