Thursday, April 14, 2011


I know, I know, I am a serious slacker these days....even with all my free time I've had lately. The reason I haven't been actively updating this blog is two-fold. First of all, I honestly haven't been anywhere new lately. I've been trying not to go out to eat as much. And the reason being the second part of my excuse, I've been writing bakery reviews for another website, My money and my stomach have been committed to something other than a complete meal since I started writing at the end of last month. I've reviewed five bakeries so far and I'm enjoying it. As a baker, I enjoy seeing how different people interpret the classics and also how they translate themselves into their building decor. This experience has been so far very educational for me because I would like to open my own bakery one day, possibly even in this area. Exploring all the bakeries and their products allows me to essentially see who my competition will be.

However, with all that being said, I do have one new restaurant I visited that I would love to tell you about. With my birthday being last week, I was treated to a very delicious dinner at a place I have never even seen, let alone heard of. It's a place in Beaverdale called Christopher's and I highly recommend trying it out. The food was delicious. We arrived at about 8:30 on a Thursday night and were seated in the dining area that was quite full considering the time. I ordered the steak de burgo with mashed potatoes and a side salad. While we waited, we also enjoyed the bruschetta. It was good but not at all what I was expecting. The bread was cut quite thick and was not at all crunchy but the topping was very good (with melted fresh mozz) and they even provided a garlic oil dip. The side salad was good but the house italian dressing was much too thick, resembling and tasting too much like mayonnaise. The fresh bread was superb with a spread of butter or the above mentioned garlic oil. When my meal arrived I was hesitant as the size seemed quite small to me. However, after eating about half of it, I realized it was plenty. The meat was not melt in your mouth tender but still very delicious. The garlic herb sauce on top permeated through the meat and gave it so much more flavor. The mashed potatoes were only lukewarm and not flavorful at all.

Overall the food could definitely be improved in some aspects (mashed potatoes, bruschetta & italian dressing), I left overall pleased with the restaurant's service and would give it another shot in the near future. Prices are more than average but for a special occasion, I think it's worth the extra money.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Pueblo Viejo (and) Monterrey

I apologize for my absence. My stomach needed a break from eating out at all these new restaurants. Since my last post I have been to two new places: Pueblo Viejo off of 14th street and Monterrey in the strip mall across the street from Wal Mart in Altoona. Both these visits went off without a hitch. Pueblo Viejo is actually a restaurant I went to back in high school with my spanish class, but at the time it was called Plaza Mexico. Same owners and everything, just a new name now. I ordered the carne asada and was so hungry I was sure I would finish it all. However, after eating only half of the meat I was full (as is my usual). It's also important to note that they have really good chips and salsa here.
Later on I visited a place I've been driving by for years and years, Monterrey. Though it was 1pm when I arrived, the place was busy and remained so until we left at 2:30. Chips and salsa were good here as well- we finished two baskets! Service was quick yet not so much so as to bother us with many interruptions. After ordering it literally only took five minutes for our food to be placed in front of us (we had easy items). I ordered the taquitos con pollo and they were burning hot. SO GOOD with moist shredded chicken! My friend who accompanied me always has difficulties receiving the right food when we go out- but this time everything was correct and perfect. Definitely will be stopping in, especially as prices are INCREDIBLY great here, especially around lunch!

Oh, and sorry- I didn't take pictures at either place.... I was much too hungry :-)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Taqueria Sonora

The other day I was doing my daily scouting for restaurants on Metromix and stumbled across Taqueria Sonora. I looked at the map of where it was located briefly and then ran out to meet a friend. Later in the day after running some errands, we were trying to think of a Mexican restaurant near where we were (in Windsor Heights). We started driving south, at first towards Plaza Mexico on 14th but on the way we found the very place I had read about that day- so we stopped. It's off of 63rd street between Val Air Ballroom and Valley Junction. Once inside we were seated in a raised booth near the windows. We were asked if we wanted chips and cheese and we didn't refuse. The first item to reach our table was a plate with three salsas (verde, pico, habanero), and a few slices of cucumber and radishes. We ordered our beverages and then received the chips and salsa + cheese dip when we placed our orders. The salsa was pretty good, as were the chips....but the cheese dip was just plain bad. We used the salsa provided and finished most of our chips before our food arrived. Talk about small tacos! I wasn't that hungry so I only ordered two of the beer battered fish tacos and I'm glad I did- the corn tortillas are less than 4 inches in diameter (which would be fine but they were 3.50 each)! While we weren't too happy about the portion size, my fish tacos were delicious! So flaky and hot and just perfect. The sliced cabbage on top was okay but they could have jazzed it up by making an awesome spicy coleslaw.

The service was very minimal here which was surprising with how not busy they were. We waited at least 15 minutes with no food left in front of us and no check yet. When we did get our bill we were VERY surprised to see we were charged for chips and cheese/salsa. Not sure if it was because of the inedible cheese dip or if chips and salsa is always charged ($4)! Then, on top of that they basically force you to leave a 15% or greater tip and also ask you to fill out a survey about your experience. We left with happy stomachs and unhappy wallets.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Cafe Fuzion

I'm starting to realize that while my quest for good food is a nice goal, there will be casualties along the way. And by coming across those casualties one part of me will suffer the consequences- my stomach. Two months ago I went to the hospital after eating at Buffalo Wild Wings and Chili's (both places I have avoided like the plague since) but they couldn't blame it on the food, instead saying it was just the flu. Nonetheless I made it a point to eat out as little as possible and cook at home instead. This plan worked until I decided to do this, that is, make a list of restaurants I've never been to and write about them. While the restaurant visits preceding this one left me feeling entirely in good health, this one did not.

Hidden in a strip mall behind Walgreens on 14th street is a super tiny restaurant called Cafe Fuzion. Upon entering, we waited a few minutes as the server was also the busser and the hostess. I decided to order something new so I got the "furious" stir fry with chicken. I almost opted to add more spice but after talking to the waitress, we decided I could get a side of chili pepper sauce if I needed to. When we got our plates, the food was lukewarm (same with my friends'). As someone who likes to burn my tongue on the temperature of my food, I was instantly disappointed. I kept my mouth shut (figuratively) though because I hate being a nuisance in a restaurant. The spice level on the food was intense and grew with every bite. At the end I had to constantly drink my water and alternate with the rice provided. The flavors were great, though a little soupy. After I finished eating all the meat off my plate, I noticed that the sauce had settled and I could see the oils separating.

While I didn't mind the smallness of the restaurant, the food was good- just missing the target on a few important points (temperature, sauce). Also, that night and the next day my stomach was not too happy with me, but that's mostly my fault.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Drake Diner

I've been going to this specific area of Des Moines for about two years now and have only spotted this stylish diner once. It's an establishment that has been around for years, serving this university campus area and beyond with simple yet good diner food. Upon entering, we were greeted with bright lights, shiny decor, and a full restaurant (which is a good thing). My friends and I went at 7pm on a Friday night so we didn't expect anything less. After waiting a few minutes, we were seated in a booth and started perusing the  very large menu. So many decisions! Did I want breakfast, a sandwich, a blue plate special, or a standard burger? And then, did I want soda or a shake? Far too many difficult decisions to make while one hasn't eaten all day. But I finally decided on a soda and the classic cheeseburger with monterrey jack and onion rings. Our server was either overloaded or not properly trained. He had to come back a few times to repeat our orders. We also had to flag him down for ketchup and refills.

Normally when I go out to restaurants I eat half my meal and take the rest home for leftovers. NOT the case here, but that's because I was hungry. My burger was delicious. The only minor complaint I have is that the bottom bun was far too thin for such a hefty burger. It absorbed all the beef juice and was harder to handle. The onion rings were disappointing to me. I don't believe any salt was used in the cooking process and the onions had no actual onion flavor!  My friend ordered the sweet potato fries and they were good- wish I would have ordered those instead. My other friend ordered a shake and it arrived about five minutes into her meal. We thought they had forgotten about it, but apparently it takes 20 minutes to make a shake (in this case).

While both the service and the food could be improved on greatly, I will be stopping in again (and probably again).

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Red Rossa Napoli Pizza

I recently heard about Gusto Pizza Co. opening it's doors and it got me thinking....what other pizza places are there around here (and I'm not talking about Pizza Hut or Papa Murphy's)? I went to the Metromix website and searched under restaurants by cuisine and sure enough, pizza is apparently its own cuisine! I wanted something in the Clive area, as that was where I was spending the day, and had it narrowed down to two places: Red Rossa Napoli Pizza or Paradise Pizza Cafe. I chose the first one purely based on proximity and went later in the day, right about 1pm. It's off of University across the street from Granite City Brewery (on the East side). Three tables were occupied and no line was awaiting us, so we were able to order right away. I got the Napoli pizza with a small garden salad. After grabbing a beverage and choosing a table, the salad was brought out instantly. While I was disappointed with the overall flavor of the salad (i.e. dressing), I reminded myself that I didn't come here for the salads. The pizza arrived about halfway through my salad and looked delicious. I couldn't even wait for it to cool before I bit right into a hot pepperoni that slid off the pizza and onto my lip. Definitely worth it. The sauce is sweet but pleasant and the banana peppers were the perfect touch to the rest of the ingredients. I had no problem eating piece after piece until alas, the plate was empty. I even said out loud "did I just eat a whole pizza?" Turns out the person I had come with had eaten two of the pieces, so I didn't feel quite as bad. This is a restaurant I will definitely be going back to again. The decor is really inviting and the super thin/ crispy crust cooked at a high heat in a wood burning oven is what sets it apart from the rest. I vote they open more of these around Iowa instead of just the one out in Clive.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Saigon Cafe

While my restaurant list is currently in the vast growing stage, I decided to write about my current favorite restaurant, Saigon Cafe. It's located in Clive off of 86th street across and diagonal from Ryan's Steakhouse, though I think it's become a solid buffet stop nowadays (it's amazing how horrible buffets stay in business while good solid family restaurants are closing left and right). BUT, back to what I was saying.... I've discovered this extremely great lunch spot where you can get fried rice, your choice of stir fry meat, egg roll, wonton, AND soup for no more than $7! And there is no need to order soda here- just stick with the water, it's insanely good (don't ask me why or how). Everything just tastes real and fresh. My favorite would actually have to be the chicken or double beef noodle soup (or pho).
First your server (who will probably be the same man every time) brings out things you can opt to put into your soup should you choose to enhance the flavor and add some heat or texture. Bean sprouts, jalapenos, cilantro, thai basil, plum sauce, and some more items I know I am forgetting. I basically dump the whole plate in and end up adding some hot chili sauce that is served with the egg rolls. It's delicious on a cold day and even keeps to eat the next day (I mean, who can seriously eat that whole bowl)! The broth on its own would make me happy any day.
Though the exterior is probably the reason why I've driven by and never once pulled in or even glanced at it as I drove by countless times and the interior is a tad outdated and worn, the food and service will make anyone come back time after time (or in my case lately, week after week).