Proving Des Moines is NOT boring

Why eat at a chain Wednesday: Americana Restaurant & Lounge

The Americana Restaurant & Lounge was really the only place in consideration for dinner this past Saturday. My wife and I were looking for a spot downtown where we hadn’t eaten before to meet a couple of our friends for dinner. Of course, Americana is really the only location to fit these qualifications, but it was also the only place I could consider because of all the resent chatter within social media channels.

It was the second weekend Americana was open, which made us think a reservation would be important. As we pulled up to the restaurant, on Locust Street right across the street from the Pappajohn Sculpture Park, our concern about Americana’s popularity peaked as we saw the entire north side of the road packed with parked cars. We decided to park on the other side of the park, on Grand, and walk over, which was a little tough for me since I ran the Dam to Dam that morning – legs were a little tender. Truthfully, the walk was great since the weather was just right and I was with my bride – ahwwww. 😉 Turns out most of the cars that lined Locust Street were next door to Americana at a wedding reception. That is not to imply Americana was empty, far from it, there was actually a pretty decent crowd for 6pm on a Saturday, but it was not jam packed like it appeared from the initial drive-by.

We were very warmly greeted and whisked to our table, which happened to be on the second level, by one of the three or four Hostesses. The warmth continued when we got to our table as the server was very prompt in greeting us and taking our initial order, which happened to be a drink order. I was very impressed with the Servers knowledge of the meals and the drinks, her wine recommendation to our friend really hit the spot. I half assumed the staff would still be getting to know the meals and the drinks since they just opened. Yet it appears the Americana staff is very well trained, which made our experience that much better.

We started with the Seared Artichoke Hearts for the appetizer which came recommended from the lone Foursquare Tip. Honestly, I was a little taken back when they came to the table because (this is embarrassing) I was picturing a Spinach Artichoke dip with chips, or bread, not the Hearts. Needless to say, the Hearts were very good – yet not what I thought we were getting. For dinner I decided to go with the Ravioli Americano which included Ricotta herb raviolis, roasted criminis, and oyster mushrooms, smoked & spiced tomato cream sauce and shaved parmesan. My wife and one of our friends decided to go with the Chicken Curry, which included marinated chicken breast, butternut squash, vegetable curry, jasmine rice – they both went with the sweet option vs. the spicy. Our other friend decided to go with the Taki Burger, which has been recommended numerous times via the Twitter community. The burger included a teriyaki glazed burger, grilled pineapple, cilantro aioli, apple spiked slaw and mango chutney.

Well, I can say that all of the plates were empty when they were taken away. My ravioli were good, but slightly cold when they arrived to the table. They were not cold, yet they were not warm – so I guess they were luke warm, which may have been a factor since they kitchen is on the lower level. That said, I still ate them and I especially like the oyster mushrooms as they were the only component of the meal that really impressed me; the ravioli really didn’t have a strong taste component although the ricotta cheese provided a mellow flavor. The tomato sauce was pretty mellow considering it was advertised to have a spice flavor to it, and that is from a guy who does not usually go for very strong spices. Also, I was initially concerned with the portion size since I was really hungry and I was given 4 ravioli. I should have listened to Mike, the Americana boss, who stopped by before we ordered – he said the ravioli was not one of the larger portions on his menu. But, after the appetizer – a few drinks – and the meal, I was pleasantly filled. I did take a bite of my wife’s Curry and even though it was sweet, it still had the spice component to provide the littlest zing.

All in all, our first trip to Americana was pretty great – I had a few concerns with the meal I chose, but outside of that, the service was very good and I really liked the layout of the restaurant. Plus, we were able to walk off our meal by taking a jaunt through the Sculpture Park after. Don’t let the number of cars on Locust Street scare you away from Americana – it comes highly recommended. I think I will try the Taki Burger next time though, because it looked very large and my friend really liked it.

After all, why would you eat at a chain when you can eat at Americana?

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