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Andrea and Sean Gleason of Des Moines have opened a new restaurant in Waukee. It follows the recent Des Moines trend of food trucks moving into more permanent brick-and-mortar locations. Fans of the food truck may recognize the buttermilk fried chicken recipe. But do try the de Burgo poutine. And save room for the espresso pot de crème with cinnamon donuts, chantilly cream and hazelnut praline. Brian Taylor Carlson/The Register

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A diagnosis of stage IV melanoma was not going to keep Andrea Gleason from her goal of opening and managing her new restaurant.

On Friday, Gleason and her husband, Sean, realized that dream.

"The constant fear is that it could come back at any time," Andrea said. "But I am very hopeful that in 2018, this is my year to beat cancer and to succeed as a manager and as a business owner." 

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Gastro Grub began as a food truck in 2015. It's been recognized for its crispy buttermilk fried chicken and mashed potato waffle cone, and Cityview voted Gastro Grub as the runner-up for Best Food Truck in 2016. 

But now, Gastro Grub & Pub is moving into a new brick-and-mortar space on Hickman Road in Waukee. Its opening was delayed by three months due to Andrea's illness.

Andrea, 31, said her melanoma was aggressive and did not respond to chemotherapy. It quickly spread to her lymph nodes.

"The biggest obstacle has been trying to battle the cancer while going through all of this," Andrea said. "It delayed the restaurant because Sean wanted to be there for me."

In the beginning of the treatments, Andrea's cancer was considered inoperable, but her doctor reluctantly ordered surgery. 

"They thought they got it all," Andrea said.

But her doctor decided to follow up with radiation treatment, which landed in the same week as Gastro Grub's soft opening.

Gastro Grub was visible all over the metro at places like the Valley Junction Farmers Market, Confluence Brewery and Regency West Office Park. The Gleasons said they intend to operate the food truck during the warmer months ahead.

The new location features a glass-enclosed party space, and an outdoor area will be in use during patio season.

A row of bar seats faces the open kitchen — which includes a wood-fired oven that radiates light and warmth throughout the space — allowing diners to enjoy the cooking action 

This oven will be used for preparing many of the dishes on the menu, including De Burgo Poutine — seared steak with creamy de Burgo sauce, crispy fries, cheese curds and scallions; and the fresh-cut pork chop with garlic mashed potatoes, apple gastrique and cider-glazed onions. 

Sean and Andrea spent four years in Los Angeles before moving back to Iowa in 2014 to open the food truck that they ran through the winter during the first year.

While in L.A., Sean, 33, graduated with honors from a one-year program at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, and worked at the Fig & Olive and The Village Idiot. He learned whole animal butchery and moved up to executive sous chef. Andrea worked at Katsuya, a sushi restaurant, adding to her 15 years of restaurant experience.

Chef Adam Berg, 33, will man the kitchen along with Sean, and the two plan to bring unique cuts of meat to the menu. Berg is self-taught and worked his way up through the ranks at local places like Legends American Grill and Glen Oaks Country Club. Berg and the Gleasons have been friends for more than 10 years.

The menu will feature locally sourced produce and meats as much as possible, like Lost Hills Farm American Wagyu Beef. A range of small bites, salads, soups and sandwiches has already begun to expand into more entrees and sides — as well as premium sides such as jalapeño-corn spoon bread. Look for brunch items to make their way to the menu in the months ahead.

Gastro Grub's beverage program focuses heavily on Iowa products, including craft beers like Lake Time Brewery's Peanut Butter Cup Porter and spirits like Templeton Rye. The starting wine list is California-heavy with most selections served by the glass or bottle. 

A well-rounded craft cocktail menu features unique flavor profiles like serrano chilies, berries and hickory house-smoked sugar.

For dessert, Gastro Grub showcases its unique take on "coffee and doughnuts" — an espresso pot de crème with chantilly cream and hazelnut praline served alongside cinnamon-sugar doughnuts.

To give back to the community, each month Gastro Grub will donate a portion of the sales to different groups and charities, including those benefiting melanoma research and suicide prevention. Sean's Gleason’s father, well-known Des Moines physician Stephen Gleason, committed suicide in 2006.

"Each month, we're going to feature a new charity," Sean said. "We're going to open it up to the public or anybody who works here to suggest charities they feel passionately about."

Gastro Grub & Pub

Location: 1378 East Hickman Rd., Waukee

Hours: Tuesday and Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; closed Mondays. Monday through Friday, light bites will be served from 2 to 4 p.m.; and happy hour specials will be offered 4 to 6 p.m.

Contact: (515) 300-2460; gastrogrubtruck.com; Facebook; Twitter; Instagram

Prices: Small bites, soups and salads, $8 to $11; sandwiches, $11 to $12; entrées, $15 to $36; sides and premium sides, $5 to $7; dessert, $8. Cocktails, $10 and up; wine by the glass, $6 and up; wine by the bottle, $24 and up.

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