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The Dish

If you can make it in Des Moines, you can make it anywhere

7/31/2019

Experts say Iowa’s capital city is one of the best test markets.

Mark Twain said, “Everyone talks about the weather, but no one ever does anything about it.” In this era of climate change fanaticism, is Twain still relevant, or even funny? Well Iowa and Iowa State universities have contributed $100,000 to a program to better predict the farm weather by cooperating with each other. What can they do that the TV news media and the many national weather services don’t? Probably talk more about it?

Twenty years ago, I interviewed David Tsang, a Stanford scientist who got rich inventing the House of Tsang line of Chinese products which he sold to Chunking. He then developed a teaching method to train supermarket chains to make Chinese American food for carryout. When I met him, he was test marketing a new restaurant chain in Fresno. When he learned that I was from Des Moines, he added that Des Moines and Omaha were also on his short list of best test market cities for mass marketing in America. “Forget New York. If you can make it in Des Moines, you can make it anywhere.” That may be coming back.

Budweiser is introducing a new lager — Budweiser Harvest Reserve — in Des Moines and Omaha. (Bud’s parent company was ordered to quit saying that Coors/Miller puts corn syrup in their beer.) Also premiering in Des Moines and Omaha is Thunderbird Wine, with products upscale from the infamous rot gut wine of the 20th century’s middle years. It’s still owned by Gallo, but the relaunched wines are nowhere near the original 20 percent alcohol content.

Arby’s has chosen Des Moines as the test market for three new wraps. The expansion of Arby’s “Market Fresh” menu takes place in Des Moines, Harrisburg, Knoxville and Paducah. Fans can try its new chicken wraps made with slow-roasted chicken paired with other fresh ingredients. The promotion runs through the end of September.

Burger Shed opened its first store ever in the outlet mall in Altoona. This is not Burger Shack, the legendary chain that began in Central Park in New York City. It is the latest venture of the Iowa based Heart of America group that also owns Machine Shed, Thunder Bay and Johnny’s American Steakhouse brands, plus numerous hotels.

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OTHER NEW PLACES HERE

Motley School Tavern opened in the former Chef’s Kitchen venue in Beaverdale. Nick Gonwa (Eatery A) is in charge. The place has been completely remodeled… Dirt Burger, a vegan café, opened in East Village. Chris Place is a co-owner with blue blood. He was the original chef at Django and starred in the kitchen at other top restaurants… Harith Alkawari opened Mr. Falafel on Valley West Drive in West Des Moines with Middle Eastern specialties… The owners of the excellent El Fogon will open Cantarito’s Grill and Cantina on Washington Street in Pella. The café in West Des Moines is famous for its hand pressed tortillas… The Outside Scoop, a popular Indianola ice cream shop and metro ice cream truck, has opened a second location, in Ankeny’s Prairie Trail development.

CLOSINGS

After 10 months in business, Amy and Doug Lull closed Five19 Restaurant and Bar on Birchwood Court in Johnston, in the former Legends American Grill. Almost next door, Village Inn closed its Johnston store after 19 years. That company recently closed its Northeast 14th Street store after 47 years. Village Inn is known for its pies, some of which were developed by the great Kay Compiano of Johnny and Kay’s fame in Des Moines… Kim and Fred Hagar closed their Hagar’s Manhattan Grill in Normandy Plaza in West Des Moines. The Hagar’s Manhattan Deli on Ingersoll is still open… Pat Renda retired and announced he would close Orlondo’s after 41 years on Park Avenue and Forest Avenue. His pizza will be missed… H Pho closed its Vietnamese café in Waukee after five years.

TRANSITIONS AND RELOCATIONS

Sykora Bakery in the Czech Village in Cedar Rapids announced it may be forced to close after 116 years… Owner Marc Navailles announced he was not renewing his lease in Windsor Heights for Al Punto steakhouse. He said he wanted to move to Des Moines… Baru 66 owners David Baruthio and Sara Hill said they were not staying in Windsor Heights but hoped to relocate to downtown… The Thakur Neupane family announced they were taking Kathmandu Restaurant from Southeast 14th Street in Des Moines to Apple Valley retail strip in Windsor Heights. The projected opening date will be during the first week of October… Sambetti’s will reopen on Second Avenue before summer ends, with Steve McFadden of Grumpy Goat, Tipsy Crow and Mickey’s Irish Pub as owner… Sean Wilson of Proof retired. He sold the restaurant. ♦

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