Tuesday, 29 November 2011
Some restaurant genres have expanded rapidly in the metro without adding much quality or variety. For instance, dozens of barbecues followed Kin Folks and Flying Mango to Central Iowa but none put out the all-wood, slow love products of those pioneers. Similarly a dozen sushi joints followed Miyabi 9 to town without bringing any discernable new level of quality to the community table. Two new restaurants in familiar downtown Des Moines haunts have hopefully reversed this trend.
City Bakery took over the space formerly known as Bagni di Lucca. Steve Logsdon, who also owns Lucca, sold the place to his brother Joe, Joe’s wife Christina and Nico Pecheron, their long time right hand man at La Mie. The new owners tweaked the pizza recipes and began featuring a limited version of La Mie’s menu, with about five sandwiches a day, all served on focaccia, and some seven salads. Specialty beers, an excellent selection of inexpensive wines and European soft drinks were also featured. City Bakery’s state of the art Pavailler ovens will allow Pecheron and Joe Logsdon to expand their French baking operations too.
Last week, I found vegetable & Mozzarella, tuna & avocado, turkey & Swiss, and hot ham sandwiches. Salads included Roquefort-beet, apple-avocado, Caesar, albacore tuna, fresh salmon and fruit.
Pizza choices included tomato basil, meatball mushroom, sausage pepperoni, spinach ricotta, artichoke olive, and four cheeses. The sandwiches, all priced $5 or $6 dollars, were generous bargains compared to similar fare downtown.
So were salads, all $6 or $7, and pizza which was sold by the $4 slice, a rather rare thing in Des Moines, or priced $7.50 and $14.50 for small and large pies respectively. An extra two dollars provided a side salad. I learned during Cityview’s Ultimate Pizza Challenge that pizza taste differs wildly from one tongue to another but I’m pretty sure anyone who likes thin, crisp crusts and fresh ingredients will be hard pressed to find another pie they like more than these. In the near future, City Bakery will also open for breakfast and serve more La Mie type fare, i.e. pastries, desserts, croissants, etc. that can take your breath away.
Bagni di Lucca’s former baker Cameron Keller moved across the river and opened Keller’s Bakery, Deli, Café in space that was formerly home to Funky Pickle. Before that it was the spot where George Formaro got started in the restaurant business, selling sandwiches with his South Union breads. Appropriately, Keller bakes exquisite artisan slicing breads (five grain wheat, pain au cereal, Bordelais, roasted garlic and sometimes Irish rye, potato and oatmeal pecan cranberry) as well as epis and baguettes. He also makes divine stocks for soups - I tried excellent French onion, clam chowder, and red pepper crab bisques, each just $2 when added to a sandwich order. He also serveed breakfast sandwiches, burritos, cinnamon sugar toast, Irish breakfasts (eggs, sausage, bacon & beans) and salads.
His trump cards though were two neglected deli legends.
Homemade meatloaf (beef & pork) was served with caramelized onions on toasted garlic bread. Better yet, Keller brines his own corned beef briskets, including deckles. No other corned beef in town compares for tenderness and flavor.
He offers corned beef sandwiches in regular and “Gotham” sizes, the latter daring a comparison to Carnegie and Katz delis in New York. (Think about Meg Ryan’s famous orgasm in “When Harry Met Sally.”) Cheese cakes, mousse cakes, lemon cake, brownies and ice cream sandwiches were also served.
Bottom line - both these new places have something quite special going for them.
Keller’s Deli Bakery Café
625 Grand Ave.,, 280-5112,www.kellerbreads.com
Mon. - Fri. 6 a.m. - 2 p.m.
City Bakery Café
407 E 5th St., 243-0044
Mon. - Sat. 11 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Lucca extended its lunch hour until 4 p.m. and its chef Fidel Macias began teaching Saturday morning cooking classes… Lori Olsen-Hopkins opened Le Gourmet, a specialty foods store on University in Clive.