No visit to the east side is complete without a stop at Gerri’s Bar & Grill. Located across from the fairgrounds, the modest dive serves up delicious bar food with ice cold beers, and is the perfect escape from the Iowa State Fair’s heat and crowds.
We stopped in on a Tuesday evening to get a taste before the madness of the fair brings masses from around the country to its door. When we arrived at 6 p.m., much of the bar was already full (and was completely full when we left at 8 p.m.). Most tables were topped with pitchers of beer and baskets of wings. We seated ourselves and a busy bartender stopped by to greet us and ask what we were drinking. In a flash, he was back with Coors Light and Busch Light bottles.
The bar’s menu is squeezed on a small flyer that sits on the table. A list of appetizers — wings, onion rings, cheese balls, gizzards, breaded mushrooms and more — fills one side. A list of bar staples — chicken strips, hamburgers, grilled and breaded tenderloins, a guinea grinder, a fish sandwich — fills the other.
We started off with an order of wings. Considered by many (from all corners of the city) to be the best in Des Moines, they are certainly contenders and are juicy with just the right amount of heat that doesn’t build into a sweltering burn. Their best attribute, second to flavor, is their crispiness. Each bite lends a satisfying crunch into perfectly fried skin — not gristle or fat. And Gerri’s doesn’t skimp on the celery and carrots — our basket had four fat sticks of each.
For dinner, I tried the Philly steak sandwich with fries for $8.50 (just the sandwich is $5). Thin slices of steak with perfectly crisped edges are the star of the sandwich, which is topped with sauteed peppers, mushrooms, onions and lots of cheese. The soft, buttery bun made it easy to eat, although I scooped up dropped bits in the bottom of my basket when I was through. The crinkle cut fries were crunchy outside and soft in the center.
My friend ordered the Gerri’s burger, a half-pound burger topped with the usual suspects — lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle. He also ordered his with fries for $8.50 (just the burger is $6). The meal was large and satisfying, but the burger could have been cooked a few minutes less. Our bartender didn’t ask what temperature my friend preferred, but we assumed they cook all burgers to medium-well. Regardless, it hit the spot.
If you stop by Gerri’s during the fair, save room for the wings. We said it once, and we’ll say it a million times, they’re awesome. We also recommend a few cold beers and maybe even a game of pool or darts afterward, but we’ll save that review for another time.
Wings ........................ $7.75
Philly steak sandwich ................. $8.50
Gerri’s burger ........... $8.50
Total, with tax and tip: $35
Gerri’s Bar & Grill
Find it: 232 E. 30th St.
Hours: 10 a.m.-2 a.m. Monday through Saturday; 4 p.m.-midnight Sunday; kitchen closes at 1 a.m. Monday through Saturday and at 11 p.m. Sunday