Foodies, ahoy! (I expect everyone to be paying attention here, because who doesn't like food?) We're a pretty good food town, with a great selection of burrito joints, pho spots and pastry slingers. We like bar food and greasy spoons.
I headed to the Food Truck Festival at Western Gateway on Friday the 9th. While I’m generally a fan of 2 for $5 tacos, the festivities were not even a block from the Gas Lamp. I was called away by the siren song of truly gourmet food from the best and possibly strangest of all Des Moines dining destinations, Hole in the Wall. Situated downtown in the back of the Gas Lamp (15th and Grand), Hole in the Wall is a kitchen started by Zach Gutweiler where chefs take orders through a sliding window and deliver entrees on paper plates and cardboard boats.
And here's the thing. The food is amazing. It's not just well-made; it's fresh, local and wildly original. The shifting menu boasts top-shelf ingredients like lobster and dishes like sable fish with corn bread “grits” or the mind-bending Popper Breakdown: a deconstructed jalapeno popper that is NOTHING like you’ve ever had at TGI Friday’s. That’s by design: as Gutweiler told me and my dining companions as we destroyed one of each of his menu items, Hole in the Wall creates a new menu every week, based on ingredients sourced largely from their own Grade A gardening plots. In addition to these ephemeral items, Hole in the Wall has a standing menu that includes the best mac and cheese in town.
The atmosphere of the place is stellar: order up your Pumpkin Moon Pie (AMAZING, though now retired, but Gutweiler assured me that the new dessert would be equally sweet) and pull up a TV tray or claim a bit of curb. The people watching is top notch, and will keep you entertained until one of the Hole in the Wall crew members stops by to serve your order -- and explain its flavor profile in detail.
The explanation is the best part. Passion poured from Gutweiler as he outlined his Louisiana roots and move to Des Moines. It’s about pushing the scene with limited means, taking what he has and challenging the Des Moines food scene to take notice.This frontiersman attitude and reckless devotion to the art of food are a great aspect of Des Moines, and prove that great risk brings great reward. Whether or not it’s a booming business, Hole in the Wall is teaching Iowans about great food culture one dish at a time, every Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Hole in the Wall
Find it: The Gas Lamp, 1501 Grand Ave.
Hours: 6:30 p.m. - 2 a.m. Tuesday and Thursday-Sunday