The $10 steak de Burgo dinner included
a salad, a choice starch and garlic bread at
Olive Branch, 3811 Douglas Ave., 802-1856. Hours
are Monday through Friday, 11a.m. to 2 p.m.
and Tuesday through Saturday, 5 to 9 p.m.
In the last few years, a little café at 38th
and Douglas Avenue transformed from a gyros
joint into a soul food café, then into the city’s
first Burmese café. All were quite good, but
none lasted long. New banners recently announced
the opening of an Italian place. No sign identified
it, but its menu called it Olive Branch. My
visits revealed one big improvement — the air
conditioning kept pace with even 100-degree
temperatures; in earlier incarnations, it could
not. Faux stained glass had been resourcefully
employed over lighting fixtures and in windows
to bend and soften light waves that have seemed
all too harsh this summer.
Prices were also rather comforting. Five-dollar
sandwiches included several half-pound burgers,
meatballs, Italian sausage, pork tenderloins,
mesquite grilled chicken breast, eggplant and
fried cod. All were served on Kaiser rolls or
hoagie buns, and most included cheese. Of dinner
options, only lamb chops ($17), sirloin ($11)
and a 10-ounce steak de Burgo ($14) topped $10.
A seven-ounce de Burgo ($10) delivered a decent
version of Des Moines’ classic dish. Tenderloin
of beef, seared and cooked rare, sat atop a
garlic, butter and olive oil pool with herbs
next to three florets of broccoli. That dinner
also included garlic bread, a salad of nicely
chilled greens, fresh tomato, onions and radishes
in an excellent homemade vinaigrette, plus a
side of starch. I chose baby red potatoes, which
turned out to be a whole sliced Russet served
in what appeared to be de Burgo sauce minus
the herbs. Appetizers included grilled shrimp,
saganaki and excellent homemade onion rings.
Children’s meals also cost just $5, and desserts
Dahl’s recently bought a Southern Pride smoker
for each of its area stores. These state of
the art units have temperature controls, self-lighting
and rotisseries to free employees from paying
close attention. They use gas- and fireplace-sized
logs that produce a decent approximation of
pure wood pits. I tried chicken twice recently
during introductory sales when they averaged
a $1 per piece for whole birds. One time the
chicken was excellent; the second time even
dark meat was terribly dry and over cooked.
I suspected that the latter batch had been sitting
too long in the deli steam table where the chicken
was sold. Employees told me that they start
taking birds out of their smokers at 11 a.m.,
and that the last batch comes out around 4 p.m.
Until they figure a better way to preserve their
product between the smoker and sales, I plan
on only buying it early.
Carly Groben is back, sort of anyway. The talented,
young, chef/owner of Proof and Flour sold both
those places and did some traveling this year.
Now she’s serving lunch at Jasper Winery on
Saturdays. (She has a “no compete agreement”
with Proof making other days off limits.) I
visited on her inaugural day. A bridal shower
overwhelmed the main dining room, so the winery
set up tables in a room with fermentation tanks
and bottling machines like many California wineries
do. Tables were covered with black linen, and
freshly picked zinnias graced their tops.
I enjoyed two of the best sandwiches and salads
of the summer. Meatloaf was served on a homemade
dill bun with two strips of excellent bacon,
roasted garlic, a sun dried tomato pâte and
fresh herbs. Spicy tuna salad included craisins,
celery and chilies on a homemade brioche. A
quinoa salad combined that ancient grain with
toasted sunflower seeds, Swiss chard, sweet
basil, carrots, peppers, red cabbage, red onions
and zucchinis — all from the winery garden.
A garden salad included curried almonds, Parmesano
and cinnamon bread croutons. Whole sandwiches
with salads and delightful ambiance cost just
Bottom line — with food becoming more expensive,
bargains like these are dear.
Carly Groben defeated scores of national challengers
to win the Best Bites Challenge and will open
a sweetly subsidized restaurant in downtown
Grinnell… New state fair concessions include
crab fritters, deep fried pickles wrapped in
pastrami and ham with cream cheese, carrot funnel
cake and double bacon corn dogs. CV