I first heard about Host from a Tweet, which is not that shocking in the grand scheme of things. But, I was shocked when I saw it because I hadn’t even heard Flour, the previous concept at the location of Host, had closed. I had heard that Carly Groben had sold Proof, her other restaurant, but for some reason I completely missed the closing of Flour.
Anyway, the buzz around Host has been mildly substantial, if that is even possible to be mildly and substantial at the same time. What I mean is there has been a good amount of chatter about their opening in the last few weeks. There were the usual columns in the local press that spoke to the ownership structure and how the owners planned to redesign the location. The chatter was just enough to put it on my radar for a lunch trip last week.
Any restaurant that has Tony Lemmo’s name attached to it is a place I want to try out. Lemmo is the current owner of Café di Scala and part owner of Gusto Pizza. So, needless to say, he has a track record for very successful concepts which automatically put my expectation for Host pretty high up. Lemmo’s partners at Host are his sister Katie, friends Phil Shires and Lisa Hutchins.
Host hasn’t changed the concept much from Flour, orders are taken at the counter at the back of the restaurant and the menu is written on the chalk board above the counter. Much of the décor has changed and as I understand it most of the items on the walls were collected from recycled materials. Where the biggest change is with Host is the menu, which is obviously quite different from the pizza joint that was Flour.
I ordered the Calabrese Shaved Pork Loin that included fontania & caramelized onions on brioche. I was a bit taken back when the lady at the counter asked me for a side item, so after quickly scanning the items on the menu I went with the old standby potato salad. Yet, when I got my meal their potato salad was nowhere near the traditional version that I had expected, it was actually Sweet Potato Salad, and the change to the traditional was very good. The entire meal was fantastic, the warm brioche really worked well with the pork and onions as the main feature on the pallet, yet the fontina really pulled all the flavors together. Also, I now know what quiona is. My friend decided to order Host’s Mediterranean Quiona as his side item as he couldn’t contain his curiosity once he saw it listed on the menu. Quiona was little purple balls,which I understood were a grain-like crop that is in the same “family” as beats. It looked interesting enough, but I didn’t try it, maybe next time.
Host is located on the corner of 13th and Locust Streets in Downtown Des Moines, in the Nationwide Building. Their menu ranges from the sandwich I had to Chicken Pot Pie and Scala’s Egg Casserole with greens, however I understand the menu will change from time to time. They are open for lunch throughout the week and only open for private dinners. One of the aspects I like most about Host, outside of the amazing food, is each item on the menu has a local farm or business listed after it. The owners at Host have done their part to find local farms and businesses to support a majority of their ingredients within each item. For instance, my Calabrese Shaved Pork Loin included pork from Eden Farms.
After all, why would you want to eat at a national chain restaurant with food imported on a truck when you can eat at Host and support our local community?