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Food Dude

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By Jim Duncan CVFDude@aol.com Reviews

Maverick Grill
3825 121st St., Urbandale, 253-9283
Mon. - Thurs. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Fri - Sat. 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.
Sun. 10 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Live music on weekends.

Maverick Grill

Decked out in something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue, Maverick Grill could make a lovely bride. The old part is local legend — the father of this bride is Miller Ream, a notable financier and bon vivant from Northern California who never forgot his Iowa roots. Ream was also the proud daddy of The Rusty Scupper, an upscale chain (only one still exists, in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor) that dazzled 1970s Des Moines with its restaurant on Grand Avenue. The Scupper was Iowa’s first million dollar restaurant property, and it introduced Des Moines to bartenders in formal attire, surcharges for side dishes and perfect prime rib. Scupper menus were written on boat oars, one of which has been borrowed and embedded in Maverick’s entryway reminding us that not too long ago, $9 (a bottle) Chateau Neuf de Pape was the top of the wine line, and fresh abalone was not only sold in Des Moines, it was cheaper than crab.

Most everything else about Maverick is new. The restaurant’s name refers to Mavericks, a legendary point break surf near Half Moon Bay, Calif. Murals detail passions of Miller Ream, his family farm and the deep blue seascapes of coastal California. Restaurant trappings are splendid — solid nautical wood paneling and furniture, polished brass, fine marble tables, a heat resistant glass bar wall, a stylish open kitchen with bar seating, etc. Yet prices were surprisingly moderate. Lunch offered soup, sandwich and salad combos for $5 to $8. A panko-crusted cod was best man among sandwiches. A well seared Maverick burger was more than most people can eat for less than $10, but the beef in a similarly priced French dip was scant as a bridesmaid’s garter. Each sandwich included a choice of side dishes. Both cioppino and bouillabase, the grand dames of seafood stews, delivered plenty of fish and crustacean flesh in flavorful stocks for just $16. A cream corn pasta with blackened scallops cost even less and was my favorite dish. Lasagna in house-made marinara was exactly what one expects in this Italian restaurant town.

Crab cakes had a nice crust and good crab flavor but no lumps of crabmeat. Fish & chips were less successful. Halibut seemed like a strange choice as its price has skyrocketed this year. Maybe that’s why it was parsed out and hidden in heavy breading. One expects more flesh in fish sticks, let alone fish & chips.

The biggest disappointment was prime rib. After requesting something quite different, I was served an end cut. That would have been OK if it had the flavorful crust one expects from a prime rib related to the Rusty Scupper’s. Alas, this one was light gray and bland.

Desserts ($5-$6) were basic as fudge cake, cheesecake, Snicker bar pie and flan. A well chosen wine list ranged between $27 to $48, with one $75 champagne splurge. A unique cocktail menu priced its specialties around $8.

This place is new, and service was understandably inconsistent. Some specific orders were not communicated to the kitchen or the bar, but apologies were profuse and sincere. In one instance, we were told that an order for a “gin” martini had confounded the system. In the Scupper’s day, before vodka conquered the cocktail world, all martinis were made with just two ingredients — gin and vermouth. Our bill added a surcharge for the vermouth.

Side dishes

Prairie Meadows’ Easter brunch will include prime rib, smoked ham, roast leg of lamb, short ribs, ginger soy baked salmon, baked chicken, pork loin with plum sauce and a few dozen other items — for $17.95. Out of 36 Easter buffets on Chicago’s opentable.com, the least expensive one cost twice that much. … A “Celebrity Food Wine Expo” will visit the Iowa Events Center in November with tickets priced $30 to $60. Bisquick goddess Sandra Lee, Home Shopping Network designer “Chef Jamie” (Gwen) and Aussie Curtis Stone, of People magazine’s “sexiest men” feature, will headline. CV

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Taste of Elegance (1-31-08) Old Country Buffet (2-7-08)
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Daddy O’s Bodacious Foods (3-13-08)  

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