Happy days return to Prime6/15/2016
The building at 1261 Eighth St. in West Des Moines peaked several incarnations and one nefarious lawsuit ago. As Eighth Street Seafood, it featured live jazz, fresh seafood and a vibe that said “this is the place to be.” Owner Jimmy Lynch, who also owned Jimmy’s American Café, Cabo San Lucas,
Pain Pane and 801 Steak & Chop House, would sell all but the latter and leave town after losing a sexual harassment suit. The Eighth Street Seafood venue continued to thrive as Fratello’s, but it lost its edge as two sports bars and a Mexican café.
Prime Land & Sea took over the space and opened last November. It’s gone through some changes but seems to be settling into something quite reminiscent of its glory days. Owners David Baruthio and Sarah Hill (Baru 66, Gaston, Blue Tomato) have created a vibe that harkens back to the 1960s and ’70s. When live jazz is not playing, the soundtrack sticks to music that was popular before disco, rap, hip-hop, punk rock and heavy metal were invented. Chet Baker, Count Basie and Dave Brubeck were featured.
The space has several other touches that seem part of halcyon days. Linen table clothes with runners, steak knives that Crocodile Dundee would approve, napkins that made a dining partner swoon, and a black and white décor that suggests this is a serious place where serious deals are done. The bar features a fireplace and high-top tables. The lighter dining room features windows and low-top tables. A private room is also a 2,500 bottle wine cellar. Eight craft beers and imports are on tap and sell, like some glasses of wine, for just $3 at happy hours. Flatbread pies, made on pizza stones, were half-price then, too, and oysters were just $1 a piece.
Prime reminds me of old Las Vegas, before anyone had the wretched idea of tearing down the Desert Inn. The food and the artwork are simple, familiar things. Baruthio jokes that he opened the place so he would not have to make steaks at Baru 66. Steaks are dry-aged here for 21 days. Iced seafood platters ($34-75) are a feature. Seasonal seafood is featured on mounds of ice. Jumbo shrimp cocktails are still in vogue here. Marvelous french fries are hand cut. Iceberg wedges or Caesar salads are popular. Oysters on the half shell are served with cocktail sauce and mignonette. Caviar is organic sturgeon and is served with premium vodka or champagne ($160).
Staying away from that option, Prime is not expensive in the 801 or Fleming’s meaning of the word. Orders are not a la carte. Steaks ($24-42) come with a starch and seasonal vegetables. Salads can be added for $4. Surf and turf dishes are a few dollars more. My ribeye was cooked perfectly “Pittsburgh (full hard sear) and rare.” It’s rare when that happens. Short ribs, salmon, Niman Ranch pork chops and delectable lamb chops are offered for $25-30. All steaks also come with a choice of classic sauces — champignon, Bearnaise, de Burgo (with cream), merlot butter, garlic butter and au poivre.
Flatbread pies cost $10-12 at full price, half during happy hours. Four are featured daily, usually one seafood, one land, one Mediterranean, and one charcuterie based. Burgers are lavish, especially the Prime burger, which includes a lobster tail, caramelized onions, cheese, Hollandaise sauce, bacon, lettuce and tomato. Burgers cost $14-29 and come with the super fries. On Mondays (5-7 p.m.), some burgers are sold with beer for just $5. Roasted beets salad came with various organic beet roots, honey, goat cheese, walnuts and mesclun. Pasta dinners range from $16-26.
Side Dishes: Prime will serve brunch on Father’s Day… Templeton Rye is marketing six years aged whiskey. CV
Jim Duncan is a freelance writer who has penned nine different columns for Cityview and its sister publications beginning in 1987.
|Prime Land and Sea
1261 Eighth St., West Des Moines
Monday – Thursday, 5-10 p.m.; Friday – Saturday, 5-11 p.m.; last Sunday of the month brunch, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.