Oyster Po Boy at 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
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
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,
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
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