Siouxland treats in West Des Moines8/7/2013
Iowa has played a major role in loose meat sandwich history. Sioux City’s Ye Old Tavern (now Gus’s Family Restaurant) and Muscatine’s Maid-Rite both claim to have invented them in the 1920s. (So does a place in Montana.) Ottumwa’s Canteen in the Alley diner, which has specialized in loose meat sandwiches since 1927, was considered to be so iconic that a municipal parking ramp was built around it. In Sioux City, Gus’s still features loose meat “taverns,” Miles Inn has been selling them as “Charlie boys” since 1950, Tastee In and Out since 1955 as “tastees” and Billy Boy’s since 1962. In nearby LeMars, Bob’s Drive-Inn has featured “taverns” since 1949, along with natural-casing hot dogs, another specialty of many Siouxland diners.
Patty Pat’s opened in July featuring both loose meat sandwiches and natural-casing wieners. The former are ironically called Patty Pat’s ($3.25) after owner Pat Langel, who grew up in LeMars. Those I tried delivered moist, seasoned meat. Buns were soft and untoasted. Mustard, pickles and onions were standard dressings. They were not as generous with meat as Paula’s or Taylor’s Maid-Rite, the current loose meat sandwich leaders of central Iowa, but were more generous than those I have tried at other Maid Rites, or Dairy Queens (DQ). Patty Dogs ($2.95) included both “snappy” wieners and tavern meat. Coney’s substituted mild chili for tavern meat. These wieners were snappier than others around town — save those at Zombie Burger + Drink Lab where they are deep fried. I particularly enjoyed a slaw dog with some of the best cole slaw I’ve tried all summer. Wieners combined beef and pork but no poultry — the bane of the modern sausage.
Italian sausage ($4.25) and Italian beef sandwiches ($5.75) were both tame by local standards. Mini corn dogs and pork tenderloins rounded off the meat offerings. In addition to the usual suspects, side dishes included banana peppers and cheese curds, both lost in excessive breading. A DQ-like cold treat menu included soft serve, swirlies and slurpees. Business was quite perky on my visits, and employees busted chops keeping tables and floors clean.
Two American labels with near cult followings made main stage debuts in Des Moines in July. Deschutes launched its Iowa presence at Cityview’s Brewfest. It is the largest selling craft brewer not previously available in the state. Its Bend, Ore., location, in the middle of hop growing country, allows Deschutes to brew with whole flower hops instead of much cheaper hop pellets or extracts. That impacts flavors dramatically. Its Black Butte controls more than 70 percent of the porter market in all states in which it is sold. Its Mirror Pond is the second-best selling pale ale in America after Sierra Nevada. El Bait Shop plans to have six Deschutes products on tap. Several other places will feature some of its brews, too. Most major retailers are stocking its bottled beers.
Strauss, a craft meat producer with strict standards of humane production for red veal, lamb and grass-fed beef, is now selling at area Hy-Vees. All veal was red veal before World War II. Afterwhich, most of the industry tried to create a whiter looking flesh by forcing caged calves to eat only a prescription diet. All calves that I have observed on Strauss farms grazed and nursed naturally without any confinement.
Side Dishes Holiday Inn Mercy Campus, nearing completion of a handsome renovation, has hired Kris Van Tuyl (Luna Bistro) as executive chef… Walnut Street’s first sidewalk patios opened at Wasabi Tao and Gramercy Tap… Fast as you can say “sins of the mothers,” local star chef George Formaro replaced Bobby Dean as host of Kenmore’s Kitchen Challenge slated for Aug. 10 at the Iowa State Fair. CV
Jim Duncan is a freelance writer who has penned nine different columns for Cityview and its sister publications beginning in 1987.