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The Dish

Disrespect and burger mania


Steve and Kristy Little have sold the popular Beaverdale cafe Chef’s Kitchen. The last night for Chef’s and the Littles will be New Year’s Eve. Chef’s began in the skywalk and moved first in Beaverdale to the venue where Players is now before their current venue at 11903 Beaver. They are probably best known for their scratch made hash browns, which can be paired with any pizza topping and their weekend breakfasts. The new owner is Jason Simon, who also owns Alba, Eatery A and Harbinger.

October was a month of disrespect for Iowa, but a month of high hopes for the metro suburbs’ ability to consume burgers. The dissing came from Thrillist, as it often does. That list-crazy food publication is so biased toward Iowa City that it rarely mentions Des Moines at all. It ranked Iowa 45th in quality of its food. That was behind South Dakota, Wyoming and Mississippi. It was nine places behind Indiana, 14 behind Arkansas, and 29 behind Wisconsin.

Here’s what they wrote: “How does America’s largest pork producing state (by far) not have a better barbecue scene? And don’t try waving that pork tenderloin sandwich in our faces, as its comically out-of-whack meat-to-bun ratio makes it unwieldy.”

Thrillist gushed about the Indianapolis food scene. A former Des Moines Register editor who moved there says Indy is far less interesting food-wise than Des Moines. I once traveled three days in Arkansas before finding a restaurant with real butter. Mississippi almost always leads the nation in obesity and diabetes rates.

The actual state of Iowa BBQ garnered national honors and accolades. Darren and Sherry Warth, the husband-and-wife team behind the popular Smokey D’s, won the top prize at the American Royal World Series of Barbecue in Kansas City. They earned a perfect score in chicken, using thighs. The couple beat out 460 other barbecue teams for the grand prize. It was their third overall world championship at American Royal, one the sport’s grand slam events. They have also won the top prize at the Jack Daniels Invitational and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. They are ranked fifth in the nation overall by the Kansas City Barbecue Society.

CNA - Stop HIV Iowa

Also, Food Network’s Guy Fieri returned to Flying Mango, a Beaverdale BBQ with a cult following. So diss on Thrillist.


The western suburbs dug in for a burger war. Wahlburgers opened its first local store on Mills Civic Parkway. That was in partnership with HyVee, which has plans for many more. Burgers start at $7.50. Also Steak ‘n Shake announced it would be building a store in West Des Moines. Older folk recall a few stores in the 1950s here called Shake & Steak, but the company says this is its first Des Moines store. My longing for Steak ‘n Shake has compelled me to make their store in Coralville my first stop on most visits to the area. I’m not the only one either. Burgers start at $2.59 in Coralville.

Both B-Bops and Culver’s announced new stores would be coming to Waukee. Mills Parkway alone already has a Red Robin, a Five Guys Burgers & Fries and a Fuddruckers; all are high-end burger joints. Numerous sports bars dot the area, too, with burgers usually hitting cleanup.


Sam & Gabe’s, an Italian Des Moines legend, closed both its restaurants in October after going through three ownerships in half a decade. The second owners changed the menu and recipes. The third set restored the originals, but it was too late… Michael Leo closed the superb Strudl Haus saying that competition for good help did him in… David Baruthio closed Saison and planned to resurrect his Blue Tomato in the same venue… Tag Grandgeorge closed Le Jardin. He will be the head chef for Teddy Maroon’s when it opens… Award-winning Nick’s tenderloin restaurants in Des Moines and West Des Moines closed. Later, the Army Post Road store reopened, but the West Glen store remained closed at our press time. Owner Nick Iaria was facing “intimidation with a dangerous weapon” charges after he allegedly shot at a car outside the Garden Nightclub in Des Moines’ East Village. That trial was after our press time. Nick’s has won the annual “Best Breaded Pork Tenderloin” competition… Irina’s won CITYVIEW’s Ultimate Steak de Burgo competition.


American cheese, the processed stuff like Velveeta that thrives on cheeseburgers, saw sales dive for the fourth straight year. Far more expensive cheeses saw sales gains.


Oklahoma’s national champion football coach Bob Stoops had dinner last month at Lucca. So did retired boxing champion John Roby. ♦

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