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All three called their staffs family and Wade Thompson explained it this way, "It was my dream to begin with and your asking people for it to be their dream too." Brian Powers, bpowers@dmreg.com

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Foodies in Des Moines can now educate themselves on a new menu in Beaverdale.

Motley School Tavern opens on Friday at 1903 Beaver Ave. The 3,000-square-foot restaurant is located in the former space of Chef's Kitchen and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.

This new neighborhood tavern serves fresh takes on nostalgic foods in a dining room and bar that have been transformed into a bright, airy space. With 85 seats, diners can nestle into cadet blue leather booths and banquette seating with plenty of hickory wood accents. 

The Motley syllabus

Motley School Tavern is owned by Nic Gonwa and Jason Simon. The name of the restaurant came from a recent conversation the two had.

"Nic has been with me since day one over at Alba," Simon said. "We talked about all the years we put in and all the colorful individuals we've had the pleasure of working with in this industry over the last ten plus years, so that's how we came up with the idea behind the Motley School."

Simon, 43, is the owner of Alba and Eatery A and co-owner of Harbinger with chef-owner, Joe Tripp. Harbinger opened two years ago.

In keeping with Simon's business model of in-house promotion and advancement, he brought on Nic Gonwa, 34, former executive chef of Eatery A, located at 2932 Ingersoll Ave., as the chef and co-owner of Motley School Tavern.

"We wanted to have a place for people to watch a game and grab a good burger," Simon said. According to Simon, it's all about giving a good experience using a good flavor palate to put out good food and a good time. "We wanted to give a classic feel to it."

Eating instructions

Gonwa's goal was to put a new spin on dishes he and Simon grew up with as a kid, with nods to the Beaverdale neighborhood where they grew up and currently live in.

"The main thing we were looking for is to keep that tavern feel with comfort food," Gonwa said. "So it's going to be about classic things, about approachable things that people are familiar with but we're just going to have a little fun with it. Put a little something extra into it."

Lunch and Dinner

Motley's lunch menu features a large selection of sandwiches and salads, while the dinner menu presents more substantial entrees like barbecue, pasta dishes, fish and vegetarian options. 

Gonwa said he is excited to use a smoker, which provides flavors of hickory, pecan and cherry to menu items like the homemade pastrami used in sandwiches and brunch dishes.

Here are a few options to look for:

  • Housemade Smoked Pastrami Sandwich - With slaw, Dijon aioli, pickles, onion and dill, served with fries or a house salad ($13)
  • MST Burger - Chimichurri aioli, avocado and crispy onion rings, served with fries or a house salad ($11)
  • Shrimp & Kale Caesar - Brussels sprout leaves, Grana Padano chees, onion and sunflower seeds, served with two sides ($14)
  • Bacon-Wrapped Lake Trout - Served with two sides and chimichurri ($18)
  • Cornmeal-Crusted Walleye - Butter-fried, served with two sides ($17)
  • Ricotta Cavatelli - Italian sausage ragu, tiny meatballs and Pecorino Romano ($15)
  • Veggie Coconut Curry - Brown rice, grilled sweet potato, shiitake mushrooms, sambal oelek (chili paste) and cilantro ($14)

Sides include veggies, slaw, potato salad, ripe tomatoes and buttermilk mashed potatoes. But be on the lookout for slow beans with barbecued brisket and pork belly.

Look for East Coast oysters on the half shell to make an appearance, inspired by Simon's recent trips to Nova Scotia and Maine. 

Another idea Gonwa and Simon are toying with is eventually bringing on a steak and chowder night on Mondays, an homage to Steve Little's popular clam chowder.

After school snacks

Build your own meat and cheese board. People who like to mix-and-match can go for shareable 'community' appetizers and small plates abound on the menu:

  • Deviled eggs (3 for $3)
  • Fried bologna sandwich ($5)
  • Zucchini and sweet corn fritters ($5)
  • Crunchy onion rings - Served with blue-collar sauce, romesco, and romano ($8)
  • Korean pork belly nachos - With avocado, slow beans, gochujang (fermented chili sauce) and slaw ($13)
  • Cheddar and potato pierogi (3) - With horseradish crema, Brussels sprouts, pickled mustard and dill ($11)

Breakfast and brunch

Breakfast is uncharted territory for Gonwa and Simon as the two have not served breakfast in any of their previous restaurants. "We kind of see the need for it, especially in this neighborhood," Simon said.

Classic egg breakfasts, biscuits and gravy and omelets make the menu, but also keep an eye out for:

  • Pancakes -Choose between buttermilk and blueberry, sweet potato and praline or pineapple upside-down (one for $4; two for $7; or all three for $9)
  • Pastrami hash - With roasted potatoes, chow chow (pickled relish), smoked pastrami and two eggs ($11)
  • Tennessee hot chicken - Served with hot sauce fried chicken, house pickles, buttermilk ($13)
  • Roasted mushroom eggs benedict - Served with kale and slow beans ($13)

Desserts include strawberry and rhubarb crumb with buttermilk ice cream ($7); fresh brioche donuts with whipped lemon curd and berries ($5); and cornflake scotcharoos with butterscotch and dark chocolate ($4).

Drink studies

Motley School Tavern features a full bar with mules, cocktails, wine, bottled craft beer and six beers on tap including selections like Bur Oak Old 63, O'Dell's, No Coast Make Waves, Stella Artois, Boulevard and Surly.

The bar program will expand in the months ahead. A daily happy hour takes place from 2-5 p.m., which featured after school snacks and half-price draft beer and wine. 

Non-alcoholic beverages include Pepsi products and fresh juices, along with coffee and espresso drinks.

Motley history class

Chef's Kitchen was owned by Steve and Kristy Little, who opened it in 2004. Simon and Gonwa approached the Littles last year with the proposition and shortly thereafter, Simon and Gonwa bought the building. Renovations began in February. 

"We want to make an environment where we would want to come in on our day off and hang out," Gonwa said. "We knew we wanted to get back into this area. It's just such a beautiful neighborhood. The people are awesome. It's fun to bring something new to the area and contribute to the community." 

Eatery A's executive chef torch was passed to Keith Johnson on New Year's Eve. Johnson has been working at Eatery A for over three years.

Motley School Tavern will employ about 25 people. 

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Motley School Tavern

Location: 1903 Beaver Ave., Des Moines

Hours: Tuesday-Thursday, 8 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 8 a.m.-12 a.m.; Sunday, 8 a.m.-10 p.m.; closed Mondays.

Contact: (515) 279-8075; mstdsm.com

Interested in Iowa food news? Follow @briantaylorcarlson on Facebook, @BriinDSM on Twitter and @briindsm on Instagram.

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Read or Share this story: https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/entertainment/dining/2019/07/10/motley-school-tavern-enjoy-new-beaverdale-neighborhood-eatery-a-alba-harbinger-simon-gonwa-near-me/1641618001/