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Food Dude

Wingz on Wheelz and Fiesta

7/1/2020

Fiesta’s menu includes fajitas made with steak, chicken, shrimp or chorizo. Photo by Jim Duncan

Change is the only constant. The frustrations of quarantine have inspired some people to become seriously cautious and others to become seriously oblivious of caution. I now get as many dirty looks for wearing a mask as for not wearing one. The city seems to have a much higher percentage of masks than the suburbs. Go figure, or scratch your head.

I have been visiting two relatively new places that have been quite busy on the occasions of my attendance. In the middle of the city, Wingz on Wheelz represents a well-thought-out business plan. It is parked in the Auto Zone lot at MLK and University. Even at non-rush hours, it takes 10-15 minutes to fill an order. Customers are given beepers to let them know when their food is up. Hence, several customers shop at Auto Zone, particularly when it’s hot outside. I seem to buy a new flashlight every time I stop.

Wings are served in a choice of 10 flavors — mild, BBQ, honey BBQ, lemon pepper, ranch, honey mustard, honey golden, sweet chile, Parmesan garlic, Caribbean jerk and WOW. Also sold are gizzards, tenders, catfish, swai, shrimp and burgers. Wings can be ordered a la carte, but everything else is packaged with bread, crinkle fries and a drink. Two- and three-meat combos are also available.

The wings, catfish, shrimp and gizzards are marvelous. Burgers are way above average, too. On Wednesdays, wings are sold at a large discount. On Sundays, soul food dinners are sold with collard greens, spaghetti and mac and cheese joining the side dishes menu. Those greens are made with turkey. Some days, food is free, a gracious gesture to the community. Food sometimes sells out.

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Fiesta has taken over the former Bambino’s spot in West Des Moines. This Fiesta is a four-café Iowa company that made the state take note of the excellent Mexican places in West Liberty, not the big San Antonio Fiesta Restaurant Group that includes Taco Cabana and Tropical. The place looks great with murals of Iowa and Mexico.

The menu differs little from most Mexican sit-down restaurants in town. The strength here is consistent execution. On recent visits after reopening, the place was as busy at it could legally be, even at 8:30 p.m. The host who greeted us was also our bartender and waiter. That is a sign of the times, as restaurant workers need to do more than one job. The salsas and sauces are superior here. Fresh flavors dominate. The menu is average-sized for a Mexican café, which means it is huge compared to other genres. Tacos are served in Des Moines style with crispy flour tortillas as well as with soft corn tortillas. Fish dishes are served with mahi-mahi, basa, tilapia and cod. Fajitas are made with steak, chicken, shrimp and chorizo. I tried my first-ever spinach chicken dish here and loved the creamed greens on grilled breast. Enchiladas were delicious in both red and green sauces.

Nachos, quesadillas, rice bowls and burritos are all available, but so are sopes. Those are delightful little fried balls of masa topped with beans, cream, roasted salsa, lettuce, sour cream and a choice of meats.

Staff have been most accommodating, offering to make off-menu changes when requested. There is a full bar with a large menu of tequilas and mescals. Happy hour offers deep discounts, particularly on large margaritas. ♦

Jim Duncan is a food writer who has been covering the central Iowa scene for more than two decades.

WINGZ ON WHEELZ
MLK at University
Daily 11 a.m. – 7 p.m., 554-9273
FIESTA
2025 Grand Ave., West Des Moines, 223-0145 (three other locations)
Monday – Thursday, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.; Friday – Saturday, 11 a.m. -10:30 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.

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