Tuesday, April 28, 2015


Posted April 22, 2015in Food Dude

La Peña’s still one of a kind

Chefs complain that Des Moines diners are resistant to change. If a restaurant replaces a dish or alters a recipe, someone will complain. In this environment, any change of ownership at traditional establishments comes with customer anxiety. In the last year-and-a-half, La Pena, Chuck’s, Tally’s, The Radish and the Des

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Posted April 15, 2015in Food Dude

This Gateway Market Café is far from a horror story

Knowing that George Formaro’s love of horror stories inspired Zombie Burger + Drink Lab, I assumed that Gateway Market and Café were named after a bloody piece of American cultural history. The LaBianca family, murdered by Charles Manson’s followers, owned a similarly named chain of stores. After all, the store

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Posted April 08, 2015in Food Dude

Culinary Loft debuts

The first time I interviewed Zach Mannheimer, I was impressed by his talent at piecing together multiple sources of funding. Similar coalitions of generosity had been assembled to save the Temple of the Performing Arts from the wrecking ball. That was part of a local civic effort to preserve an

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Posted March 31, 2015in Food Dude

Bacon lust bottoms out

It’s been almost four years since American economics lost its biggest food star. In July of 2011, pork bellies were removed from listed commodities traded on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. For 50 years before then, they served as a kadigan for all commodity trading and the butt of most jokes

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Posted March 25, 2015in Food Dude

Family-style Mexican in Valley Junction

One definition asserts that romance is whatever transports one to another time or place. That helps explain why people enjoy restaurants set in offbeat venues that have been repurposed. Diners seek to escape their mundane circumstances as much as readers of Victorian romances do. Iowa offers many opportunities for this

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Posted March 18, 2015in Food Dude

Los Laureles keeps getting better

Once in a great while, a new type of restaurant changes the way people think about an entire cuisine. Less often, a new café elevates an entire neighborhood. Los Laureles has done both. It opened two decades ago now in a building constructed after the notorious adult theater 1536 had

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Posted March 11, 2015in Food Dude

Little Morocco revives the pop-up

“If Des Moines does not allow unbridled access to food trucks, then the young professional tribe will leave, and this city’s renaissance will be dead and gone.” That mantra has spread now from the manual of hipster talking points to the mainstream media. Here in the local, alternative media, the

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Posted March 04, 2015in Food Dude

Rhyming with history at QT and Pita Pit

Cultural criticism is elitist by necessity. If critics praised that which was popular, they would be redundant. Academy Awards do not go to popular movies so much as to esoteric films. Only a brave critic would praise fast food before it becomes obsolete. Consider the original fast food genre —

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Posted February 25, 2015in Food Dude

503 completes Eighth Street evolution

Neighborhoods evolve mysteriously. A few years and one sexual harassment lawsuit ago, Eighth Street in West Des Moines was the center of the Iowa restaurant universe with Jimmy’s American Café, Eighth Street Seafood, Pain Pane and Cabo San Lucas at its nexus. That was before the downtown scene exploded and

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Posted February 18, 2015in Food Dude

Dos Rios has become a bargain

In Iowa, chili cook-offs have become a rite of winter. Country clubs, churches, taverns and hospitals all hold them. Last week, one transported me to another time and place. The Altoona Fire Department hosted such an event to raise money for state-of-the-art medical rescue equipment. The firehouse was filled with

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Barmuda