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Ingersoll Avenue harbors dozens of unique businesses that have been around for at least a quarter century. That includes far more food and beverage legacies than any other strip in town — Noah’s, The Alpine, The Greenwood, The Duck Blind, D.M. Yacht Club, El Patio, Flanagan’s, Wellman’s Pub, Dahl’s, Bauder’s, Kwong Tung, Suzette’s and Ted’s. It’s not as easy as it looks though. The location where Wellman’s has thrived since the beginning of the 80s was previously thought to be cursed. Four restaurants had come and gone in four years before Wellman’s. For years, Ingersoll Avenue resisted franchise fast food outlets and that helped establish its independent identity. But that was very long ago. Now, new restaurants on the strip have to deal with corporate franchise competition like everywhere else in the metro.

That brings us to 2510 Ingersoll Ave., an address that housed a HoJo for decades before the motel king deserted the inner city. Recently, a Central American and a Mexican restaurant both opened there and left in less than a year. Part of the problem was the next door neighbor — a “deluxe” Taco John’s, meaning one with a condiment bar and lots of seating. Undaunted by curses, Acapulco Mexican Restaurant opened at the same dubious address in late January.

On my first visit, I figured they were doomed to the fate of the previous Latino restaurants, because a litany of “amigos” cannot compensate for bad service. Our waiter hovered over the table after delivering menus. When we didn’t order immediately, he tapped his order pad on the back of his hand loudly. He didn’t even stop after we apologized for boring him and explained that we wanted time to actually read the menu before ordering. Hurried, I ordered (pork) carnitas tacos. The waiter said I could only have tacos with ground beef or chicken. I asked if they did not, in fact, make carnitas and was told they did, but tacos had to be hamburger or chicken. Because I could have had that at Taco John’s, and because I still felt pressured to order quickly, I changed my order to a “number one combo, whatever that might be.”

Not knowing what I ordered, I became the only person at the table who didn’t think he got the wrong order. Not that it mattered much because almost everything was covered with the same red sauce and cheese while coming with the same flour tortillas. A waiter kept asking, “Is everything good, amigos?” But when we asked for some green salsa, more red salsa was delivered. Despite the confusion, some items were well executed — chiles rellenos were made with stem-on poblanos; guacamole was generous and fresh, frijoles were velvet smooth. With the exception of the ubiquitous red sauce, foods were remarkably restrained in their use of salt — even the chips were unsalted.

Return visits were much happier stories. Servers correctly delivered everything that was ordered without ever pressuring anyone. When an order of flan came drenched in whipped cream and chocolate sauce, it was happily replaced with an unadorned one. Carnitas didn’t compare to the better versions in town, but a “Michoacan special” brought good roast beef, fajitas were served still sizzling and taquitos had a perfect crunch. Value is extraordinary here: A $6.50 fajitas lunch brought two heaping plates of food; Carne asada and “steak Jaliso” both delivered complete steak dinners for under $10.

Side dishes
Café di Scala was the only Iowa restaurant to earn a 2006 Award of Distinction from Wine Enthusiast (WE) magazine. While Wine Spectator’s better-publicized awards seem to go to the most expensive wine cellars every year, WE’s are more discriminating. Café di Scala has a short, all-Italian wine list…. King Arthur Flour’s traveling baking college stops at the West Des Moines Marriott March 2. Free classes will be taught in yeast breads (noon – 2 p.m.) and artisan breads (7 - 9 p.m.). For reservations, call (802) 526-1835, CV

By Jim Duncan
Past Food Dude Reviews
Amici Espresso (1-4-07) Bandana's (1-11-07)
Perry hotel (1-18-07) Beyond frozen (1-25-07)
Centro (2-1-07) KC BBQ (2-8-07)
Planet Sub (2-15-07) Trostel’s Greenbriar (2-22-07)

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