Unrvld and Opa!11/4/2020
It takes a brave heart to open a restaurant business in the reigning realm of fear and seclusion. One also needs a quality product to peddle. Fortunately, the owners of Unrvld and Opa have both.
Unrvld is a Texas-style barbecue that opened in July on EP True Parkway. They have seen long lines since then but have temporarily cut their schedule back to Thursday through Sunday as virtual workers in West Des Moines seemingly don’t go out for lunch. Like most famous
barbecues in Texas, they only stay open till the product is sold out, and they frequently post the sold-out sign before normal closing time.
Texas-style often means beef and sausage only. Because this is Iowa, Unrvld also smokes pork ribs, pork shoulders and chicken hindquarters in addition to brisket and beef ribs. The sauce is tomato-based and quite sweet with some kind of chili hints. It can be addictive and works best on the beef products that have more bark, which is the crusty formation of spices and smoke.
Unrvld is as candid as they are unique at spelling. Questions about spices and wood go unanswered. Nondisclosure is defended as trade secrets. That will likely end if someone with an allergic reaction feels uninformed, but that’s the way it is.
Beef is what this place does best. The brisket can be divinely barky, tender and juicy, though it is not consistent week to week. The beef ribs are like a small rib roast at its best. Sausage is very spicy, hot as true andouille and much hotter than the sauce. It looks like a good mortadella when cut and works well with cold cheese plates and in bean soup. After trying every meat, I now go exclusively for beef
Pork ribs, pulled pork and hindquarters are all fine, just not divine. Plus, they could really use different sauces like one gets at Jethro’s. This place is pricy. Beef ribs are $45 each, brisket is $12.50 a half pound, pulled pork $10.50, half slabs $17.50 and sausage $10. Those are a la
carte prices. Sides of mac and cheese, green beans and baked beans are $4 a half pound. Those prices are all higher than Kue’d, Smoky D’s and Jethro’s. The side dishes are better at those other Q’s, too. White bread is served with most orders. Banana pudding has been available, too.
In Clocktower Square since October, one finds Opa! This is a Greek and Italian restaurant with the usual travel poster style art work of Greek restaurants. Though new to the location, it’s furnished for full houses with tables close together. That’s optimism and for now requires a hostess to seat people at an acceptable distance from neighboring diners.
“Opa” is an exclamation of joy or surprise. According to Wiki, it’s often accompanied by smashing glass. It’s a fun place to eat. Gyros is made with a choice of lamb, beef or chicken. Phyllo (very thin dough) products — spanakopita (spinach pie) and Greek pizza — are marvelous.
Saganaki (flaming cheese) is dramatically presented. Souvalaki (skewers) and moussaka (an eggplant and potato casserole with ground beef) impressed us and are available together in a Greek trio dish. Steak de Burgo and steak Diane were excellent and bargains at $17. This place is definitely not pricy. Lunches are mostly $7-9 with a Steak de Burgo topping off the prices at $12. Those prices usually include fries and a salad. Specials include $5 gyros on Tuesday, $13 de Burgo with shrimp on Wednesday and $15 prime rib dinners on weekends. Grab and go lunches Wednesday through Friday include three entrees for $7. Brunch is served on weekends before 2 p.m. A full Italian menu is also available. ♦
3701 EP True Parkway, 223-9727
Friday – Saturday, noon – 8 p.m., Sunday,
noon – 6 p.m.
2500 University Ave.,
West Des Moines, 433-3080
Tuesday – Thursday, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.,
Friday – Saturday, 11 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.,
Sunday, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Jim Duncan is a food writer who has been covering the central Iowa scene for more than two decades.