- 6800 Fleur Drive, Des Moines, IA, 50309
- Overall User Rating:
- (8 ratings)
- 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday
- Official Web Site:
Preliminary visit, not yet rated.
A friend of mine becomes almost teary when she recounts the last time she went to Johnnie's Vets Club before the flood of '93 swept it away. She recalls the famed onion rings and Steak de Burgo, of course, but what really stays with her was seeing a handful of white-haired World War II veterans sitting around the piano singing "God Bless America" as she left the place for the last time.
Johnny's Italian Steakhouse in West Des Moines - a new outpost of a locally grown chain - is patterned after such iconic supper clubs of yore; it's even named, in part, after Johnnie's Vets Club. Yet, I just can't see the new spot ever creating the kind of memories that its forebears did. There's something missing, which, I suppose, is the case at most corporate restaurants: They're not rooted to a time, a place or a people.
In spite of this, how's the food? Put it this way: It's not as good as Sam & Gabe's, but I can think of a few other local Italian-American spots that I would gladly pass over to get to Johnny's.
Decor: After a walk through the swank, stylish bar, the staid dining room comes as a letdown. Stark rows of shiny black furniture lack warmth and personality; once we settled in, the rat-pack era music played too loudly in the near-empty room, sounding tinny at times - as if blaring from a transistor radio.
Menu: Steaks, chops, seafood, pasta, chicken, plus sandwiches at lunch. As it's adjacent to a new hotel, breakfast is also served, but not reviewed here.
Best Bites: I got bold and ordered the shrimp cocktail. Yes, that's going out on a limb, given the very bad shrimp I've had in this town lately: insipid stuff that tastes little better than what diners can get - precooked and packaged on a serving tray - at a supermarket.
Johnny's version brought the kind of big, fat, cold, sweet, rich and meaty seafood that made the shrimp cocktail something to look forward to, once upon a time.
I was equally gun-shy about ordering the prime rib, given that I'd recently endured one elsewhere that tasted factory-roasted and shipped in on a truck. Our server assured me that Johnny's kitchen had slow-roasted the meat in-house. Happily, the juicy and tender, flavor-charged cut lived up to that promise.
So-so: The trio of filet medallions, with three different crusts (horseradish, blue cheese and Parmesan), arrived overcooked - not surprising given the thinness of the cuts. Skip this one.
Bottom Line: Order edgier items somewhere else - stick with the classics here.