Sunday, April 16, 2006


15970 Hickman Road
Clive, Iowa

Lunch 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Dinner 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Bar 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Breakfast Sat. & Sun. 7 a.m. to 11 a.m.

"A" and "D" found Vern's to be a surprise.

The Clive location on Hickman is almost in Waukee and it shares a building with Tuffy's, a quick change oil and auto service business, so the expectation level was not too high. And then you walk through the plain outer door and . . . Wow! Vern's is a visual feast.

You enter either the non-smoking restaurant portion to the left or the lounge and smoking area to the right. Vern's is spacious! The bar is unique in our experience. It has a frozen ice insert running the entire length of the bar to keep drinks cold. This replaces the usual lip where you put your glass for a refill or where you leave the bartender your tip. This is a long bar and it was already filled at 4:30 p.m.

The entire bar and restaurant is designed in dark, elegant wood with very stylish and comfortable furniture, chairs and booths--even the requisite fireplace--giving it a private club-like feeling. Beautiful multi-hued granite is used for the table tops and the bar, highlighting the overall design. The owner, Brett Anderson, (a lawyer, but we won't hold that against him) has done an excellent job of designing and furnishing the restaurant and has obviously spared no expense. The name Vern's is a tribute to his late brother. Anderson also owns the Ducktail Lounge in Clive.

The wine list is extensive, with wines in keeping with the theme of surprise and the upscale nature of the restaurant. The sophistication of the wine offerings, by the glass or the bottle, is interesting. Some attention and knowledge has gone into the wine list. An extensive wine inventory is displayed as you enter the restaurant and in the bar.

Next in the surprise area was the number of people already frequenting a restaurant that had only opened three days previously. The place was jumping. The owner either has a lot of friends or a lot of family.

As elegant as this restaurant is, the table setting and amenities are minimal. Silverware is wrapped in the cloth napkin, a shortcut that is out of keeping with the ambiance of the restaurant. The granite table top, sans tablecloth or placemat, is a bit too austere, too informal for the upscale positioning. High design and modern sleekness are great, but some amenities are also welcomed, especially when the prices are north of average, as Vern's has positioned itself. Flemings understands this important value-added element of market positioning.

Vern's features different menus: one for lunch, one for dinner. These have a varied selection of starters, entrees, lunch features, and side dishes. Chef Burmeister, an alumni of 43 Restaurant at the Hotel Fort Des Moines and other local restaurants, is talented and solid. The menu is as well-designed as the restaurant and presents choices for all tastes and preferrences. Dinner features prime and choice steaks, pasta selections, several seafood selections, a number of chicken and pork offerings, and an innovative salad selection. "A" had an excellent chicken dish that was exceptionally well-prepared with robust flavors and carefully executed saucing. "D" had red snapper filets filled with flavor, if a bit over cooked. Vegetables were excellent and presentation perfect. As the kitchen and the processes come together, "A" and "D" expect the food will attain a high degree of consistentcy making Vern's the newest entry in the Des Moines constellation of stellar restaurants.

The wait staff are professionals from other upscale venues and service is friendly, appropriate and well-executed. These are enthusiastic people that actually want to have you return and make you feel welcome. One off-putting surprise is the hostess' habit of continual smoking at the bar; not a good image for this type of restaurant. But, unfortunately, many of the bar customers are smokers. The trend to non-smoking restaurants has not yet appealed to this owner. Time will tell.

For a new restaurant, there were remarkably few kinks on this first visit. The decor, bar service and selection, wait staff, menu offerings, and the culinary skill are all very good. Vern's will be successful with strong operational discipline and after fine-tuning the amenities to the market position and price class it is attempting to occupy.

Another surprise: Vern's is open for Saturday and Sunday breakfast from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. What a perfect place for a leisurely Eggs Benedict and champagne! "A" and "D" rate Vern's a 3, Yes.

Rating: 3, Yes
Quality: 3
Service: 3
Value: 3


Blogger Bob said...

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I happen to know that after your appearance on Tax Update, many local bloggers visit your site to find great places to eat.

8:31 PM  
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Blogger pedaliowa said...

This is one of my favorite places to eat.

9:22 PM  

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