Dino’s redefines the bar and grill7/27/2016
With a new and improved Cityview coming soon, this will end a streak of more than 1,300 straight weeks in which I have written about a local restaurant. It seems like a good opportunity to review 25 years of observations on this beat.
Much has changed. When I began this column, Eighth Street in West Des Moines was the epicenter of fine dining in the metro, downtown was dead after 6 p.m., and East Village was an idea hidden in Mario Gandelsonas’ mind. Sushi and French cuisine had both failed here, and no one imagined them coming back. Tacos were only served with ground beef in crispy shells. Espresso, Vietnamese and Thai food were brand new experiments in town. Steak houses were unchallenged kings of the fine dining hill. Farmers market meant roadside stands in rural Iowa, the best cheese was in the “imported” section at Dahl’s, and there was only one way to make martinis. “All you can eat” buffets had not yet run cafeterias off the map.
Some really good restaurants came and went during this term. Danielle, Sage, Mondo’s, Bistro 43, Butch’s Hollywood Grill, Mojo’s, The Varsity, Pain, Pane, Cabo San Lucas, Fratello’s, The Art House, Great China, La Rosa and La Fonda all brought something special to the scene before exiting.
One constant has been the dependable quality of bar and grill operations here. Highland Park and the east side birthed a number of such places when large factories ran three shifts around the clock. They would usually open by 6 a.m. with early happy hours and breakfast for night shift workers. As factory work forces dissipated, these places survived on the skill of short order chefs. Kelly’s Little Nipper, Highland Park Country Club, Gerri’s, East 14th Street Pub and Park Avenue Pub have been serving great food with lite beer and Black Velvet for decades. Quijano’s and G Miggs have raised the bar on the genre with ethnic and sous vide takes.
The latest bar and grill in the area redefines the genre. Dino’s occupies a strip mall bay at 60th and Ashworth in West Des Moines. It resembles a cozy country club clubhouse more than the traditional east-side bars and grill. The bar is built out of stones and marble. The floor is made with polished wooden planks. Food is served on china with linen napkins. Pretty ladies and golfing foursomes order cocktails this writer has never heard of. Bartenders have no problem with those orders.
The menu is nothing new — it’s just marvelously executed. Wings came with homemade sauce, chicken fingers were freshly breaded, and seafood nachos were served in Newburg sauce rather than the ubiquitous cheese whiz. Fries were crispy and covered with shaved Parmesan and herbs. Excellent mashed potatoes with white cheddar, roasted red potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and seasonal vegetables can be substituted for fries, something unheard of in the old school bars and grill. Burgers are all one can ask them to be. Brioches were buttered on both halves and toasted without char. Third-pound patties were served with good sears. Lettuce, sliced tomatoes and red onions were included with no surcharge. Deeply flavored marinara accompanied pizza burgers, meatball, eggplant and chicken sandwiches. Those latter three were served on Vienna bread that would be at home in traditional bars and grill. Pizzas were made on house-made pie crusts.
The three-item entrée menu included steak de burgo in herb, garlic and butter sauce, roast chicken breasts in salsa on mashed potatoes and grilled salmon served Mexican style. One night there was a ribeye special with onion rings. Five pasta dishes, three specialty salads and three desserts completed the menu.
Side Dishes: Vivian’s plans a pre-opening celebration Friday, July 29. The restaurant plans diner-style food in Hotel Kirkwood… The Continental leadership is planning a new place in the old Randolph Hotel. CV
Jim Duncan is a freelance writer who has penned nine different columns for Cityview and its sister publications beginning in 1987.
|Dino’s Bar & Grill
5962 Ashworth Road, 809-1708
Monday –Thursday, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Friday – Saturday, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.