Fine Food. Great Views. Central Café is Open for Your Dining Enjoyment.

For lunch, Central Cafe features food prepared by student chefs along with one of the best views of downtown Des Moines.

Talk about an extreme makeover! Tuesday night the Multi-Purpose Room at Central Campus was the site, as usual, for the regular meeting of the Des Moines School Board. Thursday at noon, the same space was occupied by the Central Campus Café, a tasty little bistro with signature pot pie and chocolate cake (hard to believe it’s any better than either the chocolate cream pie or banana cake with cream cheese frosting that were on the dessert tray recently) complemented by stunning views of the Western Gateway through floor to ceiling windows, all courtesy of the DMPS Culinary Arts program headed by Elaine Wolf.

If you’re fed up, so to speak, with paying too much for a mediocre meal prepared and served by an indifferent staff, then treat yourself to lunch at this too-little known spot at the edge of downtown that’s smack in the middle of the great things going on at the DMPS Career and Technical Education Institute.

You might want to request Emmanuel Contreras-Ramos, an attentive, cheerful and informative senior at Lincoln HS, as your server except that on the day you visit he might be on a rotation in the kitchen as a baker or manning the host/hostess stand as the maître d’ de jour. All of the kids in the program get a taste of each of the roles required in the operation of a good restaurant. Many of them also have part-time jobs at for-profit restaurants around town in addition to their schoolwork in the business.

One of the nice touches noticed by diners when the café reopened for the 2nd semester last Thursday was that each table is furnished with its own pitcher of ice water. It’s the little things.

Wolf explained that proceeds, including tips, from the café are recycled back into the program and used to offset the cost of not only foodstuffs and other supplies, but also to defray fees associated with students entering district, state and regional culinary competitions where the program has built an award-winning track record.

Chef Wolf holds a degree in Restaurant Management from Miami of Ohio and has a wide-ranging career background in the field that runs the gamut from institutional foodservice to fine dining. She’s been at Central Campus since 2004.

Approximately 30 kids are enrolled in the two-year program. The first year students concentrate on basic cooking and the second years learn about quantity preparation and restaurant management. They staff the café operation which is necessarily limited by constraints like class schedules.

Besides the days when the café is open to the public for lunch (listed below), Wolf wants you to know that she and her apprentices are available for special event catering on site at Central Campus where they operate out of an updated commercial kitchen that was part of the ongoing renovations there. Recently they prepared and served a luncheon hosted by the district for Central Iowa lawmakers in advance of the annual legislative session that convenes every January.

If you’re looking to be pampered at drive-thru prices then circle at least one of the following dates on your lunch calendar:

Winter Dates: February 1, 7, 15, 22, & 28 and March 8 (spring schedule to be announced).

Seating Hours: 10:55 A.M. – 12:30 P.M.

Methods of Payment: Cash/checks; no credit cards

Parking: The lot on the north side of Grand Ave. directly across the street from Central Campus is open to the public starting at 11:20 A.M. on days when the café is open.

Reservations: Not necessary but appreciated for groups of six or more. Call 242-7868 or email @

Photos from Central Cafe

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