dsmWeekly: May 11, 2022
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May 11, 2022

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Zack Hollier, creator and owner of Cajun Belle, making gumbo at a wedding last year.

Kolaches and Gumbo Star at New Restaurant

Writer: Karla Walsh

Growing up in southeast Texas, Zack Hollier was raised in a home that overflowed with Southern hospitality. And food. Lots of delicious food.

“We had a saying, ‘Did you put your foot in it?’ This was a great thing, actually—a sign of putting your heart into the dish,” says Hollier, who moved from Texas to Des Moines in 2011 to play football at Grand View University.

Hollier is now sharing his favorite recipes from his homeland, the Bayou, at a new venue he named Cajun Belle (5460 Merle Hay Road, Suite A, Johnston). The shop opened May 2 and offers sweet and savory kolaches and coffee from 6:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.. Come late May, Hollier and his partners, Daniel Paiva and Kyle McClain, will add gumbo in individual and family-size servings with sides of rice from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. All orders are drive-through only, for a “simple, consistent and unique” option to feed busy locals who are craving some comfort food, Hollier says.

“It’s like a little piece of home for Daniel and I, who were both raised in Texas. Cajun Bell is something I've really wanted to do for a while now,” he adds. (Hollier was previously part of the Coaches Kolaches team with Brent and Patrice Curvey. Negotiations on a new location for Coaches stalled, so he embarked on opening this concept that had been simmering on his internal back burner for years.)

“I grew up learning to love cooking from my mom and dad on the Bayou,” Hollier says. “I love making [the gumbo]—and seeing folks enjoy it. The oil and flour roux is the base of the gumbo, which gives it a deep coffee-like effect. The love part comes into play here; it takes 45 minutes to an hour to make the roux. I grew up on a dark roux. The deeper in the Bayou you go, the darker the roux.”

He also adds ground sassafras, the key ingredient in filé gumbo, which adds a different layer of smoky flavor. Two gumbos will be available most days: one stoked with andouille chicken sausage and another peppered with seafood.

Keep up with Cajun Belle online at and watch for news about the launch of the dinner menu on
Attendees will be able to view and purchase original works from Iowa artists at this year's juried festival. Photo credit: LaMont Copeland Photography.


Support Artists at the Valley Junction Arts Festival

Stroll through Fifth Street in Historic Valley Junction to meet artists from around Iowa at the district’s annual juried arts festival this Sunday (May 15) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. More than 50 Iowa artists will show and sell their works, including Marissa Kay Stephens of Marissa Kay Apothecary (featured in our May/June dsm magazine) and dsm contributing photographer Janae Gray of NaeClayCo.

When you’re finished shopping, enjoy live entertainment, art activities, artist demonstrations and food vendors. Visit the Valley Junction events page for full details.
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Architecture on the Move (Friday, 7 p.m.): Take a walking tour, led by architects, to learn about the many facets of downtown architecture, from historic designs to modern buildings. There are four routes to choose from, each covering a different area of downtown: north, south, east and west. Purchase tickets here; if you can’t make it this weekend, future dates are also available.

Chicago Comedy Showcase (Friday, 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.): Kick off the weekend with a night of comedy at Teehee’s. This Friday’s showcase will feature three performers from Chicago. Tickets for both shows are available here.

“Girls Weekend 2” (all weekend, times vary): The comedy by Des Moines playwright Karen Schaeffer will continue this weekend at Stoner Theater in the Des Moines Civic Center. As friends and family gather for Meg’s bachelorette party, they have to navigate some sticky situations. Showtimes will be Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. as well as Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are available on the Des Moines Performing Arts website.

DSM Mercantile Market (Sunday, 1-6 p.m.): Visit the Highland Park neighborhood this weekend for the first Mercantile Market hosted by Des Moines Mercantile. The event will be held in the store’s Sixth Avenue parking lot, with 36 local vendors selling clothing, pottery, flowers and more. There will also be live music and food. Find details about the event on the Des Moines Mercantile website, and read more about the shop in this dsm article.
Broadway shows: Des Moines Performing Arts released the lineup for its 2022-23 Willis Broadway Series last week. The six-show season ticket package includes “Fiddler on the Roof,” “SIX,” Disney’s “The Lion King” (pictured), “TINA: The Tina Turner Musical,” “Ain’t Too Proud – The life and Times of The Temptations” and “Beetlejuice.” The add-on show options are “The Book of Mormon,” “Come From Away,” “Dear Evan Hansen” and “An Evening With Kelli O’Hara.” Season tickets are now available; find more info at
Art exhibit: Polk County Heritage Gallery is hosting a new exhibit, “Who We Are: The Art of Identity,” through June 24. The exhibit includes works representing a variety of different cultures, ethnicities, lived experiences, abilities and identities from a group of diverse artists, including Jennifer Leatherby (pictured). Visit the gallery’s website for exhibit details and hours.

dsm event: Join us on June 7 as we unveil the People issue of dsm magazine at Merkle Retirement Planning (1860 S.E. Princeton Drive, Grimes). Doors open for networking at 5 p.m. and the program begins at 6 p.m. Get tickets for the event here. We look forward to seeing you there!

The lunch club: Get out of the office and soak in the sunshine this summer with the return of the Out to Lunch series, beginning May 18. Every Wednesday through Aug. 3, enjoy a lunch break with local food trucks and live music from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at different locations around the downtown area. For a complete list of dates and locations, click here.

Two new shows announced: Well-known singer-songwriter Don McLean will perform at Hoyt Sherman Place on July 15, as part of his American Pie 50th Anniversary Tour. Then, on Aug. 10, folk-rock musician Melissa Etheridge will return to Hoyt Sherman Place. The Grammy-winning singer will perform songs from her latest album, “One Way Out,” along with her other hits. Tickets for both shows will go on sale this Friday at 10 a.m. at

Six-year-old Shiver Pandey explores Star Playground at Riverview Park, one of the city’s newest accessible play areas. Bright and colorful, the playground was modeled after the old amusement park.

Adaptive Parks in the Works

Writer: Andrea Cooley

Photographer: Duane Tinkey

Inclusive parks invite children of all abilities to play and engage with their peers. Where once a child in a wheelchair or with sensory issues could only watch others play, today’s accessible structures encourage them to explore and create experiences of their own.

Soon Easter Lake Park on the city’s southeast side will join the list of inclusive parks in the metro area with its North Shore Revitalization project. Plans include an adaptive fishing/boat dock, accessible canoe/kayak launch, a natural playscape and more. Construction is set to begin in September with completion scheduled for summer 2023.

In Waukee, construction of that town’s first inclusive playground, Triumph Park, is in progress, with plans to open in June. It will include the Greater Iowa Credit Union Miracle League Field, an all-inclusive playground with sensory features and educational STEM panels, and an accessible fishing pier.

Check out these additional five parks around the Des Moines Metro that include features such as swings with additional harnesses and supports, musical elements for kids to play and make sounds, and equipment designed at heights someone in a wheelchair can access.
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