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Posted April 30, 2014in Food Dude

New café charms Orchestrate’s restaurant lineup

A basic tenet of good messaging is rarely heeded in these days of abundance and excess: What’s left out is as significant as what’s included. Malo, a new Hispanic-American-themed restaurant in the historic Des Moines Firehouse, has covered up all traces of fire poles, making it clear that this place

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Posted April 23, 2014in Food Dude

Eatery-A, the new star on Ingersoll

When I began writing about the Des Moines’ food scene in the 1980s, Ingersoll was dominated, west of Noah’s, by fast-food franchises and dive bars. A comeback began with the opening of Corner Café and accelerated with Zanzibar’s, Art House, Stam’s, Bistro Montage, Star Bar and Gusto. This week’s debut

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Posted April 16, 2014in Food Dude

‘Iowa’s largest buffet’ at China One

During the reign of Louis XIV, buffets reached decadent heights of conspicuous consumption. Alexandre-François Desportes painted a few of the Sun King’s more lavish party spreads before Louis’ gold and silver serving dishes had to be melted down to pay off his debts, which accelerated the French Revolution and the

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Posted April 09, 2014in Food Dude

Dining in the ruins

American restaurant history spins many tales of blind luck. In 1929, Malcom Nichols, the prudish mayor of Boston, Mass., banned Eugene O’Neill’s infamous play. “Strange Interlude.” Promoters moved the five-hour show to downtown Quincy, across the street from a new restaurant built by ice-cream man Howard Johnson. Since the long

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Posted April 02, 2014in Food Dude

Pho All Seasons returns

Pho All Seasons built a loyal customer base on East Ninth Street during the previous decade. Four years ago, the family was told they needed to add a prohibitively expensive grease trap. So they closed their café and moved to Arizona where they had built a second restaurant. Business was

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Posted March 26, 2014in Food Dude

Café di Scala mellows out

With 20 new dieting books published each week, one might think this is the golden age of nutritional wisdom. Actually, dieting obsessions have been recycled for hundreds of years. Lord Byron popularized an all potato diet. Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin was into low-carb dieting 150 years before Dr. Atkins. Horace Fletcher

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Posted March 19, 2014in Food Dude

International African Cuisine is a rare gem

These days caterers who cook in other people’s houses are called  “nomadic chefs.” That’s either a cheap appropriation of those words or a redundancy. Historically all nomads moved about in order to either eat or to feed their flocks. Since modern warfare began, a new class of nomads has traveled

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Posted March 12, 2014in Food Dude

Panchero’s and the Burrito Wars

Remember when Chipotle was the good guy? The Colorado chain had just 16 stores in 1998 when McDonald’s bought a majority share in the company. It quickly grew to 500 outlets before McDonald’s divested. Now it has 1,500. It built its image around a remarkable series of billboards and magazine

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Posted March 05, 2014in Food Dude

What’s in a name? Lots at Blue Tomato

Blue Tomato Kitchen is named after a new, cross-pollinated fruit that gourmets are comparing to the legendary New Mexican chile. Created in 1913 at New Mexico State, and improved 20 times, the New Mexican chile dominates that state’s agriculture and cuisine. Iowans flock to Hy-Vee each August when it imports

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Posted February 26, 2014in Food Dude

Four Asian cuisines at One Asian

Top Iowa chefs and restaurants continue to receive national honors (see “Side Dishes” below.) A different story on the café beat, though, has been every bit as significant to the sophistication of Des Moines’ collective palate. Its main player was not a chef or restaurateur but a politician. Gov. Bob

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Barmuda