2716 Ingersoll Ave., 779-6066.
Mon. - Fri. 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. Thurs.
- Sat. 3:30 p.m. - 8 p.m.
Ingersoll is Des Moines’ corridor
of democracy. One block north
of Grand, it draws equally from
a well-heeled establishment to
the south, a free-thinking college
fringe to the north and many inexpensive
rental properties in its center.
No other commercial boulevard
in town has so consistently rejected
national franchise food brands.
Howard Johnson couldn’t make it
here. Burger King, Hinky Dinky,
Bishop’s, Hardee’s all came and
went while locally owned family
joints continued to outnumber
chains by an exponential factor.
Ingersoll’s customer base has
been an arbiter of high quality
making the boulevard an incubator
for local standards of excellence.
Dahl’s built its first supermarket
here. Cownie Furs, Silver Fox,
Moberg Gallery, Noah’s, Bistro
Montage, Star Bar, Jesse’s Embers
and Big Tomato are just a few
of the local stores that are distinguished
within their genre. Uncle Wendell’s
fits right in.
Wendell Garretson is a dues
paying member of old school regional
cuisine. He learned Cajun craft
at Simo’s Cafisto, competed on
the competitive barbecue circuit
and toiled at the baker‘s craft.
After opening a small bakery,
he built a base by working the
farmer’s market circuit and added
pure wood barbecue to his trade.
Late last year, when he expanded
his Sherman Hill operation into
the former Pats Corner on Ingersoll,
his business became more of a
BBQ than a bakery. The new café
has been remodeled appropriately
with flames painted on the wall
and a pig starring in a large
“You just can’t have a real
barbecue without neon pig art,”
Uncle Wendell’s does the basics
of superior Q quite well. My brisket
was perfectly crusted with a smoke
ring and tender meat. Best of
all, it is sliced when you order
it, from whatever end or direction
you like — even at rush hour.
That’s essential Q service, and
it’s becoming extremely hard to
find in Des Moines where most
barbecues have fallen for the
false line that a brisket loses
nothing when it’s cooled for slicing
and then reheated when ordered.
That method is blasphemy in the
citadels of traditional barbecue
(Texas) and it horrifies Garretson.
I liked his pulled pork as much
as his brisket. Pig butts had
been smoked with hickory and pulled
off the bone and mixed. My sandwich
included plenty of crunchy skin
plus tender meat from near the
bone. Chicken was smoked and also
used to make superb chicken salad.
Sandwiches were served on thick
slices of home made challah. I
asked if my bread could be sliced
to half its thickness, and that
was no problem. Try asking for
that at a chain. Uncle Wendell’s
distinguishes itself from other
barbecues with Garretson’s explorations
beyond the basics. I tried a jambalaya
that was sautéed when ordered
with chopped tomatoes, onions,
herbs and garlic plus several
kinds of smoked meat, including
some cheeks from a whole cow’s
head that Garretson had smoked.
A little stock from smoked turkey
bones was added. All of Uncle
Wendell’s superb soups are made
only with bone scratch stocks
that have experienced the smokehouse.
Uncle Wendell’s also introduces
a hot new southern specialty to
Des Moines — Kool-Aid pickles.
Dill pickles were marinated in
different flavors of that soft
drink, becoming a colorful, sweet
& sour accompaniment to a
sandwich, particularly appropriate
for anyone who likes barbecue
without sauce. Wendell supports
the Buy Fresh, Buy Local program
with Iowa Farm Families’ pork
among other local products. There
was an all-star lineup of Iowa-made
BBQ sauces too with Russ and Franks
of West Des Moines serving as
house sauce. It was not as cloyingly
sweet as Cookie’s. Vinegar based
sauces are also available.
Uncle Wendell’s bakery supplies
lots of goodies here: cookies,
sweet rolls, raspberry pecan cream
cake, pumpkin bread, etc.. The
soft drink selection featured
Millstream’s line of cane sugar
Casa di Vino in Johnston is offering
a tasting of the eclectic range
of wines from the Sicily, a viticulture
region that is very much in vogue
now: Jan. 29, 5-7 p.m. CV
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