- 3301 Ingersoll Ave., Des Moines, IA, 50312
- Overall User Rating:
- (8 ratings)
- 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Friday, 5-1:30 p.m. Saturday. Closed Sunday.
- Official Web Site:
A few weeks ago, my uncle reminisced to me about how, as a young bachelor, Jesse's Embers on Ingersoll was his mainstay. He told me about a day in the 1960s when, after lunch, he and a buddy tried to convince owner Jesse Roush that he could surely fit one more table in the dining room. For an entire afternoon, they scrambled the tables every which way. Finally, they had to concede there was no way to fit even one more two-top in the snug little joint.
My uncle told me that story at lunch; that night at dinner, I ran into someone who told me that the beloved Ingersoll Embers had passed out of the Roush family and into the hands of new owners.
A wave of concern crept over me. So many of the touchstones of the Des Moines dining scene - places enjoyed from one generation to another - have expired in the past decade. Will Jesse's be next? After all, look what happened to Baker's Cafeteria when the Bakers handed over their keys.
My two recent visits assured me that the new owners seem to be running a very tight restaurant.
What's new?: Gone are the wildlife prints, replaced by eyecatching nocturnal scenes of Des Moines. The ladies' room has been renovated, and the place now has a few small glass-block windows. This, in a facility known for its dark, closed-in atmosphere.
Most significant, Jesse's now only allows smoking at the bar. I imagine many who flocked away because of the smoke soon will make their way back.
Best bets: I can't tell if I'd merely forgotten how good the Emberburger is - or if it's actually even better than ever. While the ground sirloin patty was juicy and nicely pink throughout, what delighted me most was its pillow-soft texture - the tenderness added to the melt-in-the-mouth appeal. Bravo for the crisp, burn-fingers-hot fries, too.
I'm always a fan of the Embers Special and, once again, the aged prime sirloin satisfied in its beefy open-pit-grilled way. Ribs are of the saucy and extra-meaty knife-and-fork variety, and the Ribeye pleased with its generous marbling.
It's notable that most steaks cost less than $21. There's no sticking it to diners for sides and salads, either - they're included.
Bottom line: On both visits, owner Marty Scarpino was entirely (but not obtrusively) present, welcoming guests, keeping an eye on the action and making sure everything hummed right along - much in the same way I usually spot owners Gino Foggia at Gino's, Bob Tursi at Latin King and Jerry Talerico at Sam & Gabe's.
That, as much as anything, tells me this place is going to be just fine.