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Nov 21, 1999 08:36 AM

Des Moines

  • p

I'm planning an apres-Thanksgiving trek back to central Iowa to see the family, and hope to do a little chowhounding along the way. Planned stops include Smitty's for the "King Tenderloin" (thanks, Jane and Michael) and Big Daddy's for barbecue (I have sampled the "Check-Out Time" sauce, and have since forgiven my brother for the incineration of my taste buds as he sat and chortled).

Does anyone have suggestions for spots that might have been included in one of the Sterns' books, but weren't?

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  1. Back in the paleolithic age, I went to college in Iowa. Never found any great restaurants in Des Moines, but I'd guess there might have been a few developments in the past 30 years .

    But one of my fondest food memories was, of all things, the cottage cheese made by Anderson-Erickson. Never had better before or since. IS A-E still going strong? Are its products still as good?

    7 Replies
    1. re: Dave Feldman
      Patrick Thompson

      While Hiland Potato Chips (another favorite local brand - "The Chippiest Chips Around") are long gone, A-E is still there, and still good. I loved the cottage cheese as well, and the dips remain as good as it gets this side of homemade.

      1. re: Patrick Thompson


        Glad to hear that A-E is still going strong. I'm not surprised.

        I do remember Hilands. Another "Hi" I remember is Hy-Vee stores, where I bought most of my groceries.

        1. re: Dave Feldman
          Patrick Thompson

          David,Which college did you attend?Hy-Vee is also still extant (it's where I go to buy A-E). And I think you've hit on something here. I've noticed during the years I've been away that Iowa tends to be a place of resolutely modest pleasures. For example, it's hard to find a "museum" there (the term is too pretentious); mostly you see "centers" and "exhibits." So, foodwise, I'm usually content with a good tenderloin, a supply of Maytag blue, and maybe a stash of Cherry Mash (ever have one?) from the Amoco station near the Amanas.Maybe a Maid-Rite, too....

          1. re: Patrick Thompson

            I went to Grinnell. Loved the town and the folks who lived in the town, and there were a few amazing food discoveries to be found even in this town of 5,000.

            An alum of Grinnell, Bob Globus, opened up a wonderful restaurant called JB's. He had fabulous steaks (which he skimmed from a Safeway store), excellent blue cheese dressing, and two other amazing concoctions: his ice cream "Tuesday" (a sundae) and his cola. The The chocolate topping, I figure, was a doctored prepared syrup -- the secret ingredient was salt. The cola drove me out of my mind. He cleaned the filters every day and called it "Pepsi-Coke." Turns out it really was 50% of each product; I've never had better fountain cola anywhere.

            I love Iowa and its people. One of our most beautiful states.

        2. re: Patrick Thompson

          Hiland Potato Chips are being sold in Kum and Go stores.

          1. re: denewell

            A reply to a 13 year old post. I think we have a record.

            1. re: Bobfrmia

              but think how much has changed in 13 years...

      2. I LOVE Iowa! one of the best unsung food states.

        Des Moines has a vietnamese better than any in NY: go to A Dong (284-5632 1905-07 cottage grove, just off Martin Luther King Blvd where it crosses the interstate). Great jackfruit shakes, btw

        Boswell's (1409 Martin Luther King, 243-9518) is famous for breakfast

        great cajun, I hear from knowledgable sources, at "The French Quarter"

        Also, great Mexican near the Vietnamese) at Restaurant Prisma 2225 1/2 University Ave 281-0126 Mexican grandma makes one of the great hot sauces.

        All this info may be slightly stale...haven't been there in five years or so

        6 Replies
        1. re: Jim Leff

          I wish some midwesterners would come out of the woodwork and talk porkchops, mashed potatoes, fried chicken and pie - ok, Maid-Rite qualifies as local fare. Iowans, where are you?

          1. re: Jen Kalb
            Patrick Thompson

            It's getting harder and harder to find a good piece of pie, even in Iowa. Bakers Square is friggin' everywhere. Honestly, the best pie I've had lately (aside from the Norske Nook in Wisconsin) was in the church basement after my grandmother's funeral three years back (I had coconut cream, which I think was baked by my first grade teacher from eons ago, and blueberry). And even there, canned pie fillings were making inroads. There oughtta be a law, or something.

            1. re: Patrick Thompson

              Kathy's Pies in Cedar Rapids is what you're looking for. They have a retail shop downtown, but their main biz is supplying restaurants with a 50 mile radius or so of great pies. The French Silk is my fav, but they don't make a bad pie.

          2. re: Jim Leff
            Patrick Thompson

            Thanks, Jim, for the tips. If I don't get 'em all this time, I'll keep them on the list for subsequent trips (and pass the word on to my brother, who lives in Des Moines).

            1. re: Jim Leff
              John Piekarski

              One of the best eating experiences of my life was a weekend at the Iowa State Fair. The diary producers have some awesome milk shakes, and the pork and beef was unbelievable. My favorite, though, was the turkey growers' BBQ turkey breast sandwich -- a big piece of meat cooked over a fire. It's among my top 5 meals of all time.

              John Pi

              1. re: John Piekarski

                Ohmigawd, YES! The food at the Iowa State Fair is always a treat. I grew up in Des Moines, then Cedar Rapids, before moving to Seattle in 1984, so the Fair was a big part of my life. Every few years, I pay a return visit to the Fair (usually held in mid-August), and among the foods I always seek out:
                - pork tenderloin sandwiches, from the Iowa Pork Producers
                - fresh ears of corn
                - a bag of popcorn drenched in "Pride Of Iowa" butter
                - an ice-cold dill pickle on a stick (usually from a jar of iced brine, inside the Agriculture Building

                Okay, I realize that many of these items are triggers of memories that are better than the actual foods themselves, but isn't that part of going to the Fair?
                And there are new treats as well: I took my girlfriend a couple years ago, and she grew up in Hawai'i. When we found a shave ice booth, she couldn't believe it, and she said it was up to her Hawai'i standards, too!

            2. p
              Patrick Thompson

              Well, as it turned out, family obligations precluded much serious restauranting on this trip (although the four lard-crust pies my aunt made and the dry-rubbed smoked pork tenderloin prepared by by my brother were ample compensation). Jim, it turns out that The French Quarter and Prisma are gone; Bosewell's and A Dong remain, however, and I'll give 'em a shot next time back. And David, I scored some AE cottage cheese (plus eggnog and French onion dip) in your honor. Aside from the above, I found an interesting place in Homestead (one of the Amana colonies): Bill Zuber's Restaurant, originally owned by a hometown boy who pitched for the Yankees in the 1940s. There's plenty of baseball memorabilia, in low-key displays, and the food is plain but pretty good. We had ham and baked chicken with ham-studded green beans, mashed potatoes, saurkraut with caraway, and simply outstanding apple and mincemeat pie. If you can find Homestead (just north of I-80 west of Iowa City) you can find Zuber's.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Patrick Thompson

                Sounds like you made out *just fine,* Patrick. I'll probably be going back to Iowa in 2001 for my college reunion, so I especially appreciate hearing your ideas.

                1. re: Patrick Thompson

                  "Jim, it turns out that The French Quarter and Prisma are gone; "

                  oh, no!! Say it ain't so! (actually, thanks for the report!).

                  Zuber's sounds good...wonder what else is great besides the pie there. Any Iowa chowhounds want to make the sacrifice and check it out and let us know??

                2. You guys are making me hungry!!! I have to mention Astro Burgers on Army post and SW 9th, if you are looking for awesome tenderloins that is the place to go, and how can we forget the Iowa Beef Steakhouse for pork chops and steak. If they are still there. That was from my High School days. I have not been there in 20 years, as I live in Chicago now but there is nothing here that measures up to good old Iowa cooking.

                  I have to agree about the State fair also. Growing up in Des Moines the fair was a tradition every year. The Corn dogs are the bomb.

                  If you want a good home style meal the Iowa machine shed on Hickman is good.

                  Looks like I am going to have to plan a trip back soon!!!

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: montcrlo2001

                    Actually, Big Daddy's is closed except for some sporadic catering. At least the last time I checked it was. And I have to say there are better tenderloins than the one at Smitty's, although it's not bad. I still like the ones at Joensy's in Solon, which is close to Iowa City. Big as a hub cap and a meal in itself. I mention Joensy's because it is apparently on the way for you. Des Moines' restaurant scene has matured a lot in recent years. A Dong is good for Vietnamese, as was mentioned, but Thai Flavors on the east side (or its better known sibling, Cool Basil, in the suburbs) has great food. Their Tum Kaw Gai was listed last year as one of the ten best dishes in the city. The Waveland Cafe is a good breakfast joint with famous "Everything Hash Browns" and I like Michaels for breakfast. I also like Lucca in the East Village and steaks at 801 Steak and Chop or at Jesse's Embers.

                    A little bit about Zuber's: the food there is German style, reminiscent of the fare that the Amana colonists ate for years. So you can get some decent pork, etc. It's all served family style.

                    I was heartened to read your comments about the shakes at the state fair because I don't think much compares to them. And, you can get your frozen dessert and then walk a few feet to the glass-enclosed Dairy Parlor and see, maybe for the first time, a cow being milked.

                    1. re: jwagner

                      Jonesy's was closed several weeks ago by the Health Dept. Do you know if they have reopened?

                      1. re: Bobfrmia

                        Not yet - and no news as to when (or if) they'll reopen. If I remember correctly, the owner was rather nonplussed about having to do any work to get it back up to standards ...


                      2. re: jwagner

                        Big Daddy's is (according to the sign on the building) open on Fridays and Saturdays. I haven't been there since Ike passed on, so I can't confirm this fact, nor can I comment on the experience without Big Daddy offering up his wares.

                    2. Check out "Chef's Kitchen" on Beaverdale Road. You won't be disappointed.