THE DISH- Scrambling and confusion

By Jim Duncan

Even before the Younkers fire displaced several restaurants, the first quarter of 2014 was a time of scrambling and confusion on the local scene. A record of nearly 400,000 Iowans were classified “food insecure,” though critics argued the criteria for that classification changed more than the actuality. Food inflation reared its ugly head with more drastic times predicted in the near future, particularly for pork prices after a new virus attacked confined animal feeding operations. Vermont, America’s main manufacturer of maple syrup, changed its grading system, replacing “Fancy,” “Grade A” or “Grade B” with “Delicate,” “Rich,” “Robust” or “Strong.” To make things more confusing, no other state or country went along with their changes.

Colorado marijuana-growers began selling non-flowering parts of that plant to hog farmers, who reported that pigs munching on pot reached market weight faster. Iowa farmers began feeding their pigs rye whiskey mash. In Des Moines, restaurants moved left and right, in and out and back to the future.


Emily Anderson, a manager at Saints Pub in Beaverdale, bought the venerable Chuck’s Italian-American RestaurantUniq Saysinuan closed Uniq Cuisine’s West Des Moines store. Her Storm Lake store is still open. The Olive Branch closed in Beaverdale and re-opened in the former Uniq Cuisine, changing its name to Janno’s Uniq Cuisine. Tigel Chuol then opened International African Cuisine in the former Olive Branch… Angelo’s closed all its former locations and opened in the place best known as Jimmy’s American Café. Rey Hernandez closed his El Rey Burrito in Normandy Plaza and planned to reopen in the former Grand Avenue Angelo’s… McDonald’s opened a new store on 22nd Street in West Des Moines on the site of a former Taco Bell. Taco Bell built a new store next door… David and Bonnie Bartels, original owners of Cosi Cucina, bought the restaurant back. The Bartels had opened a Mr. Steak restaurant at that same location 40 years ago. They changed it to Cosi Cucina 20 years ago and sold it a few years later … Seng and Phouthaly Onelangsy opened One Asian Cuisine restaurant on Hubbell Avenue in the former Gorditas Panchito… Cowboy Jack’s, a Minneapolis, Minn., chain, took over the former Gino’s restaurant space in West Glen Town Center in West Des Moines… Namaste India moved its supermarket a block west and expanded the restaurant in its old supermarket on University Avenue… Scooter’s Coffee & Yogurt opened in the Midland Building after Amici’s closed all its stores, including one there. Scooters also opened in a former Starbucks on the Drake campus… Thu Phan returned to Des Moines after four years and re-opened Pho All Seasons, this time on East Euclid Avenue in the former Sakura Hibachi and Sushi, a venue best known as a longtime Happy Joe’s… Jennifer Strauss closed her Carefree Patisserie in Valley Junction to shift business and product line to Windsor Heights, in collaboration with Chef David Baruthio (Baru 66, Blue Tomato, Art Center Café)… After closing its honey ham store in Valley Junction, Lambert & Ewers opened a sandwich shop in the Kaleidoscope food court… Fuada Aljic moved Saraj out of its 50th Street store in West Des Moines and consolidated her bakery and café with one in Urbandale but without breakfast… Drew Cownie opened his fourth area Dunkin’ Donuts store in the old Bob Brown Chevrolet lot on Merle Hay Road in Urbandale.

Other openings

Louie’s Wine Dive announced a new store on Hickman Road in Waukee… Ken Beister opened Thunderhead Sports Bar & Grill in Ankeny… Noodles & Company (Colorado) opened its fifth area store, on Southwest Delaware in Ankeny… Jeff Kelderman and Lori Kelderman High opened a Dunkin Donuts in the Des Moines Airport and announced one to open on East University Avenue this spring… Coylie’s Bakery opened in the Merle Hay Mall… Lisa and Brad Lesley (Latitude 41 Bar and Grill, Polk City) opened On The Rocks Eatery and Spirits on Southwest White Birch Circle in Ankeny… Fareway announced a new store at Fourth and Grand in West Des Moines with hopes to be open by end of the year… Complete Nutrition opened in Merle Hay Mall… Pinot’s Palette, a paint-and-sip studio, will open soon in the Shops at Roosevelt… Jordan Creek Town Village announced that Bar Louie was planning on opening an outlet there.

Other closings

Sbrocco closed after six years… The Cold Stone Creamery ice cream shop at 86th Street and Northpark Court in Johnston closed… Gourmet Burgers closed in Valley West Mall… Strive Nutrition closed its Ingersoll store… Felix & Oscar’s on Westown Parkway closed… Carlos O’Kelly’s closed their two area stores.

Honors and milestones

Waterfront Seafood Market and Restaurant in West Des Moines celebrated a 30th anniversary… Kitchen Collage marked its 15th anniversary… Grinnell College’s executive chef Scott Turley beat out eight other Midwestern university chefs to win the National Association of College and University Food Services regional competition. Turley will move on to the national competition in July… Phil Shires (Café di Scala) and Sean Wilson (Proof) were named top 20 chefs in the Midwest by James Beard Awards. George Formaro (Orchestrate) was named a top 20 restaurateur nationally. Archie’s Waeside (LeMars) was named a top 20 restaurant nationally for wine programs… Bacon Fest winners included Burgers Smokehouse for dry cured bacon, Cookie’s for wet cured, Berkwood Farms (formerly Eden) for non cured and non traditional, Jones Dairy Farm for immersion cured, Honey Badger BBQ for best sweet dish, Jethro’s for best savory dish… Cyd Koehn of Catering by Cyd won a Food Network contest and was featured at the network’s South Beach Food Fest in Miami, Fla.… Ankeny Diner, Big City Burgers and Greens and Zombie Burger + Drink Lab were among 10 finalists for the Iowa Cattleman’s Best Burger contest… Steve Wilke-Shapiro won this year’s Thrilla in the Skillet Latke Cook-Off. Doug Jotzke was the People’s Choice winner… Whole Foods passed the 3,000 mark of products certified as free of genetically modified organisms (GMO)… Soy bean geneticist Harry Stine of Adel hit the Forbes billionaire list for the first time, next to Oprah Winfrey… Thelma’s Treats partnered with an Illinois pizza company to distribute Thelma’s ice cream sandwiches in supermarkets.

New stuff we like

Iowa Food Cooperative began a cookbook exchange and open house at its pick-up location at the Mickle Neighborhood Resource Center… Iowa Choice Harvest opened for business with naturally grown, non-GMO corn and apple products, sold at Dahl’s and Hy-Vee. CEO Penny Huber Brown said its mission was focused on “which processing method would be best to preserve Iowa fruits and vegetables…” Casa di Bertacchi debuted excellent gluten-free meatballs, available at Sam’s Club in West Des Moines… Central College began a series of international dinners and wine parings… HoQ initiated Yoga and Breakfast… Cargill declared it will begin labeling all “textured beef product” burger… Seattle’s Best initiated a new coffee advertised as endorsed “by Duncans.”… Taco Bell began a “preferred by Ronald McDonald” breakfast line.

New stuff we don’t get

J&D’s Foods launched BaconTrim and GravyTrim, the world’s first bacon-flavored and gravy-flavored weight loss shakes. RELISH

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