Food News For The New Year

The delivery-only George’s Burger Joint specializes in updated classic-style burgers and sides.

Writer: Wini Moranville

As we all (happily) say goodbye to 2020, here are some trends and movements to look for in 2021:

Ghost Kitchens Continue: In 2020, some restaurants made ultra-creative pivots to offer a very limited handful of specialties that, in some cases, have little or nothing to do with what they normally offer. Harbinger brought us Basic Bird, while Orchestrate Hospitality launched George’s Burger JointBatter Up Des Moines and Kaiju Ramen. These (mostly) delivery-only micro-restaurants are known in the food world as “ghost kitchens,” and you can expect to see more in the new year. Formaro and team expect to unveil a fourth concept, while Bubba owner Chris Diebel is looking to debut a ghost kitchen of his own.

Whiskey Is the New Beer: Des Moines beer kingpin/Full Court Press partner Jeff Bruning recently confided to me that these days he’s more into whiskey than beer. Some FCP venues are following suit: He recently debuted Des Moines Whiskey Club: The membership–valued at $120 but on sale for $85 until the end of 2020–gets you 10 whiskey drinks divided between Royal Mile, Red Monk and Ken’s—A Not So Secret Speakeasy, plus admission to 10 “Whiskey Club Nights” with representatives from distilleries on hand to offer samples and insights. Bruning also mentioned that the Red Monk will transition from a Belgian beer bar to a Belgian beer and cocktail bar and will feature a strong whiskey selection. He’s also amped up the whiskey selection at the University Library Cafe.

In more whiskey news: Bubba will launch its own whiskey in the first quarter of the new year. “Whiskey fans will be excited to hear that we’ve created a unique four-grain mash bill (corn, rye, malted barley and sorghum),” Diebel said in an email. “It has been small-barrel aged in charred American oak.”

Also look for top-shelf whiskey selections at Django, where chef Derek Eidson (also a well-known beer buff) has been hand-selecting some hard-to-find bottles.

Flying Mango to Reopen (and we can thank Guy Fieri for that): According to owner Mike Wedeking, this popular Beaverdale restaurant has seen great success with its weekly takeout pop-ups. Sometime in the new year, however, the venue will be open for takeout three nights a week. Wedeking says that he’ll be featured (for the third time!) on Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” A condition of his appearance is that his restaurant must be open.

“Well have 15 to 20 menu items instead of 60,” says Wedeking. But that doesn’t mean he’ll be slacking: He’s working on some new sauces (e.g., jalapeño-orange marmalade) as well as a few new dishes (e.g., collards gratin, smoked tomato rice casserole and smoked beef tenderloin with a tomatillo sauce).

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