Locally Grown

Alternatives School

A previous post on this sexy little otter of a blog illicited some comments as to said blog’s lack of helpfulness. Choice readers also conjured the defensive beast within your humble Cook. Just short of a real explanation and apology is where we last left off and is where we begin again.

I never set out on a mission to endorse any particular restaurants (a statement which could be argued) or to be a clearinghouse of information about exact locations and/or reviews of “eatin’ holes” but like a roller-rink DJ whom reluctantly plays your request for a slow “couples skate” song while not-so-secretly yearning to only play “Turn Me Loose” by Loverboy repeatedly here I am answering your requests.

This goes out to you, my tens of readers, so find that special somebody, grab their hand, and let’s hit the rink for the couple’s skate I would like to call…

“Locally Grown’s First And Most Likely Last Occasional List of Locally Owned Restaurants That Are Good Alternatives To Fast Food Chain Dining” or the “L.G.F.A.M.L.L.O.L.O.L.O.R.T.A.G.A.T.F.F.C.D.”

(All You Haters Notice My LOL’s)

In no particular order, here is where you had better be eating or suffer the pangs of guilt which will replace those of your hunger. (Also, my editor Bathory is on spring break so addresses and such facts may not be accurate or may be missing entirely)

12. El Bait Shop – Every Day A $4.99 lunch special which compliments their affordable BBQ joint/Mexican themed menu. They Gots More Beers Than Madonna’s Got Songs (even local Millstream Root Beer ON TAP) Not the fastest, but cheap and easy (hey! Watch the Mom Jokes). Great place to meet friends on a bike ride.

26. Fong’s Pizza – $5 lunch special includes a Slice, a Salad, a Drink, and some really hilarious atmoshpere. Very quick, easy, cheap, and fun. The staff is fairly fun, which is a value you rarely get at your local McBurgerNFries. They also have free slices (with booze purchase) from 4-6 pm Mon through Friday.

B. Louie D’s Philly Steaks – Basement of the Greater DSM Partnership BLDG – fast, cheap, and about as authentic as you are going to get in this town. Trust me, I have eaten at Pat’s in Philly more times than I care to admit. Get there early, the line gets long after noon.

4. India Grill (Skywalk) In the words of a very good friend of mine, “this place rocks.” Buffet is 6.99, and f**king fantastic. Great choices for Vegetarians and Omni-vores EVERY DAY. Great Indian food made by people who know what the F they are doing. If you claim to like Indian food but have “oh, I haven’t
tried that place yet” syndrome (or as I like to call it B.U.L.L.S.H.I.T.) get your ass there. NOW. They even have a full menu of burgers and sandwiches for those of you who don’t like adventure in dining.

72a. (No-Brainer) B-Bops. If you have to have drive through burgers, do it locally at one of their many locations. A famed burger from a local restaurant chain that hasn’t negatively affected the environment or agriculture. They also sell a “veggie” that is all the burger fixins sans-patty for a buck. Look for their coupons in our local Global-Conglomerate-Owned “News” paper.

R2. Open Sesame (East Locust in the former Baby Boomer’s location). Delicious Lebanese food. Great Atmosphere. The Illustrious Datebook Diner even loves it. Very Vegetarian Friendly.

69. High Life Lounge (Next to El Bait Shop) – Burger basket=super cheap. They serve Tater Tots, allowing you to be transported back to childhood during the course of a lunch break.

Y. La Hacienda, El Aguila Real, and El Rodeo (various locations) – lunch menus at these local Mexican restaurants are chock-full of not-too-adventurous standard-but-delicious dishes. Combo Meals at big-chain “Mex” spots average around $7.00, which is more than a “speedy gonzales” and a drink at any of these local spots. Why would you choose to spend more for less?

3. Gazali’s (25th st and University, Dogtown AND next to Louie D’s in the DSM Partnership building) good Greek-inspired food and super Veg-Friendly. Pretty Fast and no more costly than that JJ sandwich you were thinking of getting. Owned by Mario Gazali of Open Sesame. Highly Wreck-o-mended.

177. Ted’s Coney Island (Ingersoll Ave) – Drive Thru Junkies rejoice! Ted’s rocks your world with felafel, Chicago Dogs, Onion Rings, Gyros, and such. The service inside is about the friendliest you will find.

(It is 5:58 am and you humble narrator is running out of steam and bottled water)

38. Gateway Market Cafe (Woodland Ave and MLK) – This place fills up quick, so go early. A little more pricey than a chain, but then again chain joints don’t have a butcher grinding their own brisket and shoulder for burgers about 30 feet from the grill. A menu that varies from George Formaro’s extremely-researched and finely-honed Ramen Bowls (I would like one right now) to DSM’s finest hand made Veggie Burger, to fresh salads, will not leave you hanging. If you are rushed, get something from their salad bar, hot case, or Grab’n’Go sandwiches, pizzas, entrees, and so-on while doing some shopping (pick up some South Union Olive Ciabatta, some Valdeon bleu and a bottle of Prosseco for after-work wind down) then head back to work and eat at your desk/counter/bar-top/Lathe/whatever.

69pt.2. Taco Trucks. This is another no-brainer.

82. Funky Pickle Deli (8th and Grand) Leaning toward Quiz-NOs? Don’t do it, I don’t care how much you love those numbered sauces! The Funky Pickle makes some good, fast sandwiches and has a flower shop attached. Next door to the DSM Bicycle Collective. Sounds Convenient. Oh, and it is below a parking garage in case you drive to lunch.

44. Grand Piano Bistro (East Grand/East Village) – Great lunch (and dinner) menu. Go see Sara M, she rules and deserves your business much more than some stupid chain.

2. Sushi- (Sakari – Ingersoll, Miyabi9 – East Village). Being a Sushi Chef myself, I think a quick lunch of Soup, Salad, and Sushi is a great idea and about as opposite of fast food as you can get. Keep in mind that sushi takes a little time to prepare and that these spots get BUSY, but if you sit at the Sushi Bar and get to know your Chef they will usually know what you are having before you do and start preparing it when you walk in.

11. Azalea (4th and Walnut) – yes, you may know Azalea for its beautiful dining room, Martinis, and grand food. Did you know that they also serve lunch? Now you do. Handmade Burgers, Sandwiches, Salads, Soup, and entrees that shine in a room fit for a CEO powerlunch for less than $10 a head. Why would you go to a chain. A great alternative to Centro or (ahem) Legends for lunch and more affordable. If you go Monday through Wednesday ask for Julie, she is adoreable, professional, and will make you wonder if why you ever went anywhere else. Fine dining service and atmosphere at a great price. Go there NOW!

Ethnic Markets are a great spot to grab and go some grub then get outside to enjoy your meal.

I. New Oriental Market (East Village) has Bahn Mi, Sesame Balls, Eggrolls, and cold noodle salads to offer along with their rediculously entertaining service. I usually leave this place laughing – in a good way.

3g. La Tapatia – (East 15th just south of I235) offers a number of chicken and pork dishes at their back counter and has a bakery on premises. Fast, cheap, easy, local.

99. Tasty Tacos (Various Locations) – Famous in DSM. More words need not be said.

This list is no where near complete (or addressly-acurate) but I hope it answers some questions and lays down the law. Get Adventurous with your dining and do it locally. Do you really need another processed Triple Bacon Whendy’s Bilge-Burger, or would you rather try something new while supporting people who actually GIVE A SHIT ABOUT YOU, THE FOOD THEY ARE MAKING FOR YOU, AND THE CITY YOU LIVE/EAT IN.

Also, thank you to my tens of readers for all of the feedback. I enjoy the sometimes-constructive criticism even tough it makes me cry.

Because really people, “If I can’t have you, I don’t want nobody, baby”.

Also of note: Check my new 80’s Synth-Pop Emo Hardcore Alt-Country Straightedge project “Me +/- You”. Our first single “Boys DO Cry (a tear in their root beer)” will be dropping soon on a limited edition Victrola-roll only hand-screened hand-numbered-in-chainring-grease- from-a-bike-I-wrecked-while-crying-and-writing-love-poems-to-women-I-never-knew format-way.

Hugs Not Drugs,

The Cook.


Who the f%*#@ Told You That Was Acceptable???
2010/03/22, 9:02 pm
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I got a phone call from a friend the other day, a phone call that was about 5 minutes into said friend’s current nervous breakdown (this particular friend is always floating in a shallow pool of emotion waiting to surface, breathless with another emergency). I am all about shelling out some emotional support to friend in need, but the help needed in this situation was a little beyond my normal scope of empathy.

This friend was crying about his case of Fast Food Inevitability (or FFI). What is an FFI you ask? This is a condition wherein the subject, or VICTIM, can not decide where to eat and therefore inevitably ends up eating at some filthy national fast food conglomerate outlet. This habit, as you may have done been told before, takes money away from local economy and promotes low-wage employment. I am not here to debate world economy or living wage and there are many places to read about and discuss such matters on the Great InterWeb SuperInformationHighway.

MY problem with FFI is this:

There are numerous information outlets to inform you, the possible FFI Victim, of fabulous local eateries at which to dine. There is also a WIDE RANGE OF AFFORDABILITY to be had within the local dining scene wherever you are. You also may be able to find similar, albeit better quality, food to that which you would “dine” on at said Fast Food Centers.

Breathe. Breathe.

Why the F@#% are you, the Diners, driving past some good local food in favor of this swill? Does that Angus Burger® really make you feel good about yourself? Who taught you to be so lazy? Why are you ignoring all the people out there who work so hard to inform you of local dining? I tell this to my “friend” and this is his response:

I don’t know! I just don’t know!

So if you are one of those people who says I don’t know” and just keeps driving on to the next McWhatever, I have one thing to say to you:

Who the F#$@ told you that was acceptable?

Do some research, hit those local spots, spend your money in your town, support the businesses and don’t succumb to the dreaded FFI.

All it got my friend was a nervous breakdown and another cheeseburger combo in the belly.


Everyone go grab some snacks, because I will be back soon. I am recovering from our #1 amateur drinking holiday of the year, Wednesday.

But a small report:

Downtown Des Moines was bustling with numerous a-holes hosed down in green garb (also with many nice families celebrating the tradition with their loved ones) running around claiming Irish heritage while sucking down an assortment of green beer, Jameson, and the dreaded Car Bomb. It was quite a sight. I gathered with a few accomplices on bikes to join in the festivities and to bear witness to the spectacle. Beer tents were nearly impenetrable, the Locust Tap was almost as packed, Court Avenue was merely meh, but 4th Street was the place to be. A new sports bar with “all you can drink” for 10 bucks was belching and puking out some of the most amazing D-baggery seen since Friday. Fights, fights, a dude punched out the rear window of an SUV, driver of said SUV tried to run over Mr. Fists. The ATM outside the Royal Mile was abused. Aaaaanannnnnd…..

Chef Andrew Meek hosted a special dinner at Sbrocco. Did anyone attend? Were there any fights?

I am suprised there weren’t more special dinners for St. Pat’s, but then again I didn’t see many people eating.

With that said, I will get back to my recovery diet of Vegetable broth, bananas, and grilled cheese, and will return to the interweb sometime Monday, March 22nd.

Hugs and stuff,

The Cook.

2010/03/17, 3:07 am
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Everyone go grab some snacks, because I will be back on maybe Thursday, maybe Friday. I am celebrating our #1 amateur drinking holiday of the year, Wednesday.

I Done Told You Twice: Answering A Question
2010/03/09, 12:55 am
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Due to the overwhelming (one) response to my last posting (which I don’t actually remember writing), it seems I am going to be needing to be providing some answers to my own questioning. After sitting back, taking it all in, then watching some Gallagher videos (or as I like to call him, Senor Aplastido), the answers came shimmering forth from the dark, kinda like a Majic 8-Ball®.

Oh, you forgot the question?

The question is this, what can be done to spruce up the food criticism in Our Town©? Further, our Dubious D.D. wonders “What Qualities Would You Like In A Food Critic?” Oh, viddy well me foodie droogies, viddy well, for I, your humble narrator, am about to molotov ye yarbles. (Sorry, Anthony Burgess)

“Qualities I Would Like In A Food Critic” by T.Cook

Here are a few, if not all
of the qualities I require
Therein a good critic call
For one you should hire

Humor, yes humor
Humor is a glorious thing
When used properly
And honestly
sprinkled with sugar
And no sacharine

Tell me my food is remarkable, unsinkable
Unthinkable to long for anyone else’s
Eat to contentment, no resentment please
You’re getting fatter not thinner eating your dinner…

Ok, ok. I had a realllly long hilly bike ride today and am a little prone to writing to tunes from Mary Poppins© or the Magic Toaster®. Here is the real list:

1. Honesty. When something is going wrong don’t ride it out, bring it to the attention of a management type (this doesn’t work if you are a Teacher) so that they may attempt to screw it up worse. (Maybe an even better list here would be qualities I would like to see in a FOH manager) I think that sometimes I read reviews of places I have been knowing there is some bullshit in the review.

2. Funny, like reeeaaalllly funny. Like the opposite of that show tune you just were subjected to. Everyone likes laughing.

3. Entertaining. See Funny.

4. Creative. Um, do YOU write in show tune? Good, get your own schtick. I would like to see new ideas, better concepts, cooler articles. Everyone in town has their own format. Fuck format, make people look around a page for info. Speaking of formats…Juice’s “Lunch Skywalker” format is thumbs down.

5. Very active in the local food scene. We have countless CSA’s, local dairies, livestock producers, fabulous chefs, and more. Why don’t we hear about them more than a blurb at the end of some food news?

6. A Positive Attitude. Huh?


Also, many of the people who are making this food worked very hard to open a restaurant, make a menu, train a staff, and so forth so be fair. They aren’t all good, but the ones that are putting out good food should be noticed. There are a lot of “favorites” played in this town, and a lot of politics in the food scene period. Being or not being fair and objective sometimes means making or breaking someone’s livelyhood.

I want all of this and more. I want to be wowed, educated, and enticed into trying new things. Who is doing that in OUR TOWN?

I told you once.
2010/03/06, 4:37 am
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Yes, I told you once. Now I will tell you again. This town needs an enema. Wait, no that was some movie thing. This town needs to spruce up its food criticism. Who is the person to do it? Whoo? Who would you want to have in print espousing their opinions of local food. Who would be your pick to guide your dining? What person would honestly lead you like a non-conning pied piper to your palate’s holy land?

You know the answer. Let others know. Maybe…just maybe it will happen.

The cook.

LocallyGrown20 Food Critics Edition Update
2010/03/05, 9:38 pm
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Well folks, we here at the internet space known as here have a not so exiting update on the status of our First Occaisionally Awarded LG20 FCE.

As I am not really a writer (My cat bathory isn’t an editor either, but he tries his little heart out), I don’t generally know how this whole publishing thing works. Evidently you get your poll results before you announce the poll. This is akin to the way say Survivor (the tv show, not the band) already has filmed and picked a winner and has locked all contestants in small footlockers until the season finale is shown. You are watching the results of something ALREADY COMPLETED. Whoops! I don’t watch TV and was as shocked as you when the ball dropped on that little broadcast secret.

What I am hinting at here is that I am still waiting on some people to Pick A Winner and flick it my way. Stay Tuned!