Angelo’s on Eighth11/20/2013
If addresses could tell stories, 1238 Eighth St. in West Des Moines would be a renowned raconteur. After converting a Cork and Cleaver there, Jimmy’s American Café was the hottest spot in town beginning some 30 years ago. After owner Jimmy Lynch lost it in an infamous sexual harassment lawsuit, the restaurant changed owners twice before closing in 2010. In 2011 it reopened under the joint auspices of Tommy Mauro, who had garnered some notoriety at his Pelican Club, and the Leonetti family of Noodles. The latter soon pulled away, and Mauro closed a newly-named place a while after that. Late last year, Clay Cook and Jim “the Shoe Man” Flynn opened a sports bar there called Jimmy’s Big Ten Inn. Cook pulled out, and the name changed to Jimmy’s on Eighth. That closed in October. Angelo’s opened a week later. Previously operating at four other addresses, the new business has not been without its own controversies. Angelo’s “Illinois Nazi” pie drew complaints in the Jewish Press.
Not much has changed physically since the last Jimmy left. The most distinctive décor is still sports oriented, including high-def TVs for every sight line, even in the dining room. On three visits, the bar was heavily trafficked and the dining room was empty.
“You can sit there if you want. No one does though,” a hostess explained. The room, still handsome as it was in its heyday, features a horseshoe bar, booths and high-top tables. It can become very loud during a game. The patio remains the best in town.
The menu has changed. Steak and prime rib are no longer part of the fare. Angelo’s pizza (popular enough to make the final four during last year’s Cityview Ultimate Pizza Challenge) are true tavern-style pies: thin crusts are crisp enough to remain parallel to the bar when held by their edge — mine were nicely blistered and available with interesting toppings; and a “razor blade” delivered an invigorating combo of hot chilies with sausage from Graziano’s, onions and marinara. Though Angelo’s website still boasts about the “Illinois Nazi,” the menu does not mention it.
Sandwiches also starred. Angelo’s version of Chicago-style Italian beef delighted with grilled giardiniera (even the mild version was quite spicy), the perfect Rotella’s bun and excellent juice. (It is served covered in melted mozzarella unless you ask them to hold that.) Their grinder is one of the best in town, too, with subtle sauce on loose meat sausage, a couple peppers and lots of cheese.
As far as I know, Angelo’s is also the only place in town serving Cincinnati-style chili. This is the thickest version in Des Moines — no tomatoes, no beans, just sweet and spicy meat. Because of its consistency, most folks prefer it on a plate of spaghetti or on a coney with cheese, onions and beans optional. My coney included an all-beef hot dog, something I appreciate at a time when cheap, inferior poultry dogs are often surreptitiously substituted. Meat loaf on mashed potatoes and chicken-and-noodles specials pleased. My only disappointment was a fish and chips order dominated by oily batter. Both cole slaw and potato chips were exceptional, baked beans and french fries ordinary.
As at Jimmy’s, Angelo’s bar still offers a good selection of craft and imported beers, both on tap and in bottles. Waiters were expert at describing each to novices.
Bottom line, this is the best of Angelo’s five venues to date. May it fare better than the four previous restaurants this venue has hosted in the last three years.
Side Dishes Butch Bittle’s River Rock Café, near Mount Pleasant, is the Iowa Pork Producers’ latest Best Breaded Pork Tenderloin winner. River Rock, set in a state park, is a classic diner that also serves superb elk sandwiches… Java Joes opened in the Des Moines Authority Regional Transit Central Station. CV
Angelo’s on Eighth 1238 Eighth St., West Des Moines 225-4114 Daily 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; opens at 10 a.m. when Hawkeyes play