Reversals and revivals

By Jim Duncan

The second quarter of the year is shaping up to be a time of reversals and surprising revivals in the food world.
McDonald’s saw a positive increase in earnings and profits after instigating a new low-priced menu that experts
predicted would hurt its bottom line. It’s not the first time that Mickey thumbed his nose at the industry. In another
rather shocking development, age-old baby food practices were challenged by a new, controversial study. Kosher salt became the scourge of the health police.

More predictably, the United States Department of Agriculture reversed itself on new rules for organic livestock and poultry practices that had been one of the final acts of the Obama Administration. Iowa brewers continued to win international awards, and Iowa BBQ accessory makers continued to find new markets. Gargantuan-sized sandwiches grew even bigger as the outdoor entertainment season began.

Locally, restaurants opened far more rapidly than closings for the first time in three quarters.

The Good News

Django found a new home in the old Magnolia. They plan on opening in midsummer with a similar menu plus a new line of Montreal style bagels. Sadly, Magnolia’s magnificent furniture does not fit their French concept. May it find a new home in the metro… Stephen Stewart bought Woody’s and reopened that BBQ pioneer in April… Lincoln, Nebraska, franchise owners opened the first area Raising Cane Chicken Fingers on Mills Parkway. The chain was founded 22 years ago in Baton Rouge and is named after a Labrador Retriever. It’s been a good corporate citizen and serves a menu that resembles Chik-fil-A, the nation’s most profitable franchise in per store earnings… Former ISU football superstar Seneca Wallace opened a Wingstop outlet store on Duff in Ames. Wingstop offers wings, beer, wine and side dishes and is based in Dallas. Their outlets in Dubuque and Cedar Rapids have been successful… Full Court Press, Inc. opened Truman’s KC Pizza Tavern at S.E. Sixth and MLK. The company’s Rob Jackson, Andy Massoth and Dan Massoth all grew up in Kansas City and named the place for the Truman Sports Complex there. The tavern features memorabilia from the Chiefs, Royals, Monarchs, Kings and Scouts. Ten tap handles dispatch
beers from KC-based Boulevard Brewing Company and hand-tossed, thin-crust pizza stars on the food lineup…
Lesley and Brian Triplett announced the expansion of their Iowa City Korean Dumpling Darling café to a restored historic building at 212 E. Third St., across from Iowa Taproom… Fabricio Floriani announced that BAH Brazilian Steakhouse will open on Ingersoll this summer. Brazilian steakhouses feature sliced at the table grilled meats… Jay Wang announced a fourth Wasabi restaurant will open soon in Johnston… Amaravati opened in the old Kurry Express with pan Indian delights including dosas, utthapams, dum and idlis… La Paris Est. developer Jacqueline Riekena announced that BuffaloNickel smokehouse would be a main floor anchor when she reopens an historic, restored building this summer in downtown Perry.

The Bad News

Brad Waldron closed his BW’s Burgers on EP True in April saying that the Des Moines workforce was his biggest problem. That’s honest candor. Lots of people say that but few say it publicly. Waldron will focus on his The Rusty Duck, a popular steakhouse in Dexter, “Iowa’s original one horse town,” where real Kobe steaks are sometimes served and good help is not so hard to find… Kurry Express of Omaha closed its local store on 86th… La Hacienda was razed to the ground on Ingersoll… Pita Pit closed on Ingersoll.

Honors and accolades

Iowa Brewing Company of Cedar Rapids won a silver medal at the 2018 World Beer Cup for its Americanstyle amber lager, Tragedy of the Common. Hosted by the Brewers Association, a trade association of small and independent American craft brewers, winners were selected in 101 categories, from a total of 8,234 beers entered by 2,515 breweries from 66 countries. Single Speed Brewing, with taprooms in Cedar Falls and Waterloo, also took home a medal, winning bronze for Ring Around the Gose in the Leipzig-style gose or contemporary gose category… Sweet to Eat Bakery in Ankeny was recognized as having the best cakes in the state by Food Network… Thrillist ranked Ladora Bank Bistro best small-town restaurant in Iowa… Gerald Young’s Young G’s Barbeque Sauce, which honors military vets, made the shelves of Hy-Vee, Natural Grocers, Price Chopper, Cash Saver, Gateway Market, Whole Foods and Brick Street Market & Café and was working on a deal with China… Stephanie Jessen and Monty “Mo” Knupp’s Mo’Rub expanded into a full line of “no crap added” products including Mo’Nuts, Crack Pretzels, and Mo’Mary bloody mary mix. Mo’Rub products are sold at most markets around the metro including Whole Foods… Big Daddy’s BBQ sauces expanded their supermarket presence to include Flamin’ Lemon, Big Bad Trinidad, Cayenne Crazy, Painful Mango and Chiliheads Only. All three BBQ companies are from Des Moines.

Industrial News

McDonald’s turned itself around with profits rising 2 percent from a year ago. Its new $1 $2 $3 menu was credited
with bringing more people through the doors who then bought more profitable items. In Des Moines, McD began
remodeling several stores. The rest of the fast food industry quickly tried to copy Mickey’s bold move with special low price loss leaders popping up at Burger King, Hardee’s, KFC, Popeye’s and Wendy’s… The National Pork Board
financed a study that, amazingly, found that babies older than five months who were fed pureed pork and beef grew
an inch more than babies fed the traditional baby food diet of dairy and grains and vegetables… The USDA reversed
itself on new rules regulating stricter standards for organic and natural livestock and poultry. The tough standards were passed two days before Barack Obama’s term ended. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and other animal rights groups complained. Big Ag applauded.

Hip trend of the quarter

Kosher salt is now taboo to the natural food movement. The logic behind this is that kosher salt is a chemical, made by big chemical companies, using chemical processes. Kosher salt, such as Diamond Crystal (which is made by
Cargill’s chemical division), is 99.83 percent pure sodium chloride. By comparison, naturally occurring salts are
between 95 and 97 percent sodium chloride.

Unhip trend of the quarter

The new star of Nickolas Illingworth and Andrew Crabtree’s menu at Adventureland is a Monster Burger, named after the park’s new roller coaster. The $18 sandwich includes 22 ounces of beef, chicken, pork tenderloin and bacon, plus four slices of American cheese, chili, cheese sauce, mac and cheese fritters and jalapeno poppers. It is held together by wooden skewers and topped with onion rings. The monster is 2 feet tall and sold at the Coca-Cola Café.

Dish of nettles

Why is it so easy to open a bottle of booze and so difficult to open a bottle of milk? Are the people who regulate the
details of our lives at the FDA trying to tell us that milk is bad for us? Or do they want to discourage the  consumption of subsidized food like milk and encourage us to drink more heavily taxed food like booze?

Why in this age of health obsessions is it so hard to find a single patty burger smaller than half a pound and
without cheese and a side dish? You can order one without the cheese or fries, but you still pay for them. When did a
quarter pounder become a “small” burger? ♦

Categories: The Dish

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