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Food Dude

August 23, 2012
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The Other Place and an other place

By Jim Duncan

The signature pizza at The Other Place, 12401 University Ave., Clive, 225-9494. Hours are Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight and Friday through Saturday, 11 to 2 a.m.

The opening of The Other Place Sports Grill and Pizzeria in Clive ranked with the debuts of Whole Foods and Twin Peaks for creating the summer’s biggest buzz. Since this chain’s first store opened on College Hill in Cedar Falls in 1970, it’s become part of northern Iowa mythos with six restaurants there, plus a pair in the Kansas suburbs of Kansas City. College town pizzerias and sports bars seem to forge lifelong bonds with their fans. The Other Place’s Overland Park store in Kansas was a pioneer sports bar. The Clive restaurant is a modernized, swank version of that place, with little resemblance to the original place on The Hill.

Nostalgia is as powerful an attraction as cold beer. The Clive Other Place and its super-sized parking lot were filled from the day it opened, and crowds have grown since then. This store is state-of-the-sports-bar-art with ubiquitous large, high definition flat screens and every major satellite sports package. The crowds I observed on weekend evenings were considerably more family-oriented than anything one sees in typical college town sports bars. That might be because the food was a stronger draw than the bar. Like the finest fresh and local restaurants in town, The Other Place proudly displayed the branded icons of its suppliers. These were not the same suppliers you will see on menus at Mojo’s, Sbrocco or Centro, though. Heinz, Hormel, Jenni-O, Hidden Valley, Red Bull, Pepsi and Mountain Dew represent the aegis of quality here.

Basically, the kitchen specializes in two things — scratch fried foods and pizza. Their execution of the first genre was excellent by any standards. On two visits, I never observed a single order of hand-breaded, fried foods that were darker than light golden. Onion rings were as light and crunchy as they come. Chicken tenders, fries, kettle chips, shrimp, Mozzarella sticks, mushrooms and pork tenderloins were pretty much faultless.

Pizza wasn’t for everyone. Nearly “deep dish” in thickness, these yeasty pies included excellent sweet marinara and much cheese. All pizza specials were loaded with multiple ingredients, as many as five different meats. The crusts did have crisp bottoms, but each piece included as much dough as many sandwiches. After two, I could only scrape off the toppings. Salads also included copious amounts of bread and cheese. Other Place subs were oven baked on similarly yeasty buns.

The menu included some compulsory sports bar foods that were neither deep fried nor baked in the pizza ovens — Buffalo wings, nachos, spinach dip, burgers, four kinds of pasta and wraps. There were no potato skins — I know this because their absence from the menu provoked a wild tantrum in a nearby child.

Bottom line — The Other Place will surely become The Place for sports fans to watch UNI games in the future.

Speaking of other places, the Hy-Vee on East Euclid, also known as Hy-Vee No. 2, is a corporate legend. This is the store where future CEOs have been sent to cut their teeth. If they can make it there, they’ll make it anywhere. In this store, one sees plain clothed cops patrolling and electronic shoplifting sensors at the entrances. It also hosts rather amazing wine dinners prepared by Dean Richardson, whose Phat Chefs restaurant ruled West Des Moines for a decade. A recent event included an appetizer buffet, melon-blue cheese and arugula salad, a tomba (tuna), fresh herbs and tomato bruschetta, braised sirloin tips with fingerling potatoes in a wine and gravy reduction, and a choice of three cheesecakes. Thirteen different wines were poured. Several prizes, including a mini refrigerator, were raffled. The charge for everything was $10. Look for similar events monthly.

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