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Food Dude

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By Jim Duncan


With an unobstructed view of Drake’s venerable Old Main, DuBay’s operates on hallowed and eccentric real estate. This was once the site of Missouri Hall where Drake School of Music students like Roger Williams and Sherrill Milnes practiced their craft. The present building began as Vilimek’s, an upscale gift shop that also kept resident lizards and snakes and raised rabbits and rats to feed them. If that wasn’t strange enough, the north bay of the building served as Faye Vilimek’s personal underground good will store, where clothes and furniture were dispatched to the needy without charge. After that store was converted into a restaurant, several of the best chefs in Iowa starred in the open kitchen — Rob Beaseley (Mojo’s on 86th), Enosh Kelley (Bistro Montage), Hal Jasa (Dos Rios) and Jon Benedict (IPTV) among them. It takes both flair and eccentricity to follow such tough acts and DuBay’s delivers them.

This restaurant has changed ownership, menu and format since debuting in April. It reopened in September with Brian DuBay as chef-owner after a kitchen remodeling. Happily for the holiday season, and for Drake special events, the café opens only for private parties Sunday through Tuesday evenings; a similar business plan has worked well for other eccentric venues such as Café di Scala and Younkers Tea Room. Warm Mediterranean colors and a hot open kitchen survived from earlier incarnations, but art has changed dramatically: Lee Ann Conlan’s depiction of desperate refugees flooding the Gothic cathedral of St. Denis was hung conspicuously for first impressions. Soundtrack music was eclectic, ranging from gospel to head-banger.

Brian DuBay’s new menu has been shortened and moderated. Gone from early summer is the $55 Kobe steak and a selection of oyster dishes. Prices have, for the most part, been reduced, too. Other than steaks, all entrees and pasta dishes now cost $15-$19, salads begin at $4. Louisiana flair is still the signature of both the bar and café. The DuBay Hurricane cocktail includes tequila, two kinds of rum and Everclear. It’s hard to find an entrée that isn’t rich and dramatically accompanied with cream or cheese sauces.

Even without the oysters, appetizers were the strength of the menu. Crab cakes tasted like claw meat and shallots and were served perfectly golden with a good Remoulade. Dark rue gumbo was first rate and included chicken, andouille, ham and shrimp, for $4. Escargot and seafood encroute brought puffed pastry style to the first course menu.
Entrées played similar melodies with chicken Wellington singing the puffed pastry role this time. Jambalaya was classic, with sausage, shrimp and chicken breast in fresh tomato sauce on rice. A stuffed pork loin came with complex flavors, from thick ham (tasso would have worked better here), roasted pepper and scallions, but all were overwhelmed by a Gorgonzola sauce that also dominated the accompanying mashed potatoes.

DuBay’s just began weekday lunch service with a most affordable menu — everything under $9. It ran from exotic (home made alligator sausage sandwiches) to traditional Louisiana (jambalaya, mufaletta, crab cake sandwiches) and on to vegetarian specialties and a quiche of the day. Desserts here have a loyal following but one would need a second stomach to handle cheesecake, bread pudding or “Chocolate Misery” on top of the generous appetizers and entrées. That latter dessert dares the unwritten rule that $8 desserts should never include ingredients such as Oreos. A short wine list ($22-$42) was completely available by the glass. A late night Happy Hour accompanied the traditional one.

Side dishes
Delancey’s opened a Hank & Sharon’s clone at 28th and University, with truly “giant” tenderloins, onion rings and grinders as specialties. … Drake Campus Security is housed next door to DuBay’s now. Their previous headquarters, the former Blue Willow restaurant, was leveled for parking. … Java Lava Coffee now sprawls over three former addresses at the corner of 25th Street and University Avenue. CV

1229 25th St.
Phone: 255-0535
Mon. - Fri. 11 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Full evening dining:
Wed. - Sat. 5 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Sun. - Tues. by reservation.
Lounge open daily 5 p.m. - 2 a.m. with abbreviated menu until 1:30 a.m.

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)
Trailer Tripe (5-31-07) Azalea (6-07-07)
Pho All Seasons (6-14-07) Farmers Market (6-21-07)
El Sabor Latino (6-28-07) Crouse Café (7-5-07)
Bistro Montage (7-12-07) Jaliscolita rebounds (7-19-07)
New Saigon (7-26-07) Smokey D's BBQ (8-2-07)
Gourmet Burgers (8-9-07) Iowa State Fair (8-16-07)
Rolling Wok (8-23-07) Sports Bars (8-30-07)
Dragon House West (9-6-07) Carr’s Soul Food Cafe (9-13-07)
The Sushi Surge(9-20-07) B & B Grocery Meat & Deli (9-27-07)
Redefining Pizza (10-4-07) Café Su (10-11-07)
Providence Café (10-18-07) Firkin & Fox (10-25-07)
Dos Rios (11-01-07) AYCE buffet (11-08-07)
Fast Food (11-15-07) Grand Piano Bistro (11-22-07)
O'Charley's (11-29-07)  

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