Eighth Street’s redheaded savior4/20/2016
During the final quarter of the 20th century, Eighth Street in West Des Moines was the epicenter of Central Iowa’s restaurant scene. Cork & Cleaver, Jimmy’s American Café, Eighth Street Seafood, Cabo San Lucas, Pain Pane, Tandoor, Garcia’s and Fratello’s all brought something new. The street rose to prominence when it anchored the west end of the metro. Its glory days continued as a meeting point between Des Moines and its western suburbs. All good things unraveled after an infamous sexual harassment lawsuit against the owner of Jimmy’s American Café, Eighth Street Seafood, Cabo San Lucas and Pain Pane.
Those restaurants became one with Nineveh and Tyre after a $355,000 jury verdict for the plaintiff in 1998.
People who remember the halcyon days of Eighth Street have been cheering for a comeback. Good moves in that direction have been coming — Lemongrass, Prime and Tacos Andreas. But the soul of Eighth Street has always been the building that was Cork & Cleaver, and later, Jimmy’s American Café. It barely survived a number of short-lived incarnations since the turn of the millennium, including one of many failed Angelo’s and a Central American night
club. None polished the image or the building.
That changed late last year when Scott Carlson bought the property. He is a visionary whose Court Avenue Brewing Company helped revitalize both Iowa brewing and Court Avenue. His Americana similarly inspired a revival of commercial interests adjacent to the Pappajohn Sculpture Park. Well-wishers and Eighth Street chauvinists have been chanting, “So let it be here.”
Carlson’s new property looks fantastic. The parking lot has been repaved and painted. Patio chairs are the most comfortable I have ever set my ass upon. Teak tables suggest a waterfront resort. Wood floors and new furnishings bring life back to the interior, too. The north ceiling has been raised, likely ending concussions for folks wearing ball caps bill forward. The west dining room now doubles as a party room. The north side patio, always redundant, has been liquidated and landscaped. The kitchen is expanded and streamlined with flame-throwing open grills and fryers starring.
Perhaps the biggest part of the revival is that Gilroy’s (Gaelic for “son of a redhead” and named for general manager/partner Carl Wertzberger) is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week. Eighth Street has not been breakfast-friendly since the days when King’s Food Host predated Cabo San Lucas. Three menus a day present a challenge to any kitchen, particularly a new one. All of Carlson’s restaurants have menus distinct from one another. Gilroy’s is the shortest and simplest by far.
Breakfast offers good versions of basics — omelets, eggs, hashed browns, meats, biscuits and gravy. Pancakes and Belgian waffles were served with real maple syrup. French toast was served with ginger maple syrup, in keeping with the redhead theme. Eggs Benedict dishes used a Mornay cheese sauce instead of Hollandaise. Why? Grits were superb to my taste, but my waiter said most people have been complaining that they need more cheese. Chicken and waffles added a couple pieces of fried chicken to a breakfast delight.
Burgers (particularly fried pickle burgers), pork tenderloins, and chicken pot pies were featured on the lunch menu. Excellent side dishes included jalapeno cole slaw, fried cauliflower salad and grits. Dinner menus included a couple of steaks, potpie, bacon-wrapped meatloaf, and superb fish and chips. Problems still existed, as with all new places. I had to send both fries and buns back to the kitchen for being burnt badly. I had no problem doing that though.
|Side dishes: Former Dos Rios manager Jeff Duncan is planning to open his own place, a downtown diner… Chipotle recorded its first ever quarterly loss in the stock market after poisoning too many people with a superior attitude. CV
Jim Duncan is a freelance writer who has penned nine different columns for Cityview and its sister publications beginning in 1987.
1238 Eighth St., West Des Moines
Daily, 7 a .m. – 11 p.m.