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.


13 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Don’t forget Bandit Burrito! (Merle Hay in Johnston)

Comment by bakedleech6

How can I forget Bandit Burrito? I love the place and regularly make the trip north to get Burrito’d. They will be included in another report on the Burbs.

Comment by locallygrown

Great list!

But may I remove my gloves for a moment….

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a return-worthy meal at one of the Full or Half Court Press places (except of course Sbrocco). Last time I went to El Bait Shop, the food looked and tasted like it had been dished up from a crockpot that had been cooking for about 36 hours.

It was one of those “Let’s get out of here and go get something to eat at Star Bar” kind of moments.

Is it better, or are you just vouching for “food that tastes okay if you’ve had a lot of beer.”

Comment by Datebook Diner

I ate lunch @ El Bait Shop yesterday just to solidify my opinion, DD. It was good. Even without beer. Better than fast food, which is the point of the list of alternatives to fast food dining.

How many return worthy meals have you had at McD’s, BK’s, TB, or the like?

Do you consider Full Court Press establishments Sub-par in comparison to fast food?

Did you really need to invoke Star Bar?

You may put your gloves back on now.

Comment by locallygrown

Glad to hear that El Bait Shop was good. I’ll give it another try. What should I order?

In answer to your questions:

1. Return-worthy meals at McD: Not proud of it, but I do like that filet-o-fish. Allow myself one per year. That’s all.
2. Of course Full Court Press is better than fast food, but that’s not saying much. Lots of places are better than fast food, but not good enough to go again. Your using blog-logic if you assume “better than fast food” = worth recommending.
3. Star Bar. What can I say, it’s my escape hatch.

Aren’t you going to say something crabby about me reviewing (and liking) Granite City?

Comment by Datebook Diner

I in no way think that being local or “better than fast food” means a restaurant is worth a return trip. Nor do I believe there is a whole lot of logic in this blog. Every person has an opinion, and some places just aren’t for everyone. This is where fast food has an advantage in that they have formulated a “safe for everyone” environment and a marketing scheme that practically guarantees return visits. But that is too long of a discussion for the comments.

Comment by locallygrown

re: DD’s Granite City mention, I would like a brew pub review that manages to say something about the beer.

Comment by mh

I read the Granite city review. I think it is a shame that the DD gives it as high of a rating as some of our most “esteemed” dining spots. I also agree with Mr. Harper that someone needs to review the BEERS crafted at these places. Didn’t the Cityview have a beer person at one time?

Comment by locallygrown

My favorite of the local brew pubs is Rock Bottom. Yes, it’s a chain, but they make the beer from scratch and the brewer knows his stuff. CabCo is my second favorite, followed by RRBCo. All three of these brewers are cool dudes and all can make great beer, I just prefer Rock Bottom’s beer to the others.

Food wise, Rock Bottom is below both of them, though. I get a salad and drink 5 liters of beer and call it a night. 😛

Comment by Inthewater

Canton in the skywalk has awesome korean and chinese food on the cheap….I have not tried the buffet, but everytime I order, its prepared fresh and fast. a downtown favorite

Comment by matt

I will check out Canton this week.

Comment by locallygrown

Yeah, I should review the beer. But when you only have 400 words to say everything (food, service, ambiance), there just isn’t room. It requires a separate story. And I’m not the one to write that. Beer is not my forte.

Fair criticism, though.

Re: Granite City being given as high of a rating as local spots. So, I should shave off a star because it’s a chain? If it’s good for the money, it gets the stars it deserves. Chain or no chain.

Comment by Datebook Diner

This is a helpful list, thanks.

Comment by tyrgyzistan

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