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By Jim Duncan

Trawling for trailer tripe

Des Moines is in a love-hate relationship with trailer cafés. We love them for providing entry-level opportunities for young entrepreneurs, but their low rent lifestyle sometimes competes unfairly with brick and mortar restaurants. After the city cracked down on trailer cafés last year, they’ve become harder to find, but definitely worth the effort. These are some of the best:

Parrothead, 2nd Ave. at Franklin Ave.
The grandfather of trailer luncheonettes in Des Moines, Parrothead shares a parking lot and a “gone fishin’” attitude with a bait shop. Don’t be fooled though, it’s also a respectable caterer. Many folks consider these $6 burgers to be the best in town. I love their Graziano sausage sandwiches.

Ponderosa, 21st St, just north of Forest Avenue, 508-1503,
Moe Cason competed on the Kansas City BBQ Society circuit last year and ranked 22nd out of 640 in ribs nationally, in his rookie season. His brisket might be better than his ribs. Moe’s chicken and pulled pork aren’t bad either. Excellent collard greens, pork-laden baked beans and macaroni and cheese elevate this trailer to the top of Iowa’s soul food rankings, too. Moe sets up on Forest on weekends when he’s not competing. He will let you know his schedule if you call or e-mail him. He’s also looking for a permanent sit-down restaurant.

Parker’s BBQ, 2002 Indianola Ave., 681-2806,
Archie Parker runs a close second to Cason in our smokehouse rankings. His baby backs are excellent. The pulled pork and brisket don’t compromise flavor like so many sit-down Q’s do. I have driven by his Indianola Avenue location probably 20 times for every time it’s been open, but I’ve found him selling at numerous festivals, etc. He’s usually the best vendor there.

JJ’s Catering - New Orleans Home Style Cooking, 277-7243,
This Jesse James is no easier to find than his infamous namesake. I’ve never seen him in the same place twice [except After Work Release shows at Blues on Grand where his food is a weekly attraction during the series], but he’s always a welcome sight, frying catfish and fresh cut Cajun fries that rank at the top of any list. He also makes jambalaya, Italian sausage sandwiches, gumbo and grilled chicken, with Louisiana love.

Tacos, 1415 S.E. Maury Ave.
This no-name trailer consistently offers rare specialties like horchata, grilled green onions, brains, tongue and tripe, in addition to the sausage, roast pork and grilled beef one expects at a good tacqueria. Their never-rubbery tongue might be the best in town. Chorizo and pastor have an excellent seasoning. Double tortilla tacos cost $1.50 and huge burritos $5.50, slightly more than others charge, but worth it. A concrete patio offers three picnic tables and shade.

Villanueva’s, approximately 1521
E. Grand Ave.
The most artful of local tacquerias, Villanueva’s is consistently one of the busiest. Shade, picnic tables and an adjacent bakery add to its draw. Like all tacquerias, it offers pork, beef and sausage fillings in double tortilla tacos, tortas (Mexican hogies) and burritos. It also adds tripas (tripe) to the menu.

Tacos Jerez, approximately 2126
S.E. 14th St.
A small tent provides little shade here, but there’s lots of free parking. The usual tortas, burritos, tacos and pastor are reliably good. This is the only place in town I have found buche, which is like tripas cooked in lard.

Tacos Tarascos, S.E. 14th St. &
Edison Ave.
Another place with inadequate shade on blistering days, but the usual good food.

Nollen Plaza
I’m not sure if the cart vendors of Nollen Plaza even qualify for this genre because most are outlets of permanent restaurants. The busiest vendor seems to be Coney Island, and I’ve never seen them actually cook anything; they just plate prepared foods like gyros, Polish sausages and hotdogs. Saverio’s grills onions and brats and turkey tenders, chicken breasts and Polish sausage. Great Midwestern does the most creative cooking, grilling skirt steak tacos, prepped Ruebens on marbled rye, BBQ pork and hot dogs. CV

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)
Acapulco (3-1-07) Aryana (3-8-07)
AJ's (3-15-07) Ban Thai (3-22-07)
Two Crop Palace(3-29-07) Mo Q x 2 (4-5-07)
What's In A Name?(4-12-07) Lemongrass (4-19-07)
Chef Joe's Place (5-3-07) Suburban Restaurant (5-10-07)
Gateway Market Café (5-17-07) Irina’s Restaurant Bar (5-24-07)

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