The sports bar with a wine cellar7/31/2013
Wine Spectator’s annual “The List” is out with mega star restaurateur Thomas Keller on the cover. It honors 3,793 restaurants worldwide deemed worthy of its awards for wine excellence, including 14 Iowa cafés. For measuring purposes, 73 restaurants won the distinction in Las Vegas, 24 in New Mexico, 21 in Nebraska and 16 in Mississippi. Do Iowans just not care as much about fine wine as customers elsewhere?
Maybe local restaurants don’t care as much about Wine Spectator awards. The latter were tainted in 2008 when Milan’s Osteria L’Intrepido restaurant won an award despite a wine list that featured one wine the magazine had likened to “paint thinner and nail varnish” and the inconvenient fact that Osteria L’Intrepido didn’t even exist, except as a website devised by wine critic Robin Goldstein. For one reason or another, several Iowa restaurants with outstanding wine cellars declined to submit their wine lists (and a $250 consideration fee) to the magazine’s judgment this year, including Centro, Django, Gateway Café, Gramercy Tap, Baru66, Lincoln Wine Bar, Café di Scala and Proof.
Is this indicative of Iowa character? Are the people of this state, which consistently elects both liberals and conservatives, so independently minded that they really don’t respect the aegis of so-called trend setters and experts? Proof partner Zach Mannheimer thinks so: “We don’t need Wine Spectator telling us we’re doing a good job.”
Credit to those who did submit and win. In greater Des Moines, 801 Steak and Chop House won a “best of award of excellence” for its 495-bottle cellar. It was also cited for its strength in California wines. “Awards of excellence” went to Tursi’s Latin King, Trostel’s Dish, Trostel’s Greenbriar, Splash, Mavericks and Fleming’s. Tursi’s Latin King was also cited for featuring inexpensive wines. Mavericks was the only first-time winner in Iowa. That raised some eyebrows, because it’s a sports bar.
Mavericks is the fourth restaurant in a little more than five years occupying its venue across the street from the Jordan Creek Town Center. St. Louis, Mo.-based sports bar chain Krieger’s was followed by Mugs’ Pub and Grub and Maddy’s Again. In that latter incarnation, walls had been built to separate the lounge from the dining room. The idea was to give children some distance from drinkers, but on my visits, it seemed that all the energy (and people) were crammed into one small area drinking. Mavericks, a Kansas City-based company that also operates Two Saints, Beaver Tap and Tonic here, tore down that wall. The good vibe seems to fill the whole area now, including a large patio in a rear courtyard.
The food menu is a bit of an upgrade compared to those at Saints. Cloth napkins and heavy flatware are atypical of sports bars, too. Prime rib is available on Fridays and Saturdays. My 16-ounce rib eye steak ($22) included freshly chopped vegetables and creamy mashed potatoes. Fish tacos, deemed the most popular dish on the menu, delivered moist fish, fresh mango-and-red pepper salsa, chips and two homemade salsas, one of which was expertly made with smoked red chilies. Burgers, tenderloins, salads, sandwiches, large appetizers and a complete weekend breakfast menu looked like those I have praised at Saints.
The wine list is fully worthy of its award. That opinion was verified by a local wine pro who visited with me. A captain’s list of 14 wines were priced $80-$225. All were Californian except for two from Champagne. A larger list kept in the $20-$75 range, and all those bottles were half-priced on Thursdays. Glasses were available from 27 bottles, at $5-$15.
Side Dishes Two-time James Beard Award semifinalist Andrew Meek is no longer part of Gramercy Tap… Papa Lacona’s opened on 63rd Street south of Grand Avenue. CV
Jim Duncan is a freelance writer who has penned nine different columns for Cityview and its sister publications beginning in 1987.
Mavericks Sports Pub 165 S. Jordan Creek Parkway, #120, West Des Moines, 226-8407 Open Mon.-Fri. 11 a.m.-2 a.m., Sat.-Sun. 8:30 a.m.-2 a.m.