Saturday, December 10, 2005

Jesse’s Embers


3301 Ingersoll
Des Moines, IA 50312
515-255-6011

“A” has only eaten at two restaurants in that allowed – no, make that encouraged – diners to enter through their kitchen. That gesture by your host at Jesse’s speaks volumes about the pride you sense everyone has in the restaurant. The view of the kitchen isn’t just what they want you to see – you see the prep tables, the dishwasher and the cooking area, excluding the grill which is in the main dining area. Your welcome to Jesse’s begins as you walk past the kitchen – the dishwasher and prep cooks all offer a “hello” as you pass through to the dining room.

Décor in Jesse’s is comfortable, leaning to what we can only describe as an outdoorsy guy motif. Lots of framed Maynard Reese originals deck the walnut paneled walls. Booths line one wall of the restaurant with the remaining seating at tables for two or four. Jesse’s however, is not about décor, it is about great food!

Once inside, your host, Rob Roush, who is Jesse’s son, will promptly welcome you and offer seating in the restaurant. If the restaurant is full, there is frequently room for you to wait at the bar where Rob will make sure you are comfortable until a table is available. The bar is well stocked, the pours are generous and service is attentive without being obsequious. As far as ambience is concerned, the only downside is that Jesse’s is a restaurant that allows smoking. You notice the smell when you arrive, however it is not oppressive and the food is so good that “A” and “D” are willing to tolerate it for the dining experience. If you have to wait for a table at Jesse’s about the only place to wait is in the bar as there is virtually no waiting area per se.

When you do get to your table you are in for a real treat as the wait staff at Jesse’s are all seasoned professionals, many of whom have worked there for years. They are definitely not of the “Hi, my name is Bethany and I’ll be your service person tonight” school. They do not tell you their name, but they do offer a menu, fill up your water glass, bring your drinks, and serve your food promptly and professionally. One person will bring your menu and that same person will be with you through every course of your dinner before bringing your check. They also remember everything you ordered – none of the “let’s see now, who had the whitefish?” you get at restaurants where a plethora of staff are part of your meal event. You know the ones I mean, where “Biff” brings the menu, “Barb” takes your order, “Brad” will bring your wine, and “Quasimodo” is the runner bearing your food from the kitchen. Not at Jesse’s – one table, one wait staff person. They keep an eye on you without being the least bit intrusive. Water glasses are promptly refilled, dirty dishes are cleared and inquiries are made about another drink or glass of wine without interrupting the flow of your conversation.

The menu is not huge but offers enough variety to please virtually every palate. Beef is, of course, the main event. Steaks ranging from a seven-ounce small filet mignon up to a sixteen-ounce center cut New York Strip. The grill is in full view of the restaurant and it is clear that the cooks know how to prepare a superb piece of beef. Steaks are almost fork tender and cooked to absolute perfection. One of Jesse’s signature dishes is London Broil, which is available as either a sandwich or an entrée portion. If you ever are craving a really great hamburger, head for Jesse’s. Their Emberburger is a full eight ounces and, again, is cooked on the grill by masters.

Jesse’s portions are generous but, if you think you can squeeze in a little something extra, their onion rings are grand. They are hand-sliced and prepared with their own special breading mix. Once you start eating them, it is difficult to stop. Unlike so many of the heavily breaded rings one is often served, these really taste like onions!

Jesse offers a full rack of smoked loin back ribs. These are not the ‘meat-falling-off-the- bones’ steamed variety served in so many establishments. They are full of smoky flavor, meaty and are not soggy. The barbeque sauce is baked on the ribs so it does not appear as a ‘slathered on at the last minute’ addition. The salad preparation area is also in full view of the diner providing a glimpse of the mounds of fresh crisp greens and accompaniments used. Salad dressings are all delicious, particularly the house special, creamy garlic. And they make their own incredibly good, handcrafted croutons.

From the kitchen, Jesse’s beer-battered shrimp and lobster tails are stuff of which dreams are made. The batter is almost tempura like -- crisp and fried to a delicate gold. The lobster and shrimp meat is fresh, firm and sweet. Fish offerings include Orange Roughy Florentine, Charbroiled Yellow fin Tuna, Halibut, Walleye served broiled or fried and baked Whitefish, and all are done with a Master’s touch.

All dinners include salad, bread and your choice of baked potato, cottage fries, French fries or pasta salad. My personal favorites are the cottage fries – thin slices of new potatoes cooked till they are golden brown and have just the right amount of crunch.

Sides of asparagus with Hollandaise sauce, spinach and wild rice are available for a modest additional cost. The menu also includes entrée sized Greek, chicken and shrimp salads for those so inclined. Servings of all food items are generous with prices for most entrees below $20. The restaurant also serves lunch with many of the dinner items on the menu in smaller portions at a reduced price.

The wine list is not big or exceptional however prices by the glass or bottle are very reasonable. Jesse’s pour by the glass is generous, and full bottle prices are in the $18-30 range.

Desserts – “A” is sure they offer something but every meal ever eaten at Jesse’s has been so satisfying that dessert was the last thing on “A’s” mind.

“A” and “D” have eaten at all three Jesse’s locations but the original place on Ingersoll is still our favorite. It has a kind of funky charm and warm welcome that just isn’t present at their other locations. Besides that, how many times do you get to see the kitchen of the restaurant where you are dining?


Rating: 4 Absolutely!
Value: Top Value
Quality: Superb
Service: Superb
Recommended: Yes

1 Comments:

Blogger Finer Diner said...

We stopped at Jesse's Embers on 50th and EP True Pkwy. We had grabbed a coupon from the Valu-Pak and thought a small steak might be enjoyable - buy one get one free!

We were seated promptly and handed a menu. The $8.95 limit on the coupon only permitted a burger or sandwich - no steak (even with hte steak it up! slogan on the coupon.

So we opted for burgers - figuring a steak house should do a nice burger. WRONG!!

My wife's Emberburger melt came without mushrooms. My Hickory Burger came open-faced. When I asked the waitress about the open-face, she insisted the menu stated that fact. I checked the menu and showed her that was untrue.

Our burgers were not medium rare as ordered, nor were they juicy. We watched the cook press the meat so much that flames shot 3 feet into the air! All the good stuff went up in smoke!

It was definitely not the experience I expected to have. We won't return!

9:50 AM  

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