Spring comes in like a lion


By Jim Duncan


The first quarter of the new year was a time of taking things literally. Bandits robbed at least eight different local Git-N-Go stores in the last month, inviting speculation about motives for their exclusivity of targets. Was it a disgruntled customer or former employee? Or were thieves just doing what the sign told them to do?

The USDA reported that pesticide residue was “well under levels considered dangerous to humans.” Since the USDA has been a staunch proponent of the genetically-modified seeds that allow more pesticide use, many were suspicious about this conclusion.

Grocery store wars broke out in the metro with the word “fresh” in the vanguard. The Clive Cash Saver on Hickman announced it was closing as soon as inventory is liquidated. Wal-Mart announced it was closing 154 U.S. stores. Whole Foods’ stock fell 45 percent in the last year. All faced heavy new competition from rebel stores calling themselves “fresh” something or other.

C-fresh Market expanded its excellent café, Pho 515, and continued to thrive in the inner city. The Fresh Market (Greensboro) opened its first area store on Mills Crossing, looking remarkably like Whole Foods. Fresh Thyme Farmers Market (moving from Phoenix to Downers Grove, Illinois) then opened in Clocktower Square with an emphasis on fresh natural and organic produce and low prices. It looks like Whole Foods without nearly as much prepared food. Reinforcements are coming soon with Natural Grocers (Denver) on Hickman. There is serious new competition to the old world order.

Elsewhere, 2016 began like other recent years. There seems to be a rush to open new restaurants by New Year’s Eve followed by no action until a spring rush breaks out.

The Good News

Jethroni Pepperroni opened in a former Pizza Hut in Altoona with an emphasis on fresh ingredients… Zach Gutweiler (Hole in the Wall) opened Reed’s Hollow in the former Tally’s in Beaverdale… Jay Wang (Wasabi Chi, Wasabi Tao) planned an April opening for Wasabi on University in Waukee… Julie Nitchie and Troy Schall moved their Mahalo Coffee Shop and Mini Donuts to a strip mall on Mills Civic Parkway… Scott Carlson (CABCO, Americana) and Carl Wertzberger cut the ribbon on Gilroy’s in the old Jimmy’s American Cafe building, serving three meals a day, seven days a week… Ken Lin (Appare, Haiku) opened Teriyaki House Japanese Grill on East 14th in the former Daylight Donuts/Courtside Sports Bar… Iowa Tap Room opened to huge crowds in East Village with Full Court Press in charge… Riley Drive opened Taco Hangover in a former Saint’s venue at 50th and EP True in West Des Moines… Benjamin and Pillar Elder opened Candela Modern Mexican Restaurant in the former Red China Bistro/Zon’s on Ingersoll… Chandler Parsons, JC Obrecht, David Coy and Jeremy Boka debuted Reclaimed Rails Brewing pub in Bondurant… Kerri Rush — the Wheatgrass Lady — cut the ribbon on a new Fresh Market & Café in the Healthy Living Center/Mercy Center of the YMCA on University in Clive…  Shad and Angie Kirton opened Kue’d in Waukee with all smokehouse products sliced hot, never refrigerated and reheated. They were founders of Smokey D’s with Darren and Shari Warth… Harpreet, Jasbir and Khushi Makhija opened India Tadka in a former Cozy Café in Waukee with rare weekend buffets… Firehouse Subs opened its third area store, this one on 68th Street in West Des Moines… Jimmy Johns opened its 25th area store, this one on 86th in Clive… Phat Daddy’s BBQ opened in the former Salween on Douglas… Good Eatin’ opened in the former Eastman’s Jamaican on East 14th … The Twisted Bean Coffee Company debuted its new Urbandale store with Internet connections… Hagar’s Manhattan Grill opened in the former Limey’s Pub in Normandy Plaza, with more of a sports bar ambiance than its deli on Ingersoll…


Whole bunches of good news in same place

Two years after being shut down by water and smoke damage, the food court in the Partnership Building downtown plans to reopen soon. Now known as Local Bites, it will feature local ownership. The rebuilt space features a large mural, 20-foot trees and harvest tables. Escalators have been replaced with a stairway. Elevators still operate. New restaurants include Jay Wang’s (Wasabi Chi, Wasabi Tao and Wasabi) Teriyaki Boys with fast grilled meats, vegetable and sauces; Trish Myers’ Moar Tacos with Korean and gourmet tacos served street-style. Beef, pork, chicken and tofu will be offered;  L’Italiano, from the owners of Open Sesame, specializing in pizza and pasta; Viva Mexico, Jose Ochoa’s (Nuevo Mexico) reprisal of Las Americas from the Locust Food Court; Burger Shop, from the owners of previous food court operator of Golden Chicken; Jimmy Chronopoulos is operating his second Jimmy’s Gyros (Merle Hay Mall Food Court) with gyros, shwarma, Greek salads and Greek fries; Local Yocals farm-house, a diligent farm-to-fork concept by Jeremy Jessen and Zach Ricketts. Jessen has sold his grass-fed burgers and lard-cooked fries from his food stands at farmers markets and breweries. He uses local free-range eggs, local tomatoes that are made into ketchup, and local wheat flour for breads and pastries.


Bad News

Ryan’s Buffet in Clive closed, and later its parent company took bankruptcy… Old Country Buffet closed… Taste Buds catering company closed… Zon’s closed.


Honors and Milestones

515, the café in C Fresh Market, swept both the judges’ and people’s choice awards at the inaugural Pho King cookoff. Fawn’s was the judges’ runner-up, Maht’s Catering took that honor from the people. Bamboo Hut in Ankeny was the third-place finisher in both ballots… Des Moines Bacon and Meat Co. won best bacon award at BaconFest. Sakari Sushi won the People’s Choice award… La Quercia won a Good Food Award in San Francsico for its Speck Americano. Milton Creamery won one for its Prairie Breeze cheese… Leukemia Lymphoma Society’s Chili Cookoff raised $25,000 to fight cancer. Brian Krueger won the amateur division. Fleming’s Steakhouse & Wine Bar won the professional division. RoCA won the vegetarian division, and Malo took top honors in cornbread. Jim Peterson was named peoples’ choice winner


New Stuff

David Baruthio (Baru 66, Prime, Blue Tomato and Gaston) teamed with Michael Leo (Strudl Haus) to begin “Two friends one stove.” On the third Wednesday of each month, they cook grandmother-style European dinners. They will alternate between Baru 66 and Strudl Haus. Three-course dinners with wine cost $38 … Studl Haus also began Classical Saturdays with live violinists, cellists and flutists playing during a special three-course dinner with wine for $35… Baru at the Art Center morphed into Gaston, with more casual French fare… Coca Cola announced it will expand distribution of Mexican Coca-Cola, which is made with sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup… Pepsi said it will open an experimental kola bar/restaurant in New York this spring.


Government News

The U.S. Agriculture Department (USDA) moved to reduce salmonella and Campylobacter poisoning in ground chicken and turkey, and raw chicken breasts, legs and wings. Why not thighs? The USDA claims this will prevent an average of 50,000 food-borne illnesses annually. In a bold stroke of common sense, USDA said it will inspect plants once each week, rather than once a year for 52 days in a row. RELISH



Categories: The Dish

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