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OSKALOOSA, IA - JANUARY 25: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a campaign event at Smokey Row coffee shop on January 25, 2016 in Oskaloosa, Iowa. The Democratic and Republican Iowa Caucuses, the first step in nominating a presiden
2016 Getty Images
| Credit: Brendan Hoffman

Every election year, come January, the presidential candidates and the media who cover them descend upon Des Moines for the Iowa caucuses. It’s non-stop crowds and cameras as the political entourages make their way from event to event—with a little downtime in between to grab a drink and a bite. So where does Ted Cruz stay? Or a starving reporter grab a sandwich after a long day in the trenches? Here are the top five places in Des Moines where you’re guaranteed to spot one of the presidential hopefuls—or at least some of their entourage.

Des Moines Marriott Downtown

This hotel is the new nexus of the Iowa caucuses, for the candidates and the media that trail them. Walk through the lobby, and you might bump into Ted Cruz, who’s checked in with his staff; Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski; and all the media power players from the New York Times, Politico and more, including Bloomberg Politics’ Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, the authors of Game Change and Double Down.


Anybody who’s a somebody goes for dinner at this upscale Italian restaurant in downtown Des Moines, one of the best places to eat in the city. Locals come for cocktails, steaks and delicious pizzas, as well as the spectacular setting: the eatery is set inside restored Masonic temple.

801 Chophouse

Yet another place for powerbrokers: Chris Christie was spotted dining in a private room at this old-school steakhouse the night of the Republican debate. The steaks are mammoth and perfectly cooked.

Smitty's Tenderloin Shop

This where you can get a true Iowa staple: the fried pork tenderloin. Smitty’s is a no-frills but friendly diner where politicos and reporters gorge on deep-fried, pounded pork cutlets that extend beyond the bun. The biggest debate: whether to eat your sandwich with Ketchup or mustard.

Smokey Row Coffee

Yes, it's a chain. But it's a good chain. Smokey’s is the local, better alternative to Starbucks, and candidates, including Ben Carson, have been known to drop by for meet and greets.