Des Moines-area chefs reveal their 'guilty pleasure' foods
We all have them — those salty or sweet or butter-laden “guilty pleasure” foods we don’t want to live without.
Des Moines-area culinary experts are no exception. Here are the foods craved by some our local chefs — and where you can find them in town.
Chef/owner at Baru 66 and Prime Land & Sea
Baruthio grew up in Alsace where France borders Germany, Switzerland and Austria. When he wants comfort food, he turns to two local restaurants with dishes similar to those he grew up with.
“By the time I finish cooking all night, I don’t want to cook for myself,” Baruthio said. “So sometimes after work I text my friend Michael Leo at the Strudl Haus (1951 Indianola Ave, Des Moines). I don’t even have to tell him my order because he knows it. He’ll make me a schnitzel with roasted potatoes and salad, and we’ll have a glass of wine and talk about our week.
"It’s nostalgic for me because it’s just like my grandmother used to make. It’s authentic schnitzel and not fancy. He does the best in town.”
Chef/owner at Tacopocalypse in the East Village and Krunkwich Ramen House on Ingersoll Avenue
When Auen is having a rough day — or had a little too much to drink the night before — his go-to comfort food is always the hot beef at High Life Lounge (200 SW 2nd St, Des Moines). He substitutes French fries on top instead of mashed potatoes.
“It’s a giant mess of beef, fries, and gravy piled on Texas toast. My mom’s from Jersey so I grew up eating gravy on fries,” he said. “I eat at it least twice a month, sometimes twice a week.
“When Carrie Fisher died, I was devastated,” Auen continued. “I was four years old in 1977 when 'Star Wars' came out, and she was my first crush. When I found out, I immediately went to High Life and got the sandwich. The kitchen made it extra big that day. It helped because I was so over-full with gravy that I could barely think of anything else.”
Chef/owner at Trellis, located at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden
A dark chocolate devotee, LaValle’s favorite spot in town is Chocolaterie Stam at 2814 Ingersoll Avenue in Des Moines.
“They have really good-quality dark chocolate” LaValle said. “Forest berry is my favorite. It’s a dark reddish blue berry accompanied by a real creamy white chocolate cream enclosed in dark chocolate in the shape of a fan. Almond amaretto is my second favorite.
“When we go out to eat I never get dessert, though,” she continued. “I opt for a second glass of wine instead. I like big, heavy, bold, dark red wines like red Zinfandels and Cabernets.”
Chef/owner at Des Moines restaurants Centro, Django, Malo, South Union Bread Café, Gateway Market & Café, and Zombie Burger + Drink Lab
“When I indulge in a guilty pleasure, I tend to seek nostalgic foods that I can justify as a ‘trip down memory lane,’” Formaro said. “Those days when I go all in, there’s nothing better than a sausage sandwich with everything at the Norwood Inn (4592 NE 29th St, Des Moines).
"Not only do these sandwiches come loaded with cheese and a mix of hot and mild pepper, but they’re dressed with ketchup, mustard, onion, and pickles.
"In my younger days, I would have thought mixing a burger and a sausage sandwich was an abomination — but after one bite, I’ve been hooked on the ‘Tavern-Style’ sausage sandwich ever since.”
Chef at Aposto (former Café di Scala) in Sherman Hill
Shires’ local restaurant cravings run the gamut from ethnic comfort food to greasy fast food to a light and airy dessert.
“Nothing’s better on a Sunday than a bowl of pho from Pho All Seasons (1311 E Euclid Ave) or T&T Vietnamese Restaurant (3452 Martin Luther King Jr Pkwy, Des Moines),” Shires said. “And I want to wake up every Christmas morning with macarons from La Mie with a hot chocolate. I don’t eat them often, but they’re always in my head. It’s like eating a cloud.
“And let’s not forget that everybody loves a Tasty Taco or a Ted’s Coney Island gyro,” continued Shires, who is proud to have worked at Ted’s when he was in high school. “You always get one onion ring in your fries or one fry in your onion rings.”
(Note: After talking to Shires, this author headed immediately to Ted’s drive-through for an order of fries. And yes, they came through as always with that one onion ring at the bottom of the bag.)