Friday, December 20, 2013

Flying Mango - Chicken Creole

First time at Flying Mango. It's a very small, neighborhood restaurant in Beaverdale.

I had never had creole from a restaurant so I went with the Chicken Creole ($16?). I also was intrigued by their sides (which the creole does not include one) and went with the "Sweet Potato Pancake, with Mango sour cream ($5)." How can you pass on that?

The pancake in the back,spicy party in the front.

The pancake was intriguing...imagine a pancake made of sweet potato...very soft and sweet. It was good.

The creole was pretty spicy. Still an OK sized meal but not a ton considering how much it costs. The spice was pretty hot and very good. I've never had Caribbean food before and so I think by default, most things are spicy. I didn't see a warning about the spiciness but it was probably assumed. I love spicy so this was good with me. The entree came out pretty quick...even on a really busy night.

If you like spicy food and don't mind a pricier meal, this place is great. I thought the food was slightly overpriced but it was well done. The restaurant is pretty small and very busy at times. Fortunately, I made reservation. Any recommendations here?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Blue Door - Breakfast Blucy

In my search to find the best Juicy Lucy (cheese stuffed burger,  native to the MN area), I journeyed to The Blue Door in St. Paul, MN. The Blue Door has only been around a couple years but has become pretty popular within the area (especially amongst the hipsters) and has been on multiple food shows.The Blue Door calls their Juicies, "Blucy's".

I ordered the Breakfast Blucy, egg, cheese and really awesome bacon on top while it was stuffed with cheddar? cheese. It was a great burger,. I wouldn't say it was a better Juicy Lucy than The Nook's but it is probably the 2nd best Juicy I've had (better than Matt's Bar in MN and all the places I've tried in DSM).

Probably not the best pic ever but it's dark in there and the burger is huge.

The differences between this Juicy to The Nook's are the Blue Door: used a bigger bun, had a bigger burger and less cheese oozing out. They do have some nice options that The Nook doesn't have: add an egg on top, they have a unique burger combos that Nook doesn't have and their most famous burger is a regular burger with Peanut Butter on it (Jiffy Burger) which is pretty good.

The verdict: The Blue Door has amazing burgers and apparently cheap beer ($2 Draws at Saturday at 4pm). They are in an incredibly small location so plan to wait but if you are in the area, you should check them out if you like burgers and America (OK that's redundant). I still think the best Juicy lies at The Nook (see previous blog posts) but this is closest next best thing. I definitely want to go back to try some of their unique combos.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Mad Meatball

I saw a Groupon for a new restaurant in the neighborhood, Mad Meatball. I like trying new restaurants downtown and good deals with them so I scooped it up. They don't have a website so this link isn't that useful:
Mad Meatball is located next to Capital Pub and Hot Dog and I believe is under the same management/ownership. Basically, it is a dive bar that serves bar food. Meatballs apparently are their specialty but I ordered one of their pizzas that had a lot of toppings (don't remember which one but the only one with banana peppers on it). The menu isn't very big but contains a couple different pizza combinations and a few different types of traditional bar sandwiches.

Pretty much a bar pizza
The pizza wasn't bad, but it definitely wasn't anything amazing. Anything that combines meat, cheese and banana peppers will be good in my book. Two people can polish off their large pizza since it is pretty thin. I believe the Groupon was $10 for $20 so a pizza and a beer pretty much covers that.

Not much really to say other than I wouldn't go out of my way to go here and I definitely wouldn't go here without a Groupon (I believe they've already offered it a 2nd time and they haven't been open more than 2 or 3 months?). The food seems more like,"hey I'm 5 beers deep and kind of hungry now, oh here's a food menu" type of food.  Check it out and let me know if you found something worth going for.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Best of Chicago Edition

I was in Chicago for the Men's Health Urbanathlon with some friends. We may or may not have went out to eat...a lot! On this trip, I had some of the best food I've ever had including the best hot dog, cupcake, bacon and pasta. Now those aren't things that I eat a lot anyways but I also might have had possibly the best cheeseburger (close between them and The Nook's Juicy Lucy) ever.

Restaurant: Au Cheval

City: Chicago

Ordered: Single Cheeseburger (which ironically has 2 patties on it)
Recommendation: If you like cheeseburgers, bacon and America. Go there RIGHT NOW!

We stopped here for a late lunch. The recommendation we've heard is the BEST burger in Chicago. You know how that goes when you hear that...but whoever said that was serious. The burger tasted great but the meltiness of the cheese was perfect. The bun was big enough to hold the burger but its taste didn't get in the way of the burger. I ordered with bacon on top of it and that only things more perfect. My 2nd picture doesn't do the bacon justice but we all agreed it was the best bacon we've ever had. It was as thick as any slice of bacon you've ever seen and cooked to perfection --small amount of crisp on the outside and chewy and meaty when you bite into it. The restaurant is small, hipstery and dark. It seemed like a cool place to hang out though and I definitely plan to stop by again.

Restaurant: Hot Doug's

City: Chicago

Ordered: Steve Swisher -Sante Fe (Chicken Sausage dog)

Recommendation: Definitely check it out once before you die and if you enjoy a good hot dog. Don't come starving because there will probably be a wait.

 With all the hot dog places popping up in DM, it only made sense to try out a classic gem to see the standard. We had to wait in line an hour but to say I've been here, it was worth it. You could tell when every person left with a smile on their face, it was going to be good. One person even walked out sayin "it was like sex, but a hot dog." What else needs to be said?

This place has been around for a while and with how popular it was, it isn't going anywhere. You wait in line, you order one of the various options for a hot dog/sausage from Doug himself (who is hilarious), you wait a few minutes for it to and devour happiness. I ordered the chicken sausage and you can see in the 3rd picture how much flavor is inside of it. It has a nice zest to it. The toppings taste fresh and are prepared well. It's still a hot dog, but definitely the best hot dog I've had. Come here and order one or two of them.

Restaurant: Molly's Cupcakes

City: Chicago

Ordered:Choco-ccino (chocolate cappucino)

Recommendation: Go there if you are in the area and love cupcakes.

I don't go crazy for cupcakes but this was worth the hype that my friends were giving it. Molly's is a small cupcake shop that is only in a few locations around the world. They have several unique flavors and combinations so you can go back several times and have a new cupcake. This isn't something I usually cover in the blog but the presentation was amazing (see above). The cupcake itself tastes great and I loved that it came with chocolate covered coffee beans which I love. I am guessing these might be one of the best cupcakes in the world....but I am no expert on that. If you are in the area, check them out.

Restaurant: XOCO

City: Chicago

Ordered: Carnitas Salad? with Avocado lime dressing


Recommendation: Go there if you are in the area!


I would describe XOCO as an upscale latin/mexican restaurant. They seem to have a good reputation around their desserts (especially their churros). The churro is crispy enough on the outside but soft and gooey on the inside. It was light but flavorful. Not pictured was the Tres Leche cake which I shared with everyone- phenomenal! It was presented well (not overly wet) and was a light consistency still with a lot of flavor--not too sweet, just right! They definitely take desserts seriously.

I ordered the Carnitas salad which had avocado, tortilla strips and pork on it as well as a Avocado Lime dressing (recipe can be found at the link above) which just sounded awesome. The salad was good, everything was fresh and I liked the unique dressing. It was still just a salad but it was the right amount of hearty and light which is just what I wanted. Myself, I wouldn't go out of my way to go here but it was good and if you are looking for a place for an upscale dessert, this would be a great place to check out.

Restaurant: Paesano's

City: Richmond, IL

Ordered: Gnocci Vodka Cream w/ chicken

Website: Go there if you are in the area!

As you know, I am on a no-wheat kick so I thought potato pasta might be a good step to satisfy (kind of) that, plus I've never ordered restaurant Gnocchi. This was phenomenal! The pasta was perfect textured/softness and the Vodka cream sauce is now my favorite sauce; it's a great mix of tomato acidity with a creaminess that everyone loves. The restaurant is pretty popular in this small town but definitely worth swinging by if you are in the area. Think Latin King type atmosphere.

Restaurant: Lou Malnati's
City: Elmhurst, IL

Ordered: Sausage Chicago Style

Recommendation: Solid but don't go too far out of your way.

I love Chicago Style pizza and heard great things about Lou Malnati's. I've seen him various times on food shows so I HAD to try the pizza. We ordered a sausage pizza which is uniquely cut and flavored. The sausage was great, the crust was decent, the sauce tasted great and the cheese was good. On paper, this was a good pizza but I had really high (probably too high) of expectations and it just didn't quite live up to them. Because the sauce is so juicy, the bottom crust gets wet when the pizza is cut which a small mark against it. Other than that, it's hard to find things that I didn't like, there was just nothing that I LOVED about it. I feel like Felix and Oscar's is about as good as them. So I say, still check the pizza (recommend Sausage) out but don't put your expectations too high like I did.

What is your favorite Chicago dish? Which one of these places do you want to check out the most? How do you like the format of this post?

Monday, October 21, 2013


For those of you that love the DSM downtown Farmer's Market, you've probably come across Tacopocalypse which was a popular vendor for their unique tacos. I believe they also sell their tacos at Cumming Tap for the Tuesday Taco ride. Now they've decided to open up a small restaurant in the East Village. After a long day of working on a house with HYP (Habitat Young Professionals), it was time to check this place out.

So trying to stick with the "no wheat" diet, I thought I would try their shell-less taco. This essentially is meat with toppings on it. At face value, that sounds awesome but it isn't much food. Normally, a taco is $3 and 2 of $5. People were talking up the Korean chicken so I went with that. It was pretty tasty. Nice acidity/crunch with the cabbage and good flavor from the chicken (if I recall, there was a peanut buttery flavor to the chicken).

Korean Chicken Taco (w/out the shell)
Any normal human being would need at least 2 tacos to sustain them more than 45 minutes. A taco without a shell and having done manual labor all day (yes, very rare occurrence for me). It wasn't going to be enough for me so I decided to order a burrito.

Bacon Chicken Ranch Burrito
The burrito was very good and very filling. The ingredients tasted pretty fresh and the bacon chorizo was a nice flavor within the healthier chicken/veggies. This burrito actually tasted better than a typical chicken burrito you might get at a normal sports bar/restaurant but not quite Panchero's level. Still, it looks good and tastes the same. The fresh made tortilla chips were actually pretty good and unique. They were a little oily for my liking but very crisp and fresh.

I've always thought Tacopocalypse was a little overrated for all the hype they've received within Juice and amongst all the hipsters. The food here (especially the burrito) was pretty solid though. I definitely recommend checking them out. What's your favorite taco/item there?

Monday, October 14, 2013

Almond Flour Pizza

I've been trying a new element to my daily food routine: avoiding wheat. It hasn't been as difficult as I thought but I still eat it here and there. You eventually get sick of ordering chicken salads when you go to restaurants.

To eat foods that traditionally contain wheat, you have to find new ingredients to make breads/tortillas and pizza crusts. I recently purchased Bob's Almond Flour (10.99/lb) and Bob's Coconut Flour (9.99lb) from Hy-Vee's organic section. I rarely bake but I thought I would try to see how realistic it is for me to live a wheat free life. It is certainly more expensive up front but to feel better and be in better health (and avoiding medical bills later in life?) it could be worth it.

My first experiment with this endeavor was making Almond Flour Pizza Crust. The recipe is simple...even for someone like me that never makes any bread/crust from scratch.

Almond Flour Pizza Crust

Here are the results of the crust. Note this is a DOUBLE batch.

Another similar recipe:

A Tortilla recipe I will likely try next:

So as I said, I'm not experienced with making crusts but this wasn't too difficult. Of course, it doesn't look like a normal crust and I used a rolling pin to flatten it out. The crust probably was 1/8" thick so pretty thin. I made a double batch because I was feeding two and I wanted leftovers. Plus, a single batch looked pretty pathetic.

With some added toppings (2 cups of shredded cheese, crushed red pepper and 1 serving of turkey pepperoni):

Crispy and chewy at the same time

So everything tasted OK but the almond flour crust is very dense in texture and flavor. I don't think I could have made the crust much thinner though. To balance the flavor of the crust, you really need to add a lot of toppings and probably add some seasonings to the crust itself. I takes about $5.50 worth of flour to make this crust which is a lot relative to white flour or buying an already made crust (2 Mama Mary's crusts for about $5). Nonetheless, it was fun to experiment and I still want to try other Almond Flour/Coconut flour recipes. Next is the Almond Flour Tortillas linked above.

Anyone make a lot of non-wheat breads/crusts/tortillas/goodies? Throw some recipes/advice my way.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Wellman's West - Juicy Lucy

As you know, I have an unhealthy obsession for The Juicy Lucy (cheese-stuffed burgers native to the Twin Cities area). The Nook in St. Paul does them the best (see my previous posts on them or on Diner's Drive-Inns and Dives: DDD The Nook) but it's expensive to drive 240 miles for a burger so I am on a mission to find one comparable in the Des Moines area. I heard about Wellman's Juicy so I ventured west.

First of all, if you haven't been to Wellman's West, it's a pretty cool place and probably the best patio space that I've been to in DSM. That's tough for me to say since I don't like to travel further west than MLK.

So the burger.... it wasn't great. It was a little too crispy on the outside which is a problem since Juicies should be cooked to medium. The cheese was already gooing out the side so you can tell they didn't seal the burger well. I couldn't tell which cheese they used but it wasn't too bad. It seemed almost Velvetta quality instead of a real cheese. Despite all that, it didn't taste too bad. I would say it isn't a great replacement for a real Juicy but I've had worse. In their defense, I am holding to a very high standard since I am a snob when it comes to these burgers. Anyone heard of another place that serves these that I should check out?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Something Italian - Papa Luigi

One of my favorite spots to eat in the skywalk for lunch is "Something Italian." I usually go for the pizza, although the sandwiches are good (very bready though). My favorite slice is the one shown below, the Papa Luigi, which pretty much has everything on it.

Their slices are large, thin and have great quality ingredients (especially the veggies). I wish I still worked in the skywalk so I could stop there more often If you love Caesar salad, SI has the best! You get a nice deal if you get a slice and a salad.

Check out their menu. They also come to the Saturday Farmer's market with some breakfast pizza selections. What's your favorite thing from SI?

Yeah, not the best picture but this goes to show you their slices are so big, they don't fit in vertical camera shots.

Hotshots - Craft Hotdoggery

Three years ago, we probably had 0 hot dog eateries, we have 2 now. So I guess hot dogs are a "thing" now. I am OK with that though! I tried Hotshots, which is nestled on the ground floor of the Nationwide building," for the first time. Their menu has a pretty sophisticated combination of toppings with their dogs which impressed me.

The Steve McQueen - Cilantro FTW!
I went with the Steve McQueen which was an eclectic mix of Cincy chili, sour cream, cheddar cheese, cilantro and rice noodles on a beef dog. It is jam packed with toppings but surprising not all that messy to eat. They did a really good job stuffing their bun with the ingredients in a way where they wouldn't fall all over when take a bite. The sour cream and chili combined to make a really creamy/thick addition to the hot dog. The beef dog snaps when you bite it (as I am told a good hot dog should do) and it tastes great. I would say they are bigger than the Capital Pub dog and better quality. The rice noodles were an awesome addition to add some crunch to a meal that would have been very soft. I am a sucker for cilantro so this was obviously going to be a meal I would like. Overall, this is a very delicious, hardy dog.

I don't normally have an urge to grab a fancy hot dog AND I think this place is only open during lunch hour so I might not make it over there again for a while. Nonetheless, I would definitely order this dog again or check out a couple of their other intriguing combos. Your thoughts on this place? Thoughts on the hot dog movement in Des Moines?

Exile - Chick Bacon Avocado Sandwich

After the Arts Fest (yes I know that was a long time ago), I grabbed lunch with friends at Exile. I don't remember what it was called and it apparently isn't on their online menu but it consisted of Grilled Chicken, Avocado, bacon, on their awesome pretzel bread (with a side of Sweet Potato fries).

It tasted as good as it looked

This sandwich was awesome! I've only eaten at Exile 2-3 times and this was by far the best thing I've had. The chicken tasted really good and all the ingredients tasted fresh. The sweet potato fries weren't bad--I am guessing they are deep fried with a coating of brown sugar as they were sweet and very dark.

I really want to like Exile but it always seems like any trip I have there, something doesn't go right. This time, the service was incredibly slow. We did have a large party all with separate checks and she did apologize for the food taking a long time to get there but there were still long periods of time where we didn't see our waitress. Still, the food was good and I will keep coming back to support them. What is your favorite thing at Exile?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Bandit Burrito

Thanks to my Chuck a Puck luck  skill at the DM Bucs game, I won a $10 gift certificate to Bandit Burrito. It is essentially a Pancheros/Qdoba style place. I always wanted to try it and if you give me free money to any place that serves food, I am there.

One disappointment I had was it appears they use the same Mission brand tortillas you can buy at the store. Due to that, and the fact I was shooting for a lighter dinner, I went with a custom made chicken salad.

Chicken, Cheese, Black Olives, Corn Salsa, Pinto beans on lettuce & Spinach
I do like that it is locally owned and my food did taste good and decently fresh but it really wasn't anything special. If you live near there and really like this type of food, it might be worth trying but I don't live near here and I think Qdoba and Pancheros taste better. It pains me to not support a chain but just didn't seem worth it for me. Anyone else have a better experience?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Buddyz Pizza - McHenry Illinois

When in Chicago (or a 2 hour radius of Chicago), you have to make a stop for Chicago style pizza. A group of us trekked to McHenry, Illinois for just that at Buddyz Pizza.

After another day of athletic activities and boating, we were famished. Being hungry doesn't always mix well with the long wait times associated with ordering Chicago Style pizzas (45 mins) so we got an order of their onion rings (not pictured) which were awesome. I also had to take the recommendation of their locally brewed root beer which is made with 10% alcohol--holy hell it was good. It tasted exactly like a good root beer and you don't taste a bit of alcohol in it; but it is definitely in there.

There was 8 of us so we ordered 3 different specialty pizzas (only 2 of them pictured before). Chicago Fire, Wrigley Field and the Lake Shore Drive.

Hidden in this root beer is 10% Alcohol - not sold in stores

Chicago Fire- (Buffalo Chicken on Regular Crust)

Wrigley Field - Chicago Style
The Chicago fire is a buffalo chicken pizza. The regular crust was good quality but very crust/dough heavy for me which I didn't think melded well with a slightly bland topping combinations. I didn't think they packed much chicken on the pizza and the buffalo sauce didn't seem too strong. I do hold Buffalo Chicken pizzas at a high standard as I make it all the time, but I probably wouldn't order this again.

The Wrigley Field on the other hand was pretty awesome. Their Chicago style sauce is chunky tomato style as you can see in the picture above. It tasted exactly how it looked, delicious. Their sauce has so much flavor and all the toppings taste pretty quality. My only regret on this visit is not having a bigger appetite to put down more Chicago style pizza--I would go there again today if it weren't 5 hours away.

I love Chicago style pizza and really like Felix and Oscar's in Des Moines. I would still like to check out Lou Malnati's in Chicago, which has been featured on a couple Food Network shows. What's your favorite pizza in your city?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Royal Mile - Guinness Stew Edition

I am way late in posting this but I finally took a friend's recommendation and got the Guinness stew. The Royal Mile is suddenly turning into one of my favorite places to eat. I have so many more things to try there but I finally knocked this one off the list.

Guinness Stew
sirloin tips, potatoes, peas, carrots and pearl onion simmered in a broth made with Guinness stout.

So I grew up loving soup. my favorite were Alphabet Soup and Vegetable Beef. This soup is basically a grown up version of Vegetable Beef with some really good meat and throw on some cheese. I also grew up eating chunks of roast beef and not really liking it but the way they do beef, is amazing. The broth isn't runny but it isn't too thick, it's perfect. I would definitely would order this again. This is as Winter comfort food as you get.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Hessen Haus - Hunter's Pizza

Many people don't think of the Hessen Haus for more than boots and beers but they have a decent menu. Even more strange is that they make pizza and it is amazing. This was the first time I tried their pizza and I went with..

Hunter’s Pizza
golden crust topped with a unique combination
of duck, wild boar sausage, roma tomatoes,onions and
mushrooms, arranged on a base of spicy alfredo sauce,
topped with muenster and asiago cheeses 12.99

Lots of unique ingredients but they go so well together. I don't have the most sophisticated palette so it is hard to identify the duck vs boar but I felt like you mostly taste the boar of the two; which is great because it tasted awesome. The pizza had great texture and the right thickness of crust. The tomatoes added the right amount of acidity with all the creamy flavors. I would definitely order this again. What do you order when you eat at The Haus?

Friday, June 28, 2013

CABCO - Reuben

Decided to take my dad out for an early Father's day dinner, his choice was Court Avenue Brewing Company. Crafted beers and solid pub food so you can't really go too wrong. I ordered the...

Black &Tan Reuben
Double decker sandwich, with corned beef, sauerkraut, swiss & 1000 island. 10.99

This was the first time I'd ever ordered a Reuben...ever. It was pretty good--very much like my favorite sandwich in Des Moines (The Earl of Sandwich at Royal Mile). They both have awesome corned beef and a nice soft warm gooey sandwich taste to them. The sauerkraut isn't overpowering which is awesome so there was a nice balance of flavors between all the ingredients. Something that was surprisingly awesome was the side of Crispy Red Potatoes. Holy hell those were good.

The service was good and they have a patio so you can't beat that this time of year. I go back and forth as to whether I like CABCO for food. I never leave unhappy but it isn't in my first 3 choices when I am choosing a place to eat. It is definitely a solid place though. What's your favorite thing from CABCO?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Rooftop - BBQ Chicken Flatbread Pizza

The Rooftop is a patio bar that opened up a year or so ago on top of House of Bricks. I've been there a couple times for drinks and it is an amazing setting for a drink. Some friends and I were checking out the EV and needed a snack. Little did I know, they serve food there so we stopped in.

We knew we were going to have an early dinner so 4 people split two of their flat bread pizzas. I chose the BBQ Chicken Flat bread...

It was really good. Of course, a flat bread pizza isn't going to be the same doughy/filling pizza we've grown up with so you cannot compare them to normal pizzas. I haven't ordered a lot of flat bread pizzas but this one was definitely tasty. Perfect crispiness and the toppings were amazing--especially the chicken. Very light and perfect for what we were looking for.

The big knock on our trip was the service was really slow (and there wasn't very many people at the restaurant) and the food took a while to get to us. I've never served food at a restaurant so I try not to be too hard on servers as I am sure it can be a tough job. The fact of the matter is, we conversed more about how bad the service was than the awesomeness of the food. Hopefully, it was just a fluke instance because this is a really cool place that I want to continue to support.

I didn't find a website for them but they have a Facebook page and an entry on this site...

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Buzzard Billy's Cajun Club

It had been a while since I last stopped over to Buzzard Billy's (my first ever food related blog post was about there and that was the last time I visited) so I was long overdue. It was a humid first day of summer but a great one to sit out on their patio and relax with a couple beers. We even tried their Buffalo Ranch wings. They weren't bad but not spicy nor ranchy and very messy.

Buzzard Billy's has a really nice selection of indoor seating with some nice TVs to choose from. I received pretty good service both times I've been there. For this trip, we had one of the coolest servers ever, especially compared to the really terrible service we received for lunch that day. Their beer menu is huge and so is their food menu. I went with the...

After I got my order, the waiter said I probably got their best sandwich. It was pretty good with the seasoned bacon and bread. The bread was definitely grilled with an ample amount of butter on it and had a perfect soft sandwich texture to it. It had a little gooey-ness that I like from the cheese and aoili. I feel like I should have liked this sandwich more but it wasn't bad. It came with a side of wedge fries which are really crispy and seasoned (awesome) and hush puppies. The hush puppies weren't bad but the only other HPs I've had were from Long John Silver's and these tasted pretty different. Then again, I am guessing LJS isn't the source for the best HPs in America.

So the food was solid and the service was great. The menu has so many things I want to try on it so I definitely plan to go back. I recommend checking them out but skipping the wings. What are your recommendations for Buzzard's?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Zombie Burger - Envy Corpse

One, Spring evening this year, it didn't rain (can you believe that?) and I took Dr. Joe Brady out to Zombie Burger for his first experience. Of course, there was a wait but it wasn't too bad. As you know, I've felt ZB has been a little overrated but it is an experience everyone should check out once. Finally, I found a really good burger...

Envy Corpse | 8.29 | 10.29 | 12.29
pepper jack cheese, pulled pork, ham, salsa, fried jalapenos, red onion, chipotle mayo

I say I found a really good burger, but really I found a sandwich that had really awesome meat on it. The combination of toppings are right up my alley but the pulled pork and ham that were on this burger were really amazing. So amazing that they would warrant their own sandwich without a burger. In all honestly, the burger got pretty drowned by the other flavors. This burger is a little pricier also which is another downside. Still it did taste good. I would recommend anyone to try this burger just to try the amazingly flavored meats. This is probably the best burger I've had here.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Gusto Pizza - El Mariachi

For lunch, I decided to grab some pizza at Gusto Pizza Co. on Ingersoll & MLK. It is a quick drive to the edge of downtown so you can get there and back to the office in about 15 mins driving. Savings alert: if you have an entertainment book, there are a couple coupons for Gusto in 2013's book; part of the reason I decided to go with them for lunch. I've had a couple of their pizzas but I went with a new one this time...

El Mariachi
Ancho chile lime sauce, mozzarella, Chorizo sausage, black bean-corn salsa, red onion and cilantro

Per usual, had to eat first before I documented my research
It tastes like sophisticated Taco Pizza. All the ingredients make an appearance in your mouth and you can tell that they use fresh ingredients. Likely a big reason why Gusto was named best pizza in Des Moines by Cityview's readers.

I've had a couple of their specialty pizzas before and they were all good. They do have a lot of UN-traditional ingredients--at least compared to that of the commercial pizza that is usually served. I still might steer away from some of the combinations but the ones I've chosen I have enjoyed.

I am throwing this in the class of Taco pizza and I rank this only slightly behind Happy Joe's Nacho Joe pizza and Casey's taco pizza. This one definitely deserves to be in the conversation for best taco pizza. What is your favorite pizza?

Thursday, May 23, 2013 - Healthy Breakfasts and Protein Bars has some pretty nice recipes for healthy breakfasts. Some of their recipes use some ingredients that I am not sure exist in Des Moines; so I stuck with these recipes.

Egg White Puffs:

Pretty healthy and tasty if you like those ingredients. It took me about 16 of the 20 servings from the tall container of egg whites (32oz container) to fill up. I like to throw a couple on a tortilla after my workout so I can get eggs in the morning without having to cook each morning.

Here is a link to the original recipe:

Nutrition Facts
Recipe yields 1 serving
Amount per serving
Calories 372
Total Fat 6 g
Total Carb 45 g
Protein 33 g

Cottage Cheese Pancakes:

Makes about 3 and a half medium pancakes
I am not huge on pancakes but wanted to try this out since I had the ingredients. They mostly looks like thinner pancakes but they taste ok. You don't get the fluffiness of pancakes but they aren't a terrible substitute. The inside tasted like creamy mashed bananas while the outside has a similar texture of pancake "crust" but with some egg white in it. Just be careful with the syrup or you can negate the benefits of eating this.

 Here is a link to the original recipe:

Nutritional Info Per Serving (makes two servings)
Calories: 282.5
Carbs: 39g
Fat: 7.5g
Protein: 20.5g

 Homemade Protein Bars:
 I started making these because protein bars are expensive and supposedly Soy Protein isn't great for you--the jury seems to still be out on that though. This recipe is ridiculously easy and doesn't taste bad. It essentially turns out to be a protein version of a No Bake cookie. Now these don't usually harden up as much as I would like but for a quick morning snack before my workout, it gets the job done.

Combine in large mixing bowl:
3 Cups Oatmeal
1/2 Cup Natural Peanut butter
1 cup Skim Milk
4 Scoops Protein Powder
dash of cinnamon

Mix until a sticky batter is formed (may take a few minutes). se a large spoon to spread out the mix into the bottom of a Pam-sprayed glass or metal cooking tray (spread until even),top with 4-8 packets splenda, put in the fridge overnight and cut into 8 equal bars that yield:

Nutritional Info Per Serving (makes 8 servings)
11g fat (good monounsaturated fats)
26g carbs
21g protein
285 calories

Link to thread where I pulled this from (has quite a few other recipes on it).

Thursday, May 9, 2013


Django is a french restaurant in the western part of downtown. It is what I like to call: Des Moines Classy....meaning it is nice place to eat but you probably won't be judged for wearing t-shirt and jeans. They feature an extensive wine and cocktail list along with a wide ranging menu. Wide ranging in that it has some upscale entrees mixed in with pizza, sandwiches and burgers.

George’s Garden Chicken Salad Seasonal greens, tomato, cucumber, red onion, bacon, bleu cheese, hearts of palm and grilled chicken breast with buttermilk herb dressing

After being on a restaurant food bender, I had to get something a little lighter. It certainly isn't the lightest salad as it is covered in dressing and blue cheese but it was decent. The chicken wasn't anything to write home about but everything else tasted fine. It wasn't a very memorable salad for me but there wasn't much wrong with it either. I don't know that I will look to order it again but I don't think I would steer anyone away from it. That might be the least opinionated food description every, right?

My Django recommendation would be Le Royale with Cheese..(White Chedder Cheeseburger with a fried egg on top). Probably a top 3 burger in Des Moines.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Fong's - Bacon Cheeseburger edition

Fong's has always been one of my favorite pizza places since it opened up a couple years ago. They have great ingredients to go along with their creative specialty pizzas. They also have an amazing mixed/tiki drink menu and a fun atmosphere. The only knock on the place is it needs to be about twice the capacity.

Bacon Cheeseburger:

ketchup & mustard blend, ground beef, bacon, onion and pickle with a blend of mozzarella and cheddar, topped with lettuce and tomato

Plain, simple but awesome. It tastes just like a bacon cheese burger. The bacon quality is actually very meaty instead of the burned, "Baco-y" type bacon bits you get on some pizzas. The pizza actually comes with lettuce and tomato too but this was a to go order so they put it on the side. This is the second time I've had this pizza and I would definitely get it again. I've had almost every pizza at Fong's and it is hard to differentiate them because I've enjoyed all of them (except the Loaded Baked Potato). Some of the specialty pizzas can be a little crazy but if you want to try one of their specialty pizzas without going out of your pizza comfort zone...this would be your best bet.

My favorite pizza at Fong's would be the Big Delicious. All their ingredients are pretty quality and even though it is a place with crazy combinations--they do a good job making their pizza actually taste good instead of relying on wow factor. I also recommend the Pizza Rolls appetizer. What is your favorite Fong's pizza?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The High Life Lounge - Manly Edition

Out with the co-workers after work, we wanted to go to Zombie burger but due to their ridiculously long wait,we decided to "settle" for the High Life Lounge; which really isn't settling at all since everything on their menu is good.

I was going to keep it simple and get their club sandwich, then some strange urge of spontaneity came upon me and I decided to order....The High Life Man.

The High Life Man
a 1/4 lb. burger, an italian sausage patty, three strips of bacon, swiss and american cheese, grilled onions and jalapenos, mayonnaise and bbq sauce. and topped with a powered doughnut

I am now a High Life Man!
Yeah, this burger is ridiculous. Probably the most ridiculous combination of items put together on a burger that I've had, but it was pretty damn good. The beer was definitely talking because I decided to get an order of tots on the side; oh and I decided to eat the entire burger. I do NOT recommend eating the whole burger in one sitting unless you are cool with having a food coma for about 2 days. It isn't the best burger sandwich but there was nothing bad about it. The bacon on it was probably the best part because it was thick and very flavorful. I just had this burger two nights ago but I still don't know how to explain it. It is an experience you must try; I recommend it in two takes and not all at once.

A couple of the people in my party had the broasted chicken and mentioned it was the best piece of chicken they ever had. I've had the burger basket which is simple, good and cheap. The chicken pot pie is rich and amazing-maybe the best thing I've ever had there. It is between that or the meat loaf sandwich. What is your favorite High Life meal?

Friday, April 26, 2013

Tasty Freaking Tacos.

So just about everyone in Des Moines has had Tasty Tacos so this post won't be breaking any new information. I have never heard of anyone who didn't love their meal from there. There isn't much I can say about TT other than it has to be the best taco I've ever had (sorry grandma). The other menu items aren't bad but you really have to have their tacos before you can try to graduate to anything else. The chicken is seasoned just right and the steak is pretty juicy--those are my two recommendations.

2 chicken tacos made by Jesus...or Jesús

So I don't know what you want me to tell you about this place that you don't already know. If you are traveling through Des Moines....stop here--and eat as many tacos as you can. What is your preferred TT menu item?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Royal Mile

The Royal Mile is an English pub that serves a ridiculous assortment of European beers...and apparently some pretty good food. I've also enjoyed The Mile because of the laid back drinking environment and the amount of seating within the 2 story bar; the upstairs being a separate bar named The Red Monk.

Before this year, I don't know that I had eaten there. But in the '13, I've actually eaten there a couple time.

1st meal:
Rotti Chicken
spice marinated chicken, peanut chili cabbage and cucumber mint sauce wrapped in a warm naan pita

With a side of roasted vegetables
I am a huge fan of naan and this pita didn't disappoint. The bread was awesome as well as the items inside of it. You would normally eat this like a taco but I had to open it up so you could see the inside. The pita was awesome and a very unique flavor. Almost too sophisticated for my palette but I definitely enjoyed it.  The roasted veggies were pretty fresh but tasted pretty oily--still very good though. I probably won't get this again but that's in large part because of their huge menu.

2nd meal:
The Earl Of Sandwich (house Special)
a triple decker of turkey, ham, corned beef, bacon and swiss cheese served on thick-cut rye with sweet chili aioli, lettuce, grilled onion and tomato

I enlarged this picture as big as I could so you could see all the goodness inside. This is a probably in my top 5 sandwiches in Des Moines. Tons of phenomenal meat, gooey cheese and crisp but soft bread make this a very comforting sandwich to eat. Oh yeah, the sandwich is monstrous also. I finished it for some reason, but it is definitely enough to split into two meals as it comes with your choice of a side. I don't eat much corned beef, but I have to venture a guess that this corned beef might be tops in Des Moines (they feature it on a couple other sandwiches as well). Seriously, you HAVE to order this sandwich.

What is your favorite food at The Mile?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Capital Hot Dog & Pub

Gourmet Hot Dogs you say? Here is a small restaurant/bar on the outskirts of downtown and the south side. I've been here a couple times and the hot dogs are decent. They do have turkey dog and vegan dog options which are nice.

The best thing about the place is the creativity of the hot dogs. The hot dogs themselves are decent, I wouldn't say they are must haves but the combinations with other toppings are pretty awesome. Also, a good place for some cheap beer. Unfortunately, it isn't a very big bar and it gets pretty loud in there. Still a cool place to check out if you haven't been there.

Capital Pub & Hot Dog

Fiesta Dog
Nacho Dog

Sunday, March 31, 2013


In the continuing series of south side eating I've done, I had to make a stop to Baratta's or I wouldn't have been able to look at myself in the mirror. It's hidden in the neighborhood of the south side but well worth the search. Probably the best Italian Food in Des Moines for its price range. The only Italian food I've had that is better is Sam and Gabe's and it is pretty pricey. To make Barattas an even better value, they have a Dinner Duo special for $20 on M-Th which gives a ridiculous amount of awesome food for a pretty good price. I absolutely recommend you check that out.

Menu and site at: Barattas

I had never ordered the Chicken Parm and spaghetti so I chose that. I don't think I've ever ordered that at any restaurant before so I have no basis of comparison but I know it tasted great. With the Onion Ring appetizer (which tasted almost as good as La Pizza House's Onion Rings), huge side salad and a 22oz Ruthie, I was pretty much done for before the Parm came out. Still, I had a couple bites and the chicken breast was huge and juicy. Very good breading but not too dry. The sauce and spaghetti was also very good for simple spaghetti. I love my sauce thick and their saucy was not runny at all. They don't mess around there.  Since I had so much for leftovers, I actually made a chicken parm sandwich breakfast for one meal and had the rest of the spaghetti for another meal.

Got the Onion Ring appetizer and a Ruthie from Exile.
Chicken Parm and Spaghetti...great leftover for breakfast.a

Note, that you can also get a soup instead of the salad and I've heard amazing things about the Pepper Cheese soup AFTER I ordered the salad.I definitely plan to try the soup next time. What is your favorite Italian restaurant?

Friday, March 15, 2013

El Aguila Real

As far as Mexican food goes, I admit that a lot of the restaurants in Des Moines taste similar to me...delicious! One of my favorite places though is Aguila Real in Beaverdale. Like most of the other restaurants, they are quick, cheap and good. They moved to a bigger location across the street from their old building a couple years back which I feel hurt the quality of the food a little bit (or it could be I don't delicious greasy Mexican food like I did in college). It is still good but I don't feel like it is as good as it was when it was in the small Long John Silver's building.

Normally, I get the chicken nachos which are the best in Des Moines (yes I've compared them to other Mexican restaurants before) but I thought I would switch it up. I got the #3 on the lunch menu which is a chicken enchilada, rice and a chicken taco.

Enchilada, rice and a taco
I rarely get combos but I enjoyed this one. It was a ton of food, but not overly greasy so I didn't feel miserable. I still don't know if any restaurant can beat the enchiladas my family and I make  but this one wasn't too bad. The taco was pretty crisp but it didn't shatter like shrapnel when I bit into it. I have always liked their chicken and I normally don't like the grainy beef that most of the Mexican restaurants have so I recommend chicken or steak for meats.

The combo is probably a better meal than the chicken nachos which are slathered in cheese sauce atop a huge bed of carbs. Probably the healthiest thing to eat at a Mexican restaurant would be chicken fajitas and skip out on the tortillas--and Aguila's are very good. What is you favorite Mexican restaurant?

Monday, March 11, 2013


I stopped over to the B&B: The Home of the Killer Sandwiches which, fortunately, is down the street from me. I've been coming here since I was 4 years old and not much has changed....which is good because they are doing things right. B&B has won tons of awards from Cityview for their sandwiches and has been featured on a couple shows such as: Outrageous Food and Bizarre Foods w/ Andrew Zimmer. Those shows probably don't do them justice because while they have some big sandwiches, they should be commended on the quality of the food.  Check out their site and menu here: B&B

Since I had the day off, I decided to stop over for lunch with Chris and his daughter Mara. I always like to try something new but I couldn't bring myself to try the Quadzilla because I knew I had to be alive the rest of the day. I had the spicy breaded chicken sandwich and it was really good as the chicken was juicy and the breading was tasty but light enough to not dominate the meat. I am not sure a better sandwich bun exists, they are soft and melt in your mouth like cheese.

Breaded chicken, pepper jack cheese, veggies, mustard and epic bun!

Mara loved the grinder but ordered the ham and cheese.
Most people on the south side know about this place and if you follow the top eateries in Des Moines, you probably have heard of B&B. It's definitely a must check out place if you like sandwiches or need to pick up some fresh deli meats. Fortunately, it's close enough to downtown to grab a bite over lunch so check it out. What is your favorite sandwich there?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Manhattan Deli...and others.

My apologies for not posting for a while. I have definitely been out to eat to places such as: Sam & Gabe's,  A Dong and El Salvador, I just have totally forgotten to take pictures. Quick reviews on those restaurants:

Sam & Gabe's- Best Italian Food in Des Moines...slightly edging out Baratta's (although Baratta's might be the better value of the two). I've been here twice and almost cried because the food was so good. I plan on buying a Groupon for this place EVERY time one is available.

A Dong- Very solid Vietnamese food...I've only had Saigon Cafe before for Vietnamese but it was good. By no means am I an expert though.

El Salvador Del Mundo- Authentic and tasty Salvadorean food. The pupusas there aren't quite as good as the ones at the Farmer's Market but they are about 1/3rd of the price. You could taste the hand-craftedness (word?) in the Corn Tamales. Very inexpensive place to eat (just north of the east side Gino's)

Today's feature restaurant, which I actually remembered to take a picture at, is Manhattan Deli. It is a small deli located on Ingersoll that has a pretty good reputation. You can tell that with how busy they are around lunch time. I first found this place about 5-6 years ago and it has been one of my top places to go for lunch since. Right after I leave, I look forward to the next time I get to go.

The only cons to M.D. is that it is a little bit outside of downtown and they only take cash. Otherwise, they have some of the best sandwiches in Des Moines. This is my top 2 sandwich place in Des Moines (it's tied between them and B&B on the south side).

Probably their most popular sandwich (and my favorite) is the Zach Johnson--named after the 2007 Masters winner AND greatest golfer to ever come out of Drake University (yeah Bulldogs!). Unfortunately, I can't link to their menu since they don't have one online but is has various deli meats, lettuce, tomato, Oil & Mayo (which I replaced with mustard...damn you health conscientiousness). Seems like nothing crazy but the version with the Oil & Mayo is phenomenal. This is my recommendation and I have heard the same from many others.

A great athlete deserves a great sandwich - The Zach Johnson

The "Warm Cheese" for the vegetarian...that doesn't like meat.

Seriously, find a way to make it there soon. They now have extended hours to be open during dinner time and they are open Saturdays so you have no excuse. I didn't find their website but here is their FB page.

What's your favorite sandwich in Des Moines?