Dec 19, 2023 - Food and Drink

Remembering Des Moines restaurants that closed in 2023

Spaghetti Works with a "for lease" sign

A "for lease" sign on the window of the former Spaghetti Works in Des Moines. Photo: Eric Burson

It was a strong year of restaurant openings in Des Moines, but the metro also said goodbye to more than a dozen dining spots, ranging from fledgling businesses to long-time establishments.

Why it matters: The pandemic revealed the financial vulnerability of our favorite restaurants, but some of those challenges continued into 2023, including rising costs and staffing shortages.

Below are some of 2023's most talked-about closures in the area:

Spaghetti Works

It was a popular spot for high school wrestlers and large family gatherings, but the long-established Spaghetti Works restaurant closed its doors after failing to recover from the pandemic.

State of play: In March, Spaghetti Works president Shelly Stokes told the Business Record just before the closure that while their Omaha restaurants weathered COVID, the Des Moines Court Avenue location never did.

The intrigue: Stokes blamed the public's perception of crime in the area for their problems.

  • Meanwhile, Des Moines Police spokesperson Sgt. Paul Parizek said crime decreased in the entertainment district in 2022 and 2023, according to the Business Record.

Zora

The Zora storefront
The former Zora location at 2120 Ingersoll Ave., Des Moines. Photo: Linh Ta/Axios

While some might not miss the now-shuttered Zora off Ingersoll, its closure was definitely one of the year's most talked about.

Driving the news: After a slew of problems, including complaints about loud noise, fights and a shooting resulting in a homicide — Zora's issues culminated with the City of Des Moines filing a civil lawsuit against the restaurant and bar, calling it a public nuisance in July, according to WHO-13.

  • The restaurant closed that month.

What they're saying: Afterwards, owner Edwin Allen filed a $10 million counterclaim against the city for "reputation loss, loss of revenue and pain and suffering."

What's next: Scheduling for a civil trial between the city and Allen is set for Jan. 11, 2024.

Wahlburgers

Wahlburger's closed sign saying visit the Waukee Hickman Hy-Vee instead
The closed sign at Wahlburgers in West Des Moines. Photo: Linh Ta/Axios

Iowa's first-ever Wahlburgers opened amidst high anticipation, as Hy-Vee ventured into the stand-alone restaurant business. It later opened more of the restaurants at its larger grocery stores as well.

  • Even famous celebrities Mark, Donnie and Paul Wahlberg came for the grand opening in the Jordan Creek Town Center parking lot in 2018.

State of play: Five years later in January, Hy-Vee hit the brakes on the momentum when it announced it would close most of its standalone Wahlburgers to focus on its restaurant-grocery store combos instead.

Honorable mentions

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