Phat chance of success7/6/2016
Soon after the last snow melted this spring, two of the most reliably excellent services in my life changed for the worse. Almost simultaneously, my postman stopped setting my mail either inside my porch door or in my mailbox; it’s now left on the doorstep, even if it’s windy or raining. My daily paper suddenly was no longer thrown on my doorstep. Instead it was tossed in the middle of my lawn or driveway. I likely would have complained to both services had the weather not been so nice. This is how we lose. We accept things because they could be worse.
With more restaurants than ever in town and the number of experienced service personnel diminishing, the food service business is going through similar problems. According to a majority of the people I talk to, the most mesmerizing question about food service in Des Moines is “Why are so many more mistakes made in ‘take-out’ or ‘drive-through’ than dining inside a restaurant?” The No. 1 answer is that tips are bigger indoors and servers take more care to please. But there’s more to it than that. Hardly anyone expects a tip in a fast food franchise, and yet drive-through orders are more apt to be messed up there, too.
Phat Daddy’z BBQ and Sports Grill is the most recent restaurant trying to make it in a much-turned-over restaurant on Douglas. Most previous tenants served good food but lacked in the service end of things. I heard from Vets Hospital doctors asking me to intervene about this. “We do not have an extra half hour to wait for a late order to be filled.” Thai, Middle Eastern, East African, soul food and Greek places have all come and gone quickly here. I have high hopes Phat Daddy’z will be longer lived.
It has added seven high definition TVs to its two dining rooms, which makes waiting around for an order more tolerable. Staff has been quite friendly and knowledgeable on my visits. The menu mixes BBQ with southern cooking. The Q is smoked in a Smokey Joe grill with indirect heat from a combination of briquettes and hard wood chunks. This works marvelously on ribs, as tender as any that still stick (as they should) to the bone. Chicken hindquarters — the most suitable cut of the bird for a smoker — pork shoulder and beef brisket are other BBQ specialties. Unfortunately, my only order of brisket delivered pork shoulder instead. Yes, it was a “to-go” order.
Fried foods and side dishes enhance the reputation here. Large catfish filets in cornbread batter excelled. So did chicken and waffles (a daily special on Tuesdays and Thursdays). Okra, cauliflower, onion rings, mushrooms and jalapenos are also treated to breading and deep fryers. So are gizzards. All such appetizers are in the $2.50 – $4 range.
Grinders, Philly steaks, sausage patties and burgers star on the sandwich menu ($3 – $8 with only a $1 surcharge to add a side). Sweet baked beans and fried cabbage star on the sides menu. On Fridays and Saturdays, both red beans and rice and greens embellish that menu. There are no desserts, but sugar biscuits are served. There is no liquor license, but that should change soon.
Bottom line — Phat Daddy’z has a good chance to end the rapid turnover at the location. There are more good reasons to dine in than before, too, especially for sports fans.
Side Dishes: Two new comfort food diners are expected to open by August. Bubba’s will bring southern food to the former Raccoon River Brewing site on the 10th… Jeff Duncan, formerly of Vivian’s, Dos Rios, Dish, Big City Burger & Greens, etc., will open a three-meals-a-day diner on Walnut in the former Hotel Fort Des Moines… Dos Rios will reopen in fall as a new concept bistro featuring locally farmed foods. CV
Jim Duncan is a freelance writer who has penned nine different columns for Cityview and its sister publications beginning in 1987.
3811 Douglas Ave.