- 428 E. Locust St., Des Moines, IA, 50309
- Overall User Rating:
- (32 ratings)
- Restaurant Friday&Saturday 11a.m.-2a.m. Bar Monday-Saturday 11a.m.-2a.m. kitchen open 12am
- Official Web Site:
DATEBOOK DINER * D.V. Wagman * May 8, 2008
There is a crass statement sometimes bandied about in male circles that goes: "The more you drink, the better she looks." I never imagined myself repeating it - until I spent a few nights at the Continental, a venue whose faults, at first glaringly apparent, soften as the wine goes down.
Space: Ubiquitous East Village: cheap-chic, urban scruff. The narrow space, defined by crumbling brick walls, well-worn floor and black, adornment-free furnishings, exudes that "look-how-hip-we-are" vibe nicely. A closer look reveals an unpleasant griminess. Less-than-sparkling stemware, sauce-smeared tabletops, greasy kitchen smoke. A cook wearing a less-than-clean apron rattled me.
Service: Nobody here bends over backward while caring for diners and drinkers, yet service is perfectly adequate. This is a place where raising a hand to alert a server to a needed refill is not a big deal.
The old food service adage "Time to lean, time to clean" could be put into action, however. It is disturbing to sit in a less-than-pristine environment and listen to empty-handed servers chat about their boyfriends.
Menu: The cleverly conceived menu is a study in balance: super-trendy with farm-kid-friendly; healthful with indulgent, herbivore with carnivore.
Regional and ethnic classics - from Asian dumplings to Spanish meatballs - offer something for most any taste. I especially appreciated being presented with an ample selection of Mediterranean-inspired, healthful, low-fat choices, options so often lacking in our cheesy, fried food-loving part of the world.
Pomegranate Pita Points were topped with a deeply satisfying hummus-like garbanzo bean puree, topped with fresh, zesty cilantro-onion relish. Goat Cheese Plate, which arrived with rounds of crisp-coated Montrachet and a wonderfully nutty olive-walnut tapenade, hit the spot in a lean and clean way.
Generous tapa and small-plate portions offer plenty to share. This side of the menu offers their best bets.
Salads are passable, but missing freshness and crunch. Sandwiches lacked spunk as well. Blackened Chicken and Cranberry Brisket Sandwiches, both catch-in-the-throat dry, arrived with an uninspired pasta salad.
A selection of five large plates, priced from $14.95 for a vegetarian dish to $21.95 for beef tenderloin, seemed out of place. The Pork Loin Chop, drenched in a creamy blue cheese sauce, was a juicy, flavorful bone-in number, but I would have rather seen it translated into a good sandwich or lighter meal.
Bottom line: A little grimy, a bit of a dive, but a comfy place to enjoy a drink and a nosh with pals.