Locally Grown

Marginal Monday Veggie Dining-ish Time

Ah, yes…crossing the threshold of a favorite pizzeria, running forth into the sweet smell of a deck oven baking circularly shaped yeasty dough flats topped with some congealed dairy product and possibly a tomato-basil-garlic-pepper-flake-oregano-dash-of-thyme sauce.  The mind, body, and soul of your dining self feels that familiar sense of comfort, of safety, afforded to the good little eater who has chosen wisely by their taste buds.  Every resident of the North-Western hemisphere has likely encountered this situation at one time in their life, with the residents of our particular section of said Quadroshpere being the (mostly) lucky residents of this real-life dining dream more often than others.

Serious Pizza Party.

With that said, pizza is a particularly universal solution in any large group of people eating out, and makes a great compromise betwixt Vegetarians and Omnivores when it comes down to the sometimes painful crunch of Dining Decision Time, or DDT.  This realization bloomed during my own pizza experience, which happened to take place at CiCi’s Pizza in Urbandale.  Ok, this is not a “local, sustainable, blah blah blah” spot the like which would be written about, but when dining with a group of people which includes a young hyper child, a young teen, and a mom that may have forgotten her wallet, you have to make compromises.  Which is exactly what the last 200 words were trying to get through to you.  (After reading the last paragraph, it would seem I would be an Editors Worst Nightmare.  Luckily I feed mine quality wet food, which keeps him from biting the literal hand that feeds him.  That might even work for you other writers looking to sneak some nonsense in under YOUR editors’ noses.  Might I suggest Super Supper?)

The short of the long is this: if you are with a large (or small) group of people with varied dining tastes and restrictions (unless your group includes any wheat allergy types), consider pizza.  Do you get that point or do I need to ramble on for another few paragraphs?  Good. (i do) This post is NOT endorsing you vegetarians having pizza unwantedly thrust upon you as all of your friends are gnawing on steaks.  This is all about Pizza Equality.

Sorry, my Vegan Friends…There is really no good Vegan Pizza in town.  Anyone interested in changing this problem?

Here are a few places to consider during the course of DDT which serve pizza and may be a good place for the meats to meet the veggies:

Note: The places being listed are known by LG to not use non-vegetarian product in their sauce or crust (although some specialty sauces such as BBQ may contain hints of anchovy or other unwanted ingredients).  As Always, when in doubt, ask your server whether a particular sauce/product is safe for you.

Fong’s Pizza – 223 4th Street. Des Moines, IA 50309-2205. (515) 323-3333. Fong’s not only has good pizza, awesome cheese sticks (I know, but they are good enough to be called that), and kitcsh, but they also employ known vegetarians and they will look out for you.  They also serve slices for lunch, during happy hour (4pm to 6pm M-F) and from 10pm to 3am.  I love Fong’s. I may go there for lunch today after completing this post.

Mullet’s – 1300 Southeast 1st St. Des Moines, IA 50315. (515)244-1443. Yes, Mullet’s has pizza.  You should try it sometime.

CiCi’s Pizza Buffet – multiple locations. Yes, You can beat me up about this all you want, but I still believe in the power of a $4.99 pizza buffet.  They even take requests aka will make you whatever you want.  Not the best pizza, but if you have a large group or are on a budget this should be a consideration.

Red Rossa – 12695 University Avenue. Suite 100. Clive, Iowa 50325. (515)221-2529.  Good Wood-fired pizza.  Yes, it is a chain, but a chain of two locations (to my knowledge)  Not bad for a small gathering or a casual date night.

Bagni Di Lucca – 404 East 5th St. Des Moines, IA 50309. Nice, small spot for pizza dining.  Decent selection of vegetarian options (my favorite is the Potato Pesto Pizza. Great flavor, and I love alliteration).  This is a mostly-lunch-only type deal, and good for any dining lunch sitch from a shopping break to business.

Big Tomato – 2613 Ingersoll Avenue. Des Moines, IA 50312-5237. (515) 288-7227I really don’t support this place because of the late night fights and the ominous/wholly true “crappy service” sign, but they do have a great ingredient list for vegetarians including midwestern-approved corn, peas, and potato along with a plethora of other veggies.

This is just a TINY list of pizza purveyors in town, please feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments section!

There are also plenty of chains out there such as Pizza Hot, Gosh Father’s, Pappy John’s, Duhmino’s, Little Skeezers, and the like.  You have probably already had some experience with one or more of these places and can eat their on your own accord.  I will not endorse nor denounce these actions.

So, faithful readers, I hope this has helped you just enough to get through your DDT.  If anything, when confronted with a particularly difficult DDT, you could always use this as leverage to coax friends towards your first choice restaurant.  Pull out the classic “well, if no one can decide on a restaurant, we could always just go get PIZZA” line, and when any one of your dining partners let out a groan or grumble…guide them to your first choice…even if it IS pizza!


The Cook

Oh, no Monday news today.  It was a wild weekend, and I don’t really remember any of the conversations held about dining for some strange reason…


30 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Regarding vegan, I had a recent exchange that left me even more befuddled on veganism. My wife said an acquaintance refused to eat at a local establishment because the cooking surface was used for cooking meat as well as veggies. It’s a mongolian BBQ type cook surface, but could have been a tepanyaki (sp?) type place just as easily. The surfaces are steamed/scraped between food preps. Is cross contamination a common concern among vegans? I know one of these places has a separate cook surface for doing allergen free cooking, but the affected party said this area would still have cooked meat products at one time or another.

Obviously this was all 2nd hand info passed on, but it seems any cooking utensil or surface would be forever contaminated once it’s been used for meat products in this person’s view and I find that intriguing if not downright odd.

Comment by Buckshot77

That seems to me to be the “extremeist” sort of vegan. Maybe even the type that just does it to be “kewl”.

On the other hand, that is certainly their right, but good luck finding a place that has a flat top that has never touched any animal product, let alone meat.

Some people you just can’t make happy.

Comment by InthewaterDSM

It might be their “choice”, but it is definitely not their “right”.
Assbags like that guy/gal/guygal, if allowed to be coddled to, will eventually force our country to cater to every man/woman/child/he-she’s every whim.
The market needs to dictate that, not liberal idealists who think they should dictate to the rest of us what is best for us.

Comment by Pat Mearson

Splitting hairs, my good man. I meant pretty much what you said. Right / choice was not used in a legal context here. However much it pisses you off, which it apparently does, you can’t tell someone else that they have to eat something. Regardless of if you agree with their reasons or not. The best solution I see is for this person worried about the “meat laden” grill to not eat there.

Problem solved.

Comment by InthewaterDSM

Wow, homophobic, paranoid, AND a socialist? How do you do it, Pat? The market dictating the needs of the public sounds awful socialist. Your adding the “TG/TS” angle is interesting and reeks of homophobic behavior. During my years of veganism I was once called a “Vegan Faggot” by someone who seemed to hold a similar viewpoint on the world as you, sir. Your bigotry has been noted.
I would like to see your take on what would make our ever changing world a better place. I’m sure they would be the stand up words of a true fucking Maverick. Now before you go all “Glen Bleck” on me, remember that Vegans are people, too. And sometimes people are a-holes (or assbags). Ahd that the proper way to deal with it is to go along living your life and letting others live theirs.

Comment by locallygrown

Well thanks Vegforbrains, for falsely summing me up after 1 comment.

I have 2 points;

1- When someone makes a choice to practice something, IE vegan or vegetarian, do not expect everyone else to cater to your choice. Jews have dealt with it well for year, why can’t you crybabies? Sure there is a small niche of restaurants that pander to your kind, and that’s great, but your kind is a teeny tiny percentage of the market, yet you whine like a little child denied ice cream because the Greenbriar (or whoever) didn’t offer you enough choices. Now if there were enough of you demanding such choices that it hit the Greenbriar in the pocketbook, they may cave to your wishes, but till then, and you’re a long way away, just get back in your Prius, drive home, and force your wife/partner/non-breeding roommate to get that fondue pot out of storage and host parties for your phony friends.

2- For whatever reason the people that make these decisions, usually to seem cool to their libby friends, think they are ENTITLED to the aforementioned accommodations and also to preach to that they are the Holy ones. To them, everyone else are unhealthy heathens who are killing the planet and demand that government intervene and make laws to force businesses and society to accept Joe Vegan and alter their ways to accommodate the latest fad. I say bullshit to Washington and to Joe Vegan! You don’t like my selection, screw you, don’t eat here carrot lover.

OH, and by the way, I think Glenn Beck is an actor who stirs emotions in nonable-thinking people who parrot his every word. I hate those people even more than Vegans.

Comment by Pat Mearson

Good grief, dude. You are really uptight. I think you need a slice of pizza or something.

Live and let live. If that has become a “libby” stand point, rather than an enlightened person’s stand point, then paint me as a “libby” as well.

Although, I see Libby and just think of fruit juice…

Comment by InthewaterDSM

ITW, I agree. Send this person a slice of pizza. Statistics show that vegans/vegetarians make up a very small percentage of Prius ownership. No Glen Beck? Surprising seeing as you are spouting off the same line of “conservative” bullshit as every other close minded anti-vegetarian. Seems like you would listen intently, hanging on his every word. Hell, I even listen to ole GB once in a while. I find it pretty entertaining. But you are probably a Palin follower, another actor.

Go throw a twist on that Gimlet and say hi to the Hen for me. And try to be a little less paranoid about the “Big Vegan Government” conspiracy.

Comment by locallygrown

Oh my bad, I should have “get back in your Suburu” instead of Prius, my apologies to Prius owners.
Oh, and no on Sarah Palin, though it may surprise you that I think Hillary was the best choice in the last election.

Comment by Pat Mearson

Wholly agree with you on the greatness of Red Rossa, and I love Fong’s spicy pineapple. Add to the list Centro and their coal fired oven.

When Trader Joe’s opens, you must try their frozen pizzas. They’re wood fired in Italy and shipped to the US. The crust comes out better than any other frozen pie, they have 3 or 4 veggie options including Buffalo mozzarella, and for $8 you can have yourself a whole pizza and a whole bottle of 3 Buck Chuck.

Comment by Jarad Bernstein

Did you know that the Gateway Market West (in the same neighborhood as TJ’s) location had a wood fired pizza oven? That probably would have been a good place to get pizza, before it closed. Too bad more people didn’t support that local place, and too bad the Gateway Market people dropped the ball so hard that they lost the faith of their customer base and ended up closing.

Comment by locallygrown

BTW, I was really skeptical of this Red Rossa place, but the restaurant referrer is a trusted friend…so I took the chance and was pleasantly surprised. I have been back…but I am also intrigued by that BBQ place next door…

Comment by locallygrown

I’ve had Centro leave cheese off my pizza. I’m not certain it’s 100% vegan, but it’s close enough for me.

Regarding the Mongolian grill issue, I have known some veg*ns who get ill if they eat something that’s come into contact with meat residue, even unknowingly. It doesn’t bother me personally, but I’m sympathetic to getting sick, as I would be for someone with food allergies. Though again, if they’re that sensitive, they probably shouldn’t go to such places.

For what it’s worth, at HuHots you can just tell the grillers that you’re a vegetarian, and they’ll clean off a section of the grill for you and use separate utensils.

Comment by Christa

Oh, and Papa John’s original crust is vegan, last I checked. You can ask that they leave the cheese off in the online ordering form.

Comment by Christa

I ate at Hu-Hot a number of times during my vegan days, and never became ill, even though the smallest hint of egg, stock, or fat would send me packing to the nearest rest room. That says a lot about how well the grill is able to be sanitized.

Centro’s crust and sauce are vegan.

Comment by locallygrown

In Ames, Vesuvius has vegan crust and sauce and they even have vegan cheese (Teese last time I was there, but I wish they would switch to Daiya). Also Black Market Pizza has vegan crust and sauce, but I heard a rumor they are closing.

Comment by Lindsay

Adam Richman tweeted that they’re in trouble: http://twitter.com/AdamRichman/status/24329478333

Comment by Jarad Bernstein

That’s interesting. It’s too bad they are in trouble but I’m not sure how the flood would have affected them. The location in Ames is nowhere near where the floodwaters were. I can see it hurting business for a few days (with the drinking water issue and transportation issues), but beyond that?

Comment by Lindsay

I don’t see anything on Vesuvius’s web site about the use of vegan cheese. Is that an off-the-record type deal?

Comment by locallygrown

its not on their menu afaik, you just have to ask. i only heard it about it through a rumor on twitter. the people who work there are very cool and accommodating. jeff’s pizza in ames also has vegan crust and sauce and also, wheatsfield coop has pizza 1 day/week and they always have a vegan option. ames>des moines for vegan pizza!

Comment by LindsayH

Fong’s is just not good pizza. It’s a fun gimmick, and I’m happy to grab a slice and a drink from time to time but it doesn’t seem like pizza. I heard a rumor that the building they’re in isn’t really zoned for what they want to use it for – which means that they cook the pizza in something like an easybake oven. Is that true?

Comment by Binx Bolling

Not sure how that could be the case, since they had a Chinese Restaurant there for 70 or 80 years before Fong’s.

As far as I know, from the staff, they have a standard pizza oven. Many bars and such around town do use things like this http://www.galasource.com/eurodib–concession/concession-equipment/countertop-ovens/ProdDesc-TORNADO-29234.aspx

But I don’t think Fong’s does.

Comment by InthewaterDSM

The pizza at Fong’s isn’t pizza? Easy Bake Oven? The building isn’t zoned for a restaurant? Well, my genius friend…It isn’t pizza compared to what? The Toaster Oven Method wouldn’t work with any kind of volume beyond one pizza at a time. And finally, if the building wasn’t zoned for being a restaurant, how would they have a license to serve food? I see you have done your research.

Comment by locallygrown

Also, when pizza is cooked in those “tornado” style ovens, the crust just doesn’t get the same crisp-ness as a standard oven. They do cook stuffs VERY fast, though. So,it’s good for taverns and pubs or SubWays.

I have often asked for a pizza “extra crispy” (crust crisp, but toppings not creamated) at Fong’s and had it delivered as such. A feat not really possible with the Tornado thingy.

Comment by InthewaterDSM

Confirmed this weekend that Fong’s does, indeed, use a standard pizza oven and nothing more.

In case it matters to anyone.

Comment by InthewaterDSM

Word to this blog, Sam. Not sure why I’ve been such a casual reader to this point. You’re in my feed now. – Phil

Comment by Phil K. James


Comment by locallygrown

We eat at Vesuvius in Ames as often as we can and love it! They do have vegan cheese, it isn’t listed on the menu, you have to ask for it.

Comment by Rachel

I know I’m late to the comment party, but I do love carrots.

A couple other notes on some comments:

Gateway Market West did have a wood-fired pizza oven, but that location is no longer open.

And I’m not sure about Fong’s zoning, but I do know that the Chinese restaurant that was there before it (King Ying Low), was grandfathered into current zoning laws, so when they had that grease fire it was too expensive to do the repairs/changes needed to get the kitchen up to code.

Comment by maria

Too expensive for the King Ying Low owners, but I suspect that wasn’t the case for “Half” Court Press.

I guess I could be wrong, but I would find it hard to believe if it were true. never been in the kitchen, but I did ask one of the owners about the ovens when they opened, and they do create a TON of extra heat in the small space when they are really pumping out the pies.

They told me they had a standard pizza oven with two “levels” like I have seen at most every pizza place I have ever seen the oven in.


Comment by InthewaterDSM

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