Papaya: Fresh, Fast and Feasible!

Clive lands new, modern restaurant focused on Asian street food


Caroline Schultz

the modern exterior of Clive’s newest restaurant, Papaya!

Caroline Schultz, Staff Writer

What is it that people want from a restaurant these days? They want affordable, healthy, and quick food that simultaneously hits the spot. More often than not, most restaurants miss the mark when trying to provide all three benchmarks of customers’ desires. Fast food chains provide speedy, inexpensive options, but often lack quality and nutritional value. If you are opting for something on the healthier side, it often comes with a hefty price and a longer wait. However, Des Moines diners are not out of luck. A new restaurant in Clive is serving up Asian street cuisine as well as fast, fresh, and feasible food! 


Papaya’s “assembly line,” similiar to fan favorite restaurants like Pancheroes or Chipotle. (Caroline Schultz)

Papaya opened its doors in January of 2021. It is located in a fabulous location next to the popular cake shop Nothing Bunt Cakes, and it is surrounded by other restaurants and businesses to attract customers. I was introduced to Papaya at Wasabi Waukee, the restaurant I work at. The owner of the successful Wasabi Group decided to open up Papaya to put a twist on the traditional dining experience. My boss urged me to try it out for myself, so I did the only thing I know how… I wrote an article about it!


My family and I made our way over to Papaya for dinner Thursday night and were pleasantly surprised with our dining experience. I had looked at the menu beforehand, and a friend had given me a positive review, but I didn’t really know what to expect. My family and I opted to dine in and were very pleased with the space. The interior was “new and clean” according to my sister, and I would have to agree. We enjoyed a family dinner within Papaya’s modern interior restaurant space.


The interior of Papaya (Caroline Schultz)

Papaya has many options and freedoms within their menu. It is very easy to follow, and I had no trouble deciding what I wanted. I would describe Papaya as similar to Pancheroes or Chipotle, except Asian cuisine instead of Hispanic, along with better prices. You can get a bowl or a sandwich, and can then build your own or choose one of the specialties. You begin by choosing a base, then can add protein, veggies, and sauce. I was surprised that the prices were as low as they were for such nourishing food.

Papaya’s versatile menu (Caroline Schultz)

Dinner is Served!

My family and I kicked things off with edamame for an appetizer, a family favorite when we choose to eat Asian food. Despite a spectacular main meal, the edamame was our least favorite item we tried. My sister commented that the edamame was, “very good, but kind of dry.”


Papaya’s seasoned edamame with soy sauce. (Caroline Schultz)


I decided to build my own bowl, filling it with Jasmine rice, steak, broccoli, green onion, pickled carrots, and teriyaki sauce. Initially, I was concerned it wouldn’t be enough food to satisfy me. However, I was pleasantly surprised with my portion size. I tend to over-eat on occasion, and this was the perfect amount of food to satisfy me. All of the ingredients tasted extremely fresh, and I was especially thrilled with the authenticity of the steak in particular.


My meal courtesy of Papaya’s Build your Own Bowl option (Caroline Schultz)


My dad also built his own bowl, packing it with Asian chopped salad, steak, broccoli, cucumbers, and a sesame ginger dressing. He “really liked the Asian chopped salad,” and was overall pleased with his meal, saying it was “fresh, and well-prepared.” He also bought a drink to compliment his meal, trying the jasmine green tea. He enjoyed the tea and said it was “very refreshing.”


My dad’s meal courtesty of Papaya’s Build your Own Bowl option. (Caroline Schultz)


My mom followed our lead and built her own bowl, selecting brown rice, steak, pickled carrots, cucumber, salad, broccoli, and hoisin barbeque dressing. My mom is very particular when it comes to dining out, but she seemed to enjoy her dinner. She was a little taken aback by the strong kick in the hoisin barbeque sauce, but it was nothing she couldn’t handle. She was impressed with the steak, saying “the meat is real actual meat, not mystery meat like most other restaurants. It’s prepared fresh.”


My mom’s meal courtesy of Papaya’s Build your Own Bowl option (Caroline Schultz)


Lastly, my younger sister and self-proclaimed foodie also built her own bowl. She filled it with brown rice, pickled carrots, kale, broccoli, cucumbers, steak, teriyaki sauce, and Papaya’s own “street spice.” She is also rather hard to please, but was pleasantly surprised by her experience at Papaya. She commented that the restaurant has “a little bit of everything” and that the “cucumbers added a nice, crisp crunch” to her bowl. She also gave her dining experience “a 7/10” which is pretty impressive considering the prestige of her rating scale.


My sister’s meal courtesy of Papaya’s Build your Own Bowl option (Caroline Schultz)


Final Thoughts

I would recommend Papaya to anyone looking for a delectable, healthy meal that won’t break the bank. I was dazzled by the uniqueness of the idea and was equally impressed with the execution. Although Papaya has only been open for two months, it is hard to know whether or not the restaurant is getting the funds it needs to continue with its’ business model. With an uptick in advertising, Papaya could become one of Des Moines’ hottest new restaurants.


Papaya’s fun wall art! (Caroline Schultz)

Don’t just take my word for it, Try Papaya yourself! 

Give them a call at 515-280-5251

Check out their website

Or visit them at 1255 Northwest 128th Street, Clive, IA 50325

Open daily, 11:00 AM- 9:00 PM