We’ve been trying some new restaurants with friends here in Des Moines – because WHAT else is there to do in Des Moines in February when the weather is cold and grey and gloomy – and last night’s visit to the Gramercy Tap – the latest effort to fill the drafty space of the Kirkwood Building’s old ballroom (or I think that’s what it was) – was so-so. The service was fine. The ambiance is a little lacking – the room is just too stark and cold, especially when there’s not a big crowd. We think it would make a fine….ballroom. Which of course won’t work these days. The food was okay – nice varied menu with lots of inexpensive sides and appetizers and a handful of pricey entrees. The New England Clam Chowder with the alluring bacon bits – which we’d heard of – was gone by 7:15 when we tried to order it. Which seems like bad planning by the kitchen. We had an appetizer with pork belly that was icky – a big blob of fat, essentially, with a fried egg atop it and some good roasted vegetables and crunchy bits of guanciale (Italian bacon). My lamb burger was fine – served with some chopped tomatoes, cukes and feta which worked well. The creamed spinach was more cheesy than creamy and not interestingly spiced. My husband’s spaghetti carbonara, on the other hand, was swimming in cheesy sauce. Just looking at it made me feel some lactose intolerance coming on. Our friends liked their tomato bisque and fish dishes (i prefered the arctic char to the skate, from what I sampled.)
We’ve been to two other restaurants in this space and never returned to either. Just didn’t feel like somewhere we’d want to go again and I’m afraid I feel similarly about this latest effort. We did wander over to the new sushi bar across the hall in the Kirkwood (Wasabi Tao – owned by the same folks of another sushi place here we’ve heard good things about, Wasabi Chi) and it looked much more inviting, a smaller, darker, much warmer space with lots of people in little pockets of the place and a large illuminated Buddha overseeing it all. We tried a previous sushi place there a few years ago and had the worst service ever – it took hours to get our food. But this new place looks worth a try! And the Kirkwood is such a great old building with a lobby full of terra cotta embellishments and painted murals and an old front desk….