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Food Dude

AMICI-Paid Sponsor

By Jim Duncan Reviews

The Stadium Grill & Bar at inPlay
615 3rd St., 333-5050
Mon. - Thurs. 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.
Fri. - Sat. 11 a.m. - 2 a.m.
Sun. noon - 11 p.m.

Boston’s The Gourmet Pizza Restaurant & Sports Bar
12401 University Ave., Clive, 440-6051
Daily 11 a.m. - 2 a.m.

Sports bar update

Sports bars arrived late in Des Moines, but have been making up for lost time. We now have such places specializing in: specific teams (Wrigley’s); English soccer (Amici’s), NASCAR (Daytona’s); horse racing (Champion’s); clean air (The Game); bowling (Trophy’s); family atmosphere (Legacy); clubbing (Legends); hypothalamus research (Hooter’s); and live jazz (Coach’s Corner). Star Bar serves cutting edge bistro fare and Coach’s Corner stocks a liquor cabinet worthy of top Washington lobbyists. Orlando’s takes Fresh & Local to its garden roots. Finding a niche in this crowded market requires serious creativity, yet two places managed that this winter with an assist from Drake basketball.

After a fire in Christopher’s kitchen created a temporary vacancy for Drake’s basketball luncheons, The Stadium Grill & Bar at inPlay (Stadium) substituted and introduced Des Moines to a new niche — the carnival arcade sports bar. Stadium amenities include more than 100 arcade games on two floors, a private room with four bowling lanes and a large rock-climbing wall. I found the place busy before an event at the adjacent Wells Fargo Arena, yet Stadium staff delivered on a promise of prompt service. Pizza, burgers, toasted ravioli and fried pickles all satisfied a table looking for something better than concession food at Wells Fargo.

I returned to catch an obscure lunchtime sportscast on satellite TV when nothing was going on at Wells Fargo. Excluding a dangerously snow-packed sidewalk, the service was still good. Waitresses gave frank and expert answers about the preparation of dishes and immediately tuned in the game I wanted to watch. I tried a decent pork tenderloin, crisp and irregular enough to appear hand made, plus a Graziano’s grinder. My bun had been sliced completely in two creating an unnecessary mess, but it still beat anything I could have found across the street.

Boston’s The Gourmet Pizza and Sports Bar (BGP) is a Texas-based offspring of a Canadian chain that knows how to seize opportunity. They were the first place in town to market the availability of live Internet telecasts of Drake road games, at a time when local TV sports directors had yet to figure out that the Bulldogs’ historic winning streak was worth covering. During one such telecast, I ate with some folks who had never been to BGP but declared it much better food than that at Applebee’s, their previous favorite restaurant. That’s a fair assessment from my experiences, too.

BGP offers considerable choice (although their recently declared corporate strategy is to simplify and focus) with a menu that looked like a high school notebook, complete with subject dividers. While a medium thick, chewy pizza offered a semi-crisp crust and a gaggle of possible combinations, it couldn’t make me stop dreaming about simpler, less expensive pies at a nearby Red Rossa outlet. A calzone bled oil on my hand. Ribs ordered with sauce “on the side” came slathered in sweet sauce. Burgers were treated much like the pizza — overloaded with toppings and melted cheeses. French fries remained hot for half an hour.

Service during a lunchtime sports-viewing mission wasn’t up to Stadium standards. As soon as I was seated, in what I had been promised was a non-smoking room, an employee brought ashtrays to customers next to me. My complaint fell on deaf ears, perhaps because the rock and roll was so loud I could barely hear myself speak, let alone hear the game. I was told I could move to a sunny room with smaller TVs and no high definition. At half time I drove to The Game, where the no smoking rulebook is only two words long.

Side dishes
The local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association hosts an intriguing dinner March 15, in the venerable confines of the Scottish Rite Consistory. Some of the area’s best restaurants, best farms and best dairies are supplying the meal. Area artists created mirrors for the auction. Reservations are $40 at 440-2722. CV

Food Dude Reviews 2008 2007 Reviews
Splash Raw Oyster Bar (1-3-08) Flavors of India(1-10-08)
Uncle Wendell's (1-17-08) Jesse's Embers (1-24-08)
Taste of Elegance (1-31-08) Old Country Buffet (2-7-08)
Baker’s Food & Fuel (2-14-08) Coffee (2-21-08)
Cool Basil (2-28-08)  

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