Saturday, January 15, 2011

High Life Lounge Des Moines

Nobody can argue with the success Full Court Press has had in Downtown Des Moines over the past ten years. Older people can remember back then "eating downtown" meant watching tumbleweeds bounce down mainstreet every day after two in the afternoon. Full Court Press has added more to downtown than any other restaurant group in the time since. Many Des Moines residents appreciate their continued investment in Downtown Des Moines, and the dedication to eclectic eating options in unique settings. These places downtown have patios that are packed after baseball games, and get after work crowds year round.

Location: 200 Southwest 2nd Street in Des Moines

Directions: Its right next to El Bait Shop, south of downtown Des Moines and north of the baseball stadium.

Online at:

The Tenderloin: This one starts with a thin cut of pork loin pounded out to cover a good sized meal basket. It has the classic "Catcher's Mitt of Meat" shape. The thick breading was packed with seasoning salt and black pepper and it makes your mouth dry before you can taste the pork. Part of the loin had two layers of breading resulting in a half-cooked mushy area that was just bad. The thin meat and thick breading meant there was no juice left in the white pork. Served with pickles on a toasted bun. Overall 6.0 out of ten.

Price: $4.99
Also on the menu: Its pub 'n grub favorites like tater tots, a sloppy joe, broasted chicken, fried cheese curds, and more. Everything is reasonably priced, including a cheeseburger basket for $3.75.

The Chili-Cheese Fries: a nice big gloppy mess for $2.75
Service: Its table service with booths and tables or a counter at the bar.

Ambiance: The owners spend a lot of time, money, and dedicated research recreating a 1970's era neighborhood pub. Shag carpet, wood paneling, vintage beer signs, and analog televisions are visible in every direction.

Final Thoughts: Its apparent that this tenderloin is not a jewel in the crown in the food offering of the High Life Lounge or Full Court Press. The High Life Lounge's bacon wrapped tater tots and broasted chicken were featured on a highly rated cable television program. The Royal Mile has the best fish and chips in town. The Crab Rangoon Pizza at Fong's, and the Fish Tacos or Thai Peanut Wings at El Bait Shop have all won rave reviews from multiple sources.

I've heard of restaurants putting breaded or battered pork loins into the pressure fryer used for broasted chicken. You can see in the video of their appearance how the broaster keeps all the juices and flavor in the fried chicken. Compared to the total dryness of the tenderloin, the fried chicken comes out great:

video uploaded by youtube user brendenfraser, direct link here:

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Farmer Nicks Restaurant near Brooklyn

I had driven past Farmer Nick's Restaurant a few times over the years because I could have sworn the place looked closed. There are rusted old tractors and an out of use gas station connected to the building, along with an archaic satellite dish right in front. The dirt parking are had some semi-trucks and upon getting closer I saw some traffic inside. It turns out the sign reading "Homemade Tenderloins" faces north, away from the Interstate.

Special Note: This is Brooklyn Iowa, the inspiration for the ironic "No Sleep Till Brooklyn" t-shirt available from Raygun in Des Moines available here:

Location: The address is in Brooklyn but its really in between Victor, Guernsey, and Brooklyn in Poweshiek County, Eastern Iowa.

Directions: Get off I-80 at exit 201 and drive north a short distance on Highway 21 to see this place.
The Tenderloin: This had the usual triangle shaped pork loin cut. The meat was cut thin but was soft to the touch. The cracker meal made a small layer of crunch. Served with lettuce, tomato, onion, on a toasted bun. This was an alright homemade tenderloin, overall 7.5 out of ten.

Price: $5.50, also available in a dinner with two sides or smothered with gravy along with mashed potatos.

Also on the menu: Its comfort food all the way through with burgers, the usual fried stuff, and a Czech Burger described as a pork patty topped with melted cheese. The menu lists a locally grown Buffalo Burger.

The Black Raspberry Pie: This is listed as the house special on the menu, they had five other varieties of homemade pies to choose from. $2.50
Service: Its table service with a couple attentive waitresses running around constantly.

Ambiance: The marked "Entrance" is in the back, you have to walk through a room filled with old farm furniture and other stuff for sale. The dining area has some vintage and funky fixtures to sit at. The decorations are just random, like sports trophies from 1994, or stacks of pizza boxes and a line of Beer Steins. They don't even serve pizza or beer if I remember correctly.

Final Thoughts: This place certainly is popular with the locals, as it was nearly full on the Tuesday I stopped by. Since Brooklyn 80 Diner had closed I hadn't found a good place to eat along this part of I-80. I think I will get one of the daily specials next time I stop in here.
Farmer Nicks on Urbanspoon