Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Johnny's Italian Steakhouse, Des Moines, IA

We recently had the pleasure of dining at Johnny's Italian Steakhouse in Des Moines, Iowa. What defines it as an “Italian Steakhouse”? Their website desscribe the origin as follows;
Growing up during prohibition and the Great Depression in the Valley Junction neighborhood of West Des Moines, Iowa, John Stamatelos often received 25 cents from government tax collectors in exchange for insider knowledge on the locations of his father’s illegal corn moonshine stills. Happily accepting the cash, the youngster would then lead the G-men astray to spots where stills were long since abandoned.
Stamatelos turned those quarters into seed money for converting his own house into Johnny’s Vets Club in December 1946. Since liquor by the glass was still illegal, he operated the club as a speakeasy. Playing host to community dignitaries and locals alike,
Meanwhile, another Johnny on the other side of town, Johnny Compiano, and his wife, Kay, opened Johnny and Kay’s Restaurant—a humble one-room dining area and bar. Compiano’s love for cooking started in New Orleans while serving in the Coast Guard, and his iconic Steak de Burgo soon become a nightly attraction. Aside from their mutual love of hospitality, both Johnnys laid claim to the best de Burgo in Iowa—one adhering to the Italian style of cooking with olive oil, while the other used butter, garlic, and heavy cream.

In 2001, Heart of America Group owner Mike Whalen created a modern-day tribute to the concepts fostered by Stamatelos and Compiano. Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse, with 18 restaurants in 9 States honors the same spirit of service and culinary flair as the storied gentlemen sharing this emblematic first name.

Johnny's Italian Steakhouse by the numbers: 13 appetizers (we explained to him that toasted Raviolis were invented in St. Louis), 11 pastas, 7 seafood dishes, 6 steaks, 4 soups, 3 chicken dishes and even more specialty items.

We started our dining experience by sharing a house salad. This Italian dressing salad was more than enough for two.

Three different people suggested I try “Johnny's Chanel No. 5”. I had to think twice about ordering something named after a French perfume at an Italian steakhouse, but I gave it a try. It is Lobster, shrimp, artichokes, prosciutto and cheese ravioli in a garlic cream sauce. Don't hesitate, go for it. It was delicious!

Sue had the Snapper Basilico, a red Snapper fillet, fresh basil, garlic, yellow and red cherry tomatoes, and shaved Asiago with a fresh red sauce. Again, an excellent entree.

Our server was a very attentive without being overbearing, even when he tried to convince to have dessert as he brought a tray of beautiful examples to entice us. Unfortunately for us, our entrees were huge portions that left no room for anything else!

The restaurant has an upscale ambiance with tables, leather booths, curtained private dining areas, an outdoor patio with a fire pit and a comfortable bar area. We thoroughly enjoyed our dining experience at Johnny's Italian Steakhouse.

For reservations and more information go to johnnysitaliansteakhouse.com

Monday, July 23, 2018

Nick's Bar and Grill, Des Moines, IA

Nick's Bar and Grill in the Des Moines suburb of Clive, Iowa is a great place to eat that reminds of the old Supper Club style of restaurant minus the relish platter. The restaurant side is paneled in hard woods with comfortable booths. The Bar side is also finished in hard woods and is a comfortable place to have a cocktail as well as a meal. There is patio seating as well.
Our waitress, Maureen,who has been there for more than a decade, was very pleasant and shared a few stories with us as well. She said it is known as a family restaurant where a lot of “deals” are made in the back room. I cautiously asked if she meant Mafia Family Deals and she laughed and said “no, just political deals”. It seems that Nick's is a favorite meeting place for well known politicians during the Iowa caucuses! The like of john McCain, Rand Paul and others have been known to meet in the private dining room to hash out their positions for upcoming elections.
Since 1996, Nick’s has been known in the Clive community for being the “go to” restaurant for a power business lunch or dinner. Our relaxed environment along with home cooked food and drinks at a very reasonable price is what has customers coming back on a regular basis.
The atmosphere at Nick’s is perfect for a quiet evening date. The dinner menu is filled with great tasting dishes, wonderful desserts and reasonably priced drink specials. I had a bourbon on the rocks and it came out as a double pour. Sue had a cranberry margarita martini and it was also a good sized pour.
We started with Sue having a house salad with blue cheese dressing. I had a cup of Southwestern style corn soup. Sue's main dish was the Linguini Carbonara with bacon, mushrooms and a cream sauce. It was a large portion and absolutely delicious. I had Pork Medallions in a mustard and sage Cream Sauce with a side of Cole slaw. The meat was so tender I cut it with my fork and the mustard/sage combination was perfection! I also had an IPA draft beer with dinner.
We were too full to even consider desserts as neither of us could finish all of our entrees.
Nick's Bar and Grill is fine dining at a very reasonable cost. Our total bill was only $58.00! we will definitely go back to Nick's Bar and Grill.
Nick's is located at 9769 University Ave. Clive, IA Phone 515 221 1338

Fly-Over-Country Dining

On our recent visit to Des Moines, Iowa we were fortunate enough to have stayed at the Renovo Hotel in Ubandale, Iowa, on the west side of Des Moines. Next to our hotel was the Machine shed restaurant.

The Machine shed is a farm themed restaurant “dedicated to the American farmer”. Serving locally sourced food items, it is true “down home”cooking that any farmer can be proud of.

The Machine shed serves breakfast, lunch and dinner with huge portions worthy of a group of thrashers! We had breakfast before we headed out to see the Iowa Living History Farms next door.

The Machine Shed is famous for its $13.00 breakfast buffet. I took one look and decided it was too much for me. It was huge display of breakfast favorites and I would have eaten way too much!

Our very pleasant waitress, dressed in bib overalls, was very efficient. We ordered from the menu and it took a while to decide what we wanted because there are so many delicious items to choose from. Sue had the cinnamon french toast made from their home made cinnamon rolls and served with a generous slice of country ham. I had the country breakfast, a country fried steak (you could also choose a pork chop or chicken) two eggs, and your choice of hash browns, country fries or cheddar potato casserole. I chose the country fries. It was all good!

The coffee was hot and tasty and no problems with refills on the coffee or water. In fact the water comes to the table in a large metal pitcher.

The Machine Shed is definitely a family restaurant with many extras, including a well stock gift shop with everything cast iron skillets and cook books on how to use them, novelty items, jams and jellies, fresh baked pies and cakes and more. There are even free tractor and wagon rides!

The Machine Shed has restaurants in Iowa, Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves at the one located at 11151 Hickman Road, Urbandale, IA 50322 P: 515.270.6818

Harbinger Restaurant, Des Moines, IA

“Harbinger: one that initiates a major change : a person or thing that originates or helps open up a new activity, method, or technology :”

Des Moines' Harbinger restaurant is the creation of Chef Joe Tripp and Restaurateur Jason Simon. Joe Tripp, a Des Moines native and graduate of the University of Iowa. He started in the kitchen of the famed Colorado restaurant Fruition. Upon returning home, he teamed up with Simon to run the kitchen at Alba and now has reached his stride with Harbinger for a bit over a year. He has earned three James Beard nominations for Best Chef Midwest. 
Chef tripp has traveled the world and Asian cuisine is his favorite style of preparation. This is how his creations are brought to your table at Harbinger. While not necessarily prepared from authentic Asian recipes, Chef Tripp has adopted the Asian style to locally sourced products which results in not only beautiful, but tasty dishes. The menu items are served as small plates, so you will most likely want to order at least three items

Sue had HAIKURI TURNIPS grilled over Thai fruit wood with Nasturtium, Buttermilk & Green Tomato Marmalade, ENGLISH PEA gnocchi inspired by mochi, House Ricotta, Pine Nuts, Snap Peas & their Tendrils, SPRING PEA FALAFEL steamed bun with Tzatziki Aioli, Cucumber & Sunchoke Chutney and a heirloom stacked carrot cake black walnuts,goat cheese and candied carrots. This was a beautiful and satisfying meal.

I had SMOKED SALMON bahn xeo, Cabbage, Dill & Cultured Cream. This was not unlike a crispy crepe, braised onion heart with Vietnamese barley and aioli and mint leaves and a VIETNAMESE MEATBALL steamed bun with Chili Glaze, Aioli & Cilantro. I finished off with a chocolate ganche with Vietnamese coffee ice cream and egg cream!

Chef Tripp also offers a five-course tasting menu that varies daily in items and price.

Harbinger is a unique destination for a special date and/or a great meal that will surprise you with presentation and taste.

For reservations and/or more information call 515.244.1314 or go to harbingerdsm.com


Thursday, July 5, 2018

Fine Dining at Old Kinderhook, Lake of the Ozarks

The 4th of July finds us at “America’s Best Recreational Lake” according to USA Today. We are staying at Old Kinderhook Resort and Spa and our 1st dinner was at The Trophy Room. Our table looked out over the Tom Weiskopf golf course and our server, Marika, made our evening that much better.

We started with a Flirty Fizz, Absolute vodka, cranberry juice and soda water, and a Citrus, Basil Manhattan, Makers Mark with muddled sweet basil, lemon and simple syrup
Next came the Caprese salad, fresh tomatoes, sweet basil and mozzarella. We asked for some Maytag blue cheese to top it off and it was fantastic.

Sue had the Twin Fillets, 4oz fillets with lump crab meat and a béarnaise sauce and broccolini. I had the 14oz strip steak with sautéed onions and a bourbon glaze with a baked potato and asparagus. We shared a tasting of white truffle / parmesan fries. WOW!

We looked at the dessert menu, and it was tempting, but we took a mulligan as we just couldn’t think about eating anything more.

Old Kinderhook is a very family friendly resort and the restaurant, golf course and more are open to the public. 

Our hotel room is very nice and this is a 5-star venue at a reasonable price. To learn more go to http://www.oldkinderhook.com.