George’s chili recipe is unchanged for
nearly 100 years. George the Chili King,
5722 Hickman Rd., 277-9433. Hours are
Sunday through Thursday, 10:30 a.m. to
9 p.m. and Friday through Saturday, 10:30
a.m. to 10 p.m.
Whole Foods, 42nd and University Ave.,
West Des Moines, 343-2600. Hours are 8
a.m. to 10 p.m., daily.
A significant anniversary and a long-awaited
opening hit the metro in late July. Age before
beauty. George the Chili King (GCK) celebrated
60 years on Hickman Road with 1950s costumes,
hula-hoops, vintage cars, the Split Second Band
and car hop service. GCK is a genuine throwback
likely having undergone as little remodeling
as any place its age. George Karaidos’ employees
tend to hang around for decades. The restaurant
only counts its age from the day the Hickman
store opened. Count the predecessors that Karaidos’
father founded, and the business will turn 100
in eight years. That’s when George, 79, says
he will finally retire.
What’s in the name? George’s dad won a “best
chili” contest instigated by reporters from
various downtown newspapers back when Des Moines
had multiple daily papers and chili joints.
He then changed the name of his business from
Coney Island Lunch. That chili recipe has remained
unchanged for nearly 100 years even as most
American chilies began adding tomatoes and beans.
I tried chili in a bowl, on a coney island and
even on a hamburger. Just like 1952.
Whole Foods opened its first area store, in
West Des Moines, with two marching bands and
considerable hoopla. I received a press release
20 hours before the opening that said people
were lining up outside, camping and tailgating.
If so, they were invisible until the next morning.
That should not detract at all from the grandiosity
of the occasion. The place was mobbed for days
after opening. Folks flocked to its 30,000 square
feet stocked without a single artificial flavoring,
preservative or trans fat. Some waited more
than half an hour in checkout lines to purchase
eight different kinds of sprouted cereals, three
different kinds of “grind your own” nut butters
and $30-a-pound Bomba Valencia rice.
The store brings some things to town — mainly
volume of choice, that one can’t find at Gateway
Market, New City Market or Campbell’s. Its seafood
section was stocked with the freshest looking
fish I’ve seen in town — bream and snapper had
clear eyes while tuna, swordfish and wild salmon
glistened. Oddly, the fish at the sushi bar
did not look nearly as fresh. Strauss Veal,
a Wisconsin product we have touted for years,
was available, as was Strauss Lamb, something
new to our ken. Grass-fed beef came from S&C
Ranch in Fort Atkinson, Iowa, and popcorn is
from an 18th century seed grown in Shellsburg
that is “dense sterile,” meaning it can’t be
cross pollinated by genetically modified plants.
Cheese selections weren’t as impressively local.
Whole Foods stocked two kinds of Italian robiolas
but none of Dairy Aire’s, the award-winning
Iowa robiola one finds at Cheese Shop of Des
Moines. The olive bar had 20 choices but no
lucques, the king of olives, which are often
sold at Gateway. No one was stirring pans on
the hot buffet as film skimmed on the tops.
The salad bar selection was much better, including
multiple kinds of quinoas, edamames and roasted
peppers. Pizzas were quite good and were sold
by the slice. Pepperoni was the size of hockey
pucks. Giant cupcakes appeared to be on organic
The city’s lone remaining daily paper headlined
an editorial page column “Opening of Whole Foods
shows D.M. has arrived.” If so, then we’ve arrived
in “Portlandia” (a TV comedy about an Oregon
subculture in which everyone flocks to the same
trendy place convinced it makes them unique).
The Triangle in Waukee has begun selling fried
pies on Wednesdays, 4 - 7 p.m., fresh fruit
pies as well as savory ones like Philly cheese