Indy gets fresh eats: Charlotte’s Kitchen


Noah Harkness

Charlotte’s Kitchen started after Hanstad saw the chicken sandwich war between Popeye’s and Chick-fil-A.

by Noah Harkness, Staff Reporter

Charlotte’s Kitchen opened its newest location in Indianola in November. The food truck turned restaurant has been a success, but the journey there wasn’t easy.

“It initially started with failure,” owner Michael Hanstad said. “We had this old family Belgian waffle cookie recipe that the family loved, so I decided to roll with that. We found a commercial kitchen in West Des Moines, and turns out nobody liked the cookies except for the family.”

Hanstad decided to keep the kitchen despite having to borrow money. He wanted to continue in the food industry and searched for alternative options.

“I started looking around when the Chick-fil-A vs. Popeyes war where they were selling out of fried chicken sandwiches,” Hanstad said. “I researched food trucks with fried chicken in Des Moines and nothing. I spent the next six months in that kitchen perfecting the fried chicken sandwich recipe.”

Hanstad realized he needed help and convinced his friend and business partner, Robert, to quit his job. The two bought a food truck in 2020 and worked for a year before opening their first location in Johnston. 

But it’s Charlotte’s chicken preparation that has separated them from the competition.

“We marinate all our chicken for 24 hours, which makes it juicy,” Hanstad said. “All the chicken is hand-breaded to order so it’s not sitting in a warmer forever. It obviously takes us a little longer to make your order, but that’s because we make everything fresh.”

The menu offers many different sandwiches and salads, as well as chicken tenders. Charlotte’s variety is unprecedented in the fried chicken sandwich industry. They also offer a special sandwich refreshed once a week.

“We all sat down, the staff and us, and everyone started throwing out ideas for chicken sandwiches. We’ll pay attention to social media, too, when people recommend sandwiches to try. Robert gets that list every month and picks out what ones he wants to do and what ingredients are needed.”

Charlotte’s Kitchen was named after Hanstad’s grandmother Charlotte who ignited his passion for the kitchen.

“She taught me the love for cooking during “Grandma Camps” as we called it growing up. We learned homemade recipes for bread and jam and instilled my love of cooking.”

Charlotte’s has created a positive environment by treating employees and customers with love and respect.

“The saying we have at Johnston that my Grandma came up with is there’s always room for one more at the table,”  Hanstad said. “We’re obsessed and passionate at the same time about our food. We want to make sure everyone’s having the exact same experience every time.”

The Grandma wall of fame started in Johnston and will be introduced in Indianola during the coming months.

“People in the community bring in pictures of their grandma and put them up on the wall of fame to honor them. As long as we’re in business we’ll have the grandma wall of fame for the community of Indianola. The one in Johnston is already full, and hopefully, after we post, it’ll be the same here.”

Charlotte’s Kitchen is located at 102 N Jefferson Way and is a must-try restaurant in Indianola. The food, atmosphere, and story behind the place have translated to initial and hopefully future success.

Be sure to check out their website: