Tuesday, January 25, 2022

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The Dish

Dining in the year of the pandemic


There were more closings than openings for the first period in quite a while.

Calamity breeds chaos. The last three months were piled high with a lot of both. Never have so many restaurants changed hands so quickly here. Reopening is hard in large part because many restaurant and bar workers were making more money on unemployment than on the job. Despite a large dip in solid waste coming from factories, businesses and commercial sources, total waste piled up in landfills and recycling plants. Most blamed the excessive plastic used to package take-out food.

Social distancing, a phrase that will live forever in infamy, is non-sustainable for many restaurants, particularly small ones. Yet it’s probably here until an elusive vaccine or cure is discovered and approved by the assigned government bureaucracies. No restaurant was ever designed with the intention that half its tables and chairs be retired.

There were more closings than openings for the first period in quite a while.


Kum & Go opened its downtown store. The thriving QT store across Ingersoll from Kum & Go’s magnificent headquarters had to have driven the latter’s brass crazy. The new downtown store is one of the company’s finest… Rita’s Cantina, a new Mexican restaurant with an extensive drink menu, opened in East Village. The restaurant took the place of Viking pub SKØL. It has a large outdoor seating area and garage doors leading inside, attempting to feel like a covered patio. This is the new Iowa where yet another taco and margarita joint is more popular than a unique Scandinavian café… Lanette Byers announced her Big Açai will open this fall in the 801 Grand part of the skywalk, bringing its “super food cafe” downtown. It is her sixth location since opening as a food truck in 2017. Menu items will include build-your-own bowls featuring açai, coconut, matcha or warm oats, smoothies, salads, burritos and toasts with avocado spread and other toppings. One British think tank thinks avocado toast will be the hottest new food of the coming months… Health House Foods in Johnston is bringing Taste of New York pizzeria into its store. Healthy and keto-friendly wraps meet 18-inch pizza of Brooklyn style. It had to happen somewhere… Jay Wang took over the lease to the former Trostel’s Dish in Clive and announced his first non-Asian café would open in late summer there. Wang’s newest Wasabi opened in Ames… Lynn Pritchard of Table 128 took over the lease to the former Red Rossa and planned a late summer opening of a new concept… Troy Trostel bought the excellent Earlham pizza café Hare & Hound from Sarah Hill (Baru 66) and kept it open with some Trostel touches. He also sold his shares of Trostel’s Greenbriar… Jerry Talerico, the dean of Des Moines’ super chefs, opened a pop up in Merle Hay Food Court with daughter Sophia. It’s called Tally Ho to Go and rocks with classical, Cajun and steakhouse dishes, some inspired by the wind-grieved Vic’s Tally Ho. That restaurant was owned by Jerry’s dad… Joe Tripp opened a Korean fried chicken joint called Basic Bird… Teddy Maroon’s moved from the hands of Bubba owners to those of Whiskey River… California flew 1,000 Iowa hens to sanctuary.



Cronk’s legendary café in Denison closed after being open since 1929… BAH Brazilian Steakhouse closed without paying workers in March. Their model was not conducive to half capacity and had no salad bars… Uncle Wendell’s on Ingersoll closed… Papa Keno’s closed its Drake store but said they wanted to build a new store in the same area… Milk prices went up 7.5 percent since this time last year. The price farmers were paid dropped 23 percent… Maria’s closed its Grand Avenue store in West Des Moines… CABCO and Spaghetti Works were among the restaurants vandalized by protestors in June… Trostel’s Dish, a small plates pioneer, closed. ♦

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