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By Jim Duncan Reviews

Oyster Po Boy at Fat Tuesday
Fat Tuesday
6112 S.W. Ninth St. 244-3349
Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Southside Italian Deli
2460 S.W. Ninth St., 288-9626
Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

New World on S.W. Ninth

Who would start a new restaurant in today's iffy economy? Since the October stock market crash, while diners flocked to grocery stores and "dollar menus," the number of independent start-ups in Des Moines has exceeded the average of the previous three years. Chaos brings opportunity as a cruise down S.W. Ninth Street shows. Just north of venerable Bordenaro's Pizza, Fat Tuesday brings Louisiana recipes to the street. Owner-chef Steven "Fat" James left New Orleans' Ninth Ward about 30 hurricane seasons ahead of Katrina. He's been catering weddings and graduation parties (as SJ Diversity Cooking) for 12 years in central Iowa as well as selling his family recipes at the Drake Relays, Indianola Balloon Festival, World Food Prize street fair, etc., for the last seven years. That built a customer base, so James recently accepted an early retirement offer and marched into the life of a full-time café owner. Emphasize "full-time" - Fat Tuesday is open seven days a week serving up excellent fried foods and bead-tossing good cheer.

Jambalaya included shrimp, sausage, crawfish, freshly chopped peppers, onions and tomatoes. Waitresses offered to adjust the heat level. Red beans and rice, the most popular dish on the menu according to the wait staff, was hearty with sausage. Gumbo had a good shellfish stock, okra, tomatoes, peppers, sausage, shrimp and crawfish. It lacked the thickening of a good roux. When my disappointment was expressed, the problem was adjusted with an explanation that "Iowans aren't ready for roux."

Fry work was the star of an inconsistent kitchen. One po boy was served on a cold bun, another on a nicely warmed bun. On the same day, rice in one dish was undercooked while rice in another was perfect. Another day, no un-sweetened tea was available, lending a Southern authenticity. Chicken drummies were perfect, but a chicken hindquarter was undercooked near the bone. Other fry work was a dream come true. Catfish and oysters, both coated in cornmeal, were moist and crunchy. The catfish was the best I've found in ages. James said that he's upgrading his sausage as soon as an order for genuine andouille is delivered from Louisiana. Beer and wine will also soon be added to the menu. Cajun fries and cornbread were homemade. Good sweet potato pie and creamy king's cake (without the plastic prize) were available on weekends, which is the fun time to go. The staff that waited on my table on a recent Sunday was a joy. They checked and rechecked little details while spontaneously breaking out some gospel solos.

A couple miles north of Fat Tuesday, the newest food business on S.W. Ninth is a throwback to the Southside's original ethnic heritage. Chuck and Kimm Fazio's Southside Italian Deli (SID) offers pizza and sandwiches that ring some memory bells. Sandwiches were served on perfectly toasted Krispy Krust bread, that former Southside icon that fled to Omaha. Meatballs, sausage and red sauce were all state of the Calabrese art. Quantas (a.k.a. Guandas or Wandas) were so fresh I tested them against others from a Southside grocery store - SIDs won by a huge crackle and a sweet aftertaste. Spicy "pita con sardies" resembled a cinnamon roll sprinkled with chilies and dried fish. A $6 all-you-can eat pasta offer (with salad and bread) was a major bargain.

Side Dishes
Angel Grocery on S.W. 9th St. offers beef "birria," freshly prepared ceviches and beef ribs butchered thin against the bone, perfect for grilling teppanyaki styleÉ Cochon 555 brings five top chefs to Sticks for a heritage pig competition and wine feast April 19, $110,É Jasper Winery partners with Proof chef Steve Logsdon (who recently replaced Chris Place at that café) for a four course wine dinner April 23. $55 per person, reservations 282-9463. CV

Food Dude Reviews 2009 2008 Reviews ~ 2007 Reviews
Best & Worst of 2008 (01-01-09) Maxie’s (01-08-09)
Fawn's (01-15-09) Kwong Tung welcomes the Ox (01-22-09)
Noah's Ark (01-29-09) Taste of Elegance (02-05-09)
La Mie Bakery & Café (02-12-09) El Chisme (02-19-09)
Florene’s (02-26-09) Fourth Street T (03-05-09)
Supreme Bakery (03-12-09) Town Hall Tavern (03-19-09)
Namaste India (03-26-09) Cornelius’ Cache (04-02-09)
Ruby Tuesday (04-09-09)  

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