food & drink

Food Dude

December 16, 2010
By Jim Duncan

The good and bad of 2010


Zeitgeist of the Year — “What recession?”

2010 was a year of defiance when brave souls opened new restaurants three times the pace of the previous year. Many brought first of a kind experiences to town. Zingaro became Des Moines’ original pop-up café, Africa Cuisine introduced Somali/Kenyan menus, Baru debuted Alsatian cuisine, Babylon became the first Iraqi café, Open Sesame the first Lebanese, Pollos Rostizados brought our first charcoal fired rotisserie chicken shop, Accordion introduced live accordion music and La Paris Café became our first Indo-Chinese café-French Bakery-sports bar-espresso house hybrid. Saraj Restaurant & Bakery, Red, Copa Cavana, Pad Thai, Bagni di Lucca, Mullet’s, Big City Burger & Greens, Tres Hermanos, Bagni di Lucca, Flour, Oasis, Ray Earl’s, Sonora Tacqueria, El Blue Burrito and Tamale’s Industry also made impressive debuts.


Good Move — Smokey D’s

Wellman’s Pub, El Chisme, El Rey Burrito, Gino’s, Village Bean, Raul’s, Jethro & Jake’s and Mama Lacona’s all successfully upgraded to grander venues but Smokey D’s move, only two blocks on the ground, augmented its brand and its business by an exponential factor.


New Store of the Year — All Spice

Rare spices, vinegars and oils attracted many of the top chefs in town to East Village.


Design of the Year — Mullet’s

Big City Burger & Greens, Red, Jethro & Jake’s and Copa Cavana all came online with stunning designs, but riverfront Mullet’s hooked this prize with the best patio in town.


Hottest New Product — Madhouse Brewing Company’s Pale Ale

In a great year for Iowa beverages, Madhouse edged out Templeton Rye’s new batch of whiskey and Olde Main’s hard cider.


Farm of the Year — Fox Hollow

Tai Johnson-Spratt expanded her heritage bird farm by a dozen new breeds for local restaurants and farmers market shoppers.


Hottest New Chain — Trader Joe’s

At last, the ultimate store for bargain-hunting status seekers.

Top Political Player — Farm Bureau

Their candidates kicked butt across the board in November elections.

Trend of the Year (national) — (tie) food trucks and limited time releases

Food vending trucks became so popular that national chains Qdoba, Sizzler, Dairy Queen and Gold Star Chili jumped into the market. Limited time releases (original recipe Pepsi, McRib, etc.) created artificial urgencies that drove consumption.


Trend of the Year (local) — Desperate Landlords

Mama & Sons, Two Rivers, Grandma’s Apron, Beefburger Barn, India Grill, Ciao, Corigliano’s Big League Pizza and Fourth Down all opened and closed within a year’s time.


Thanks for the Memories

La Pizza House, Jimmie’s American Café, QV’s Cavatelli, Phat Chef’s, Los Compadres, Winston’s Pub & Grille, Café Su, Battani’s, Simo’s, Grand Piano Bistro, Le Jardin, Something Good Soul Food, Pho All Seasons, Cecil & Rosie’s, Pad Thai, Richard Mosqueda and Stella’s Blue Sky Diner.


Dinner Entertainment of the Year — Thankful Dirt

Kudos to Fire Creek Grill, El Bait Shop, Royal Mile and AK O’Connor’s for bringing this talented couple to the dinner scene.


Cookbook of the Year — “One Big Table” by Molly O’Neill

A veritable encyclopedia of American home cooking, this will become a classic.


Best Advertising (national) — “The Storm of 1781”

Jameson Irish Whiskey’s improbable commercial, about an octopus and a funeral, won critical acclaim and pushed market share every time it was re-released.

Best Advertising (local) — Mullet’s tie-ins with baseball

Grand slam product placement.


Worst Advertising — “Quiznos’ Singing Kittens”

So annoying they beat a McDonalds’ ad that used an overweight, sickly looking actor as spokesman for coffee.

Look for Restaurateur of the Year and our Favorite New Restaurant in the coming weeks. CV


Caption: Mullet’s riverfront cafe was our favorite of superb lineups of new designs in 2010.


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