Category Archives: DINING

Good news in DSM: Kathmandu restaurant moves to Windsor Heights

Good news – our favorite Nepalese/Indian restaurant in Des Moines has moved a little closer to where we live — from the south side to Windsor Heights. My only concern is that one of my favorite things about Kathmandu (beyond the food) is the waiter’s shirt which said across the front: “More Parking in the Back.” (Now there’s plenty of parking in the front at the new location.)

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Filed under Des Moines, DESTINATIONS - Iowa, DINING

Good meal at our new neighborhood joint – MST in DSM

We finally got around to trying out our new neighborhood joint, the restaurant MST ( Motley School Tavern) in Des Moines’ Beaverdale neighborhood. It was good! I had a delicious hamburger – rare as requested, with cheddar instead of American cheese as requested. The meat appeared to be freshly ground so there were a few non-edible bits but that was OK. Dirck, the Kansan among us, enjoyed his Chicken Fried Steak with mashed potatoes. The service was pleasant and professional and quick. The ambiance is low-key, hipster Beaverdale (if there is such a thing.) Seems to be a big draw for  30-something bald men with long thick beards. (We saw three of them.)

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Linus Paul…oh and Francesca’s, Shake Shack, Cafecito, Heema’s — Chicago

The clear highlight of Labor Day weekend here in Chicago was meeting our sweet new grandson Linus Paul, born on Aug. 28, 2019 at Northwestern Hospital, 8.2 pounds, 22 inches and lovely. We met him and his mom and dad in the Prentis Women’s Hospital, maternity ward or whatever it is called these days. They had a spacious room with a dazzling view of Lake Michigan.

When we were not holding and staring in wonder at Linus, we walked around the city and ate a meal or two, including two chosen for their proximity to the hospital – – Cafecito, an offshoot of a Cuban restaurant we really like downtown and had no idea had offshoots, let alone one near to Michigan Avenue, and Francesca’s, across the street from cafecito, where we had excellent celebratory pasta with Aunt Mary Ann. We had excellent Indian food from Heema’s on Devon Street, takeout style with the new babe and parents and Uncle Noah. The lake was very full, with crashing waves and water gobbling up the concrete shore near Oak Street Beach. Now we are driving home and no doubt will be back soon to see the babe.

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Filed under Chicago, DINING, Illinois

Kudos to Aposto – DSM

not only served up excellent Italian food on Saturday night but hefty portions of it — something not always done during Des Moines’ Restaurant Week. Too often, we’ve become hungry soon after a restaurant week meal — with tiny portions of this and that for the $28 fixed price menu. (Didn’t it used to be $25? Now there are also optional add-ons to the menu, for an additional price.)

At Aposto — which we’ve somehow never been to until now, although it’s been around for years — they chose differently. The food was very good — gazpacho or Cesar Salad for the first course; glazed chunks of pork with brocollini or cavatelli with sausage for the main; panna cotta with balsamic and strawberries or a wicked remake of a Reese’s peanut butter cup for dessert. So was the service, the price and yes, the portions. We were not remotely hungry, hours later.

Aposto is in a shabby chic old house in the historic Sherman Hill neighborhood, with a graceful wraparound porch (where we ate outside with friends in perfect eating out weather — cool, no bugs). It’s the former home of a restaurant we loved decades ago — Chat Noir — and still retains some of its funkiness.

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Filed under Des Moines, DINING, Uncategorized

Here’s my story on Caucus Bistro in the Minneapolis Star Tribune

Just in time for the Iowa State Fair — and the cavalcade of  Democratic presidential hopefuls — comes my story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune on Caucus Bistro, in the small Iowa town of Ladora.

Midwest Traveler: Caucus-themed Iowa restaurant serves up political fare in classic surroundings

Small-town Caucus Bistro salutes Iowa’s first-in-the-nation presidential contest.

By Betsy Rubiner Special to the Star Tribune


AUGUST 1, 2019 — 6:52PM


The Caucus Bistro building, formerly the 1920 Ladora Savings Bank in Ladora, Iowa, is on the National Register of Historic Places.


We needed strength. We needed sustenance. We were steeling ourselves to see 19 Democratic presidential candidates (including Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar) on a Sunday afternoon in June at a political event in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, that promised little food and lots of speeches.

What better time for a Bleeding Heart Flatbread or the Inaugural Balls at Caucus Bistro, a new restaurant paying homage to the nation’s first-in-the-nation presidential contest? (The 2020 Iowa caucuses are scheduled for Feb. 3.)

The bistro is located in the farm community of Ladora, about 39 miles southwest of Cedar Rapids — and an easy stop along our two-hour drive from Des Moines. We also were in luck that it serves Sunday lunch.

Although my husband and I enjoyed Caucus Bistro’s low-key but sophisticated fare, the biggest draws were the caucus-themed decor and the faded grandeur of the restaurant’s digs — a restored former jewel box-style bank that opened in 1920 and closed 11 years later during the Great Depression.

Ladora (pop. 274) is what my husband calls a “blink town” — as in “blink and you’ll miss it.” (He grew up in one in Kansas.) After driving 90 miles east from Des Moines, we landed in Ladora via Hwy. 6, a two-lane road that runs through rolling hills dotted with cattle grazing in green fields, pretty old farmhouses and the occasional McMansion.

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Filed under Des Moines, DESTINATIONS - Iowa, DINING

Visiting the Caucus Bistro in Ladora, Iowa

We were on our way to hear 19 – yes 19 – Democrats vying to be the presidential nominee in Iowa’s first-in-the-nation presidential contest. We were braced to be hungry — the Democratic party event in Cedar Rapids promised to be long, with little to no food. So what better time to visit the new cleverly-named Caucus Bistro in the small town of Ladora, Iowa — about midway between our house in Des Moines and the hotel ballroom in Cedar Rapids where Democrats including Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand (see photo op below), Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, Amy Klohbuchar and “Mayor Pete” (so-named because I can’t remember how to spell his last name, although I think I now know how to pronounce it).

Located along two-lane Highway 6, the Caucus Bistro is inside a restored almost 100-year-old “jewel box-style” bank — a once-elegant, still-faded sandstone-colored brick building with two huge Doric columns. Inside, the imposing building turned out to be as cool as its caucus-themed decor. The main restaurant is one small square with a very high ceiling and architectural reliefs of columns and a band of zigzag adornment (the kind with the occasional swastika, pre-Hitler’s appropriation) and portentous sayings in adorned letters crawling across the tops of each wall that presumably made you comfortable stashing your hard-earned money in such an institution. (“Wealth is the Achievement of Thrift” “Frugality is the Parent of Fortune” and so forth…) Sadly the bank didn’t last long. Opened in 1920, it closed 11 years later and fell into disrepair.

We sat in the bar area — behind the still-remaining wood booths for the tellers, complete with little brass hooks beside each that the enthusiastic owner told us were used by tellers to hang their visors. (question: why did bank tellers wear visors?) The place is decorated with great old photos from caucuses past – George H.W. Bush running with a girls cross country team in Des Moines; then -presidential candidate Bill Clinton sitting on a hay bale with then-Iowa senator Tom Harkin, etc.

We enjoyed our two flatbreads — the Lame Duck and the Challenger – both made on thin naan, brushed with oil or butter and flecked with this-n’-that and served on a slate board. The “Inaugural balls” — 3 balls of cookie dough, topped with syrup and accompanied by a few square pretzel bits – were way too sweet.

But the place is well worth a visit!

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Library book sale, Sip n’soda – Southampton,NY/Wainscott Beach

On the Saturday after Thanksgiving in Water Mill, we made our annual visit to the amazing book sale at the Southampton Public Library where often newly released books can be found for a fraction of their original cost.

Then for something new, seven of us crammed into a wooden booth at Sip n’Soda, the local soda fountain (since 1958) for some no frills food that was pretty good including crisp onion rings, good malts and shakes and a decent BLT and burger. We liked the old fashioned no frills vibe, the long counter, the booths.

We also had a lovely walk along the beach in Wainscott, a three minute walk from the sweet cottage where we stayed this year (my favorite of the many borrowed digs we have stayed at out here). The weather finally warmed, the sun was out and we walked to nearby Georgica Pond.

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Filed under DINING, New York

Al-Ameer – dining in Dearborn 

If you want to eat middle eastern food in the Detroit area, why not go to the community with the largest Muslim population in the USA? Which is how we ended up at Al-Ameer in Dearborn, an area I have long wanted to explore.

Some of our party were skeptical but within minutes of sitting down in a booth inside the modern, diner-like restaurant we knew we had found a winner. It didn’t hurt that there was a plaque on the wall suggesting the place was a James beard foundation winner (not sure what for specifically).

The food was fantastic- best tabbouli  I’ve ever had. Very green, Just parsley and chopped tomatoes, no bulgar. Lots of lemon and I’m not sure what else. The babaganouj was also the best I’ve had (I usually don’t like it much). The hummus was rich and creamy, slight tang. Fresh little pita pockets. My dad’s entree was my favorite— sautéed chicken livers, which I’ve never seen at a middle eastern restaurant. Barbara’s garlic chicken shiskabob was also excellent. The service was quick and cheerful. Yes we were Jews in an Arab family restaurant but we felt welcome.

Other options from friend Sarah:  still think the Local places (grape leaves and pita cafe) have great food and on the more costly end, love Phoenicia. Hands down Best lamb chops, Best steamed cabbage, Best merguez, Best rice pudding and on and on. Eli’s is somewhere in between but like it there too

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Filed under Detroit, DINING, Michigan

Lovely Airbnb, Biking the Lakes, Hot Indian and the Happy Gnome — Twin Cities

at Minnehaha Falls

My friend Nell and I only had a half day here but made the most of it. After driving my son Noah back to his apartment in Minneapolis from a trip home to DSM, we checked into our pretty Airbnb, an early 1900’s four square with a lovely garden in South Minneapolis near the Minnehaha Parkway and bike trail. We stopped at  Midtown Global Market for some “Hot Indian” food including an “indurrito (Indian burrito) and delicious “Indi-Frites” – crispy seasoned fries with an aoili dipping sauce. Clever.

On an afternoon with perfect bike riding weather (cool, light breeze, slightly cloudy) we rode on a lightly populated trail (a Monday) west and north to Lakes Harriet, Calhoun and Lake of the Isles. I did learn that when you ride this direction, you have to stay off of the bike trail that’s on the sidewalk rimming the lakes because it’s carefully designated for riders going the opposite direction — and Twin Cities riders take these designations very seriously, as they should especially on very busy weekends.

The trails were relatively quiet on a Monday but we didn’t want to “break the rules” so we ended up riding a few sections of the trail on the side of the access road lining the trail, which fortunately had few cars but was at times bumpy and sandy. No big deal. I also learned that the Lake of the Isles offers immediate and easy access to the Midtown Greenway trail, another favorite and we rode that subterranean-feeling trail to a cool trailside bike store/cafe called MPLS Coaster Brake Cafe, near the Global Market. I loved that you could wheel your bike right into the store/cafe and park it near some lounge chairs to take a break. No need to lock out front.

Happy Gnomes

We rode back on Portland Avenue along the bike lane which worked well, given the heavy rush hour traffic. There were several other riders, which helped make us a more visible presence on a busy city thoroughfare. Back on the Minnehaha Parkway, we learned the hard way to stay on the trail rather than the bordering streets, in order to get under 35W Highway. (We had to backtrack slightly and portage down some steps with our bikes.) We also had to overshoot the street where our airbnb was because there wasn’t an easy exit off the wooded trail — but no big deal, we just backtracked a little.

Dinner was at The Happy Gnome, a gastropub in St. Paul (which I kept calling the “Grumpy Troll,” a Wisconsin place we’re going to this weekend). We went for the beer (note to self: Indeed is a good local brew!) and ended up staying to eat (note to self: good salmon burger) rather than going to a nearby Cambodian restaurant, as planned. Great company, with two of the world’s nicest boys, errr, young men! On the way home, we stopped briefly at Patisserie 46 (because it was only blocks from our airbnb) and for a quick walk around Minnehaha Falls (note to self: hike this area properly some time!).

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Filed under DINING, Minneapolis, Minnesota

2018 James Beard Award Finalist restaurants in Minneapolis and Milwaukee to try.

Best Chef: Midwest (IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD, WI)

Karen Bell (Bavette La Boucherie, Milwaukee)

Steven Brown (Tilia, Minneapolis)

Justin Carlisle (Ardent, Milwaukee)

Gavin Kaysen (Spoon and Stable, Minneapolis)  WON

Ann Kim (Young Joni, Minneapolis)

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Filed under DINING, Milwaukee, Minneapolis