Friday, September 30, 2022

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The Dish

Dogtown rises in chaos


The Dog Days of 2020 began on July 22, but the dawning of the age of Dogtown had already commenced. The Drake neighborhood will spend at least $700,000 in the next couple years with developments that include housing, a hotel, the Harkin Center, a remodeled Varsity Theater, and probably a new football/soccer stadium for high schools and Drake.

When it comes to revitalization of neighborhoods, restaurants have historically led the way. By the third week of this July: Rico’s at Drake opened featuring wings, fried fish, burgers and fries with watermelon Margaritas and a Las Vegas Raiders vibe; Coaches Kolaches opened a new location with fresh baked pastries filled with sausages, cheeses and pulped fruits; the former Papa Keno’s morphed into Dough Co. Pizza with New York style pies, sandwiches, salads and wings; Crazy Horse Guitars became Lucky Horse Beer & Burgers with 24 Iowa beers on tap and a handsome makeover.

The hospitality industry, probably the hardest hit in Iowa during the time of the relentless virus, suffered a future shock when the Big Ten announced it would cancel all non-conference football games in 2020. That included Iowa’s games against Northern Iowa and Iowa State. That Iowa State game annually sells out all host school area hotels for at least two nights. Sports bars across the state are also packed each year. Every month the Iowa restaurant industry is losing some $300 million due to the viral pandemic, according to the Iowa Restaurant Association. So the cancelations hurt like salt on open wounds.

The nation’s largest outdoor agriculture festival, Farm Progress Show in Boone, also canceled this September’s event. It is being replaced with a pair of virtual expos that bring no one to Iowa hotels and restaurants.

There may or may not be fans in Jack Trice Stadium this fall, but the state’s “Beef Up Iowa” program, which connects Iowa beef producers with food insecure Iowans, kicked off with a cow sacrifice at Iowa State University. The program is a joint partnership between ISU, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, and Iowa beef producers.


Wobbly Boots closed. A sign for Steamboat Boys read “coming soon” in the same venue… Papa Keno’s closed but announced an intention to reopen in a new venue.


Fresko, a farm-to-table restaurant with a focus on healthy menus, announced it is opening later this summer in the Federal Home Loan Bank building on Locust Street. The menu will feature products sourced by local vendors, farmers and businesses… The City of Des Moines is distributing $350,000 in COVID-19 relief funds to a free meal program that aims to boost locally owned food vendors. For the first time in three years, Central Iowa Shelter & Services is allowing locally owned restaurants and caterers to apply to cook meals for designated meal sites around the city. The vendors are being reimbursed at $8 per meal, paid from the COVID-19 Community Development Block Grant funds. Eight meal sites are spread out around Des Moines’ four wards. Eight Des Moines restaurants — 5 Spice Sisters, Big Red Truck, Catering Con Amor, El Fogon, Hotsy Totsy, Palm’s Caribbean Cuisine, Prep Kings and Tursi’s Latin King — have been approved to cook for the program.


Tom Urban passed away in July. He represented the last of a line of brilliant leadership that made Pioneer Hi Bred the most innovative seed company in the world. Also the youngest mayor ever in Des Moines, at 33, Urban was CEO and Chairman of Pioneer when they were the largest purveyor of seed corn in the world and the nation’s leading force in agricultural ingenuity. Like Henry Wallace and Roswell Garst before him, Urban’s focus was on creative invention. Oh, those were the wind grieved days… Smart young chef Sir William Bekish was shot and killed outside Karma Ultra Lounge, which had called police to disperse a crowd of 500 protestors. ♦

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