For New Years Eve 2013, we had dinner at BOS. It wasn’t the most inspiring experience. Sure, it’s good by hotel standards with a nice interior and service, but the food is nothing special. We made quick work of our dinner, and sent a text message over to our friends who were also dining downtown. My buddy snapped a shot of his Skate Wing, and it was immediately clear we had chosen the wrong place — it looked exquisite. They invited us over for some drinks and desserts to help the transition into the new year. So we walked the block south from Locust to Walnut and found ourselves at Gramercy Tap for the first time. Ever since, it’s been a favorite of ours.
Physically, it’s a beautiful restaurant. Tall ceilings, lots of cement, dimly lit. And regardless of where you’re seated, you’ll find the accommodations intimate and romantic. Service is always impeccable. The wait staff is attentive, detailed, caring. I’ve always been pleased with the service that I have received.
The Gramercy Tap is the creation of Andrew Meek, a James Beard nominated chef, and an incredibly talented local Des Moines area restauranteur, who has created a number of other equally loved restaurants. Last summer though, he parted ways from the restaurant, which came as both a shock and a disappointment to us. Naturally, we feared that with him leaving, it would create a void that might be backfilled with a lack of passion and talent, and the restaurant would go to hell in a hand basket. The same friends who introduced us to Gramercy Tap dined there shortly after Andrew’s departing, and disturbingly they had nothing but bad things to report — the food was so bad, they vowed they wouldn’t likely be returning, believing the restaurant couldn’t be straightened up without Andrew. So when we decided to try it again recently, we were hesitant. What would we find? Would we find this beloved restaurant in shambles?
One word: Hardly.
The restaurant was just as wonderful as we remember from our first few visits. Service was impeccable, same beloved decor, and thank God, the same incredible food.
If you only take away one thing from what I have to say, make sure it’s this: Gramercy Tap has the best burger and fries in the Des Moines metro. Sure, they’ve got some amazing haute dishes, but so do many other restaurants in the Des Moines Metro. But there’s only ever one best, and when it comes to burgers and fries, Gramercy Tap has it.
We always order drinks when we go to Gramercy Tap and tonight was no different. They’ve got a great bar that has always been happy to suggest drinks or whip up our favorites.
For an appetizer we went with our old standby: the bacon wrapped Maytbag blue cheese stuffed dates. Quite simply, it’s a trio of flavors that all work together in perfect harmony. The pungency of the cheese, with the saltiness of the bacon, juxtaposed against the sweetness of the date. It all works together so well.
As you can see, as they broil these little puppies the cheese melts and grease from the bacon and juice from the dates marry together, changing the color of the cheese.
I’ve tried a few dishes at Gramercy Tap and I always return to their burger. It’s the best burger I’ve ever had, using Creekstone Farms Angus beef, house made bacon (that’s made right there!), caramelized onions, foie gras butter, and Maytag blue cheese. What this means is an incredible amount of flavor (admittedly, mostly from the sheer amount of fat). The beef is crumbly, the bacon is thick and incredibly flavorful, and the foie gras butter melts over the top of the burger — it’s there in cube form when it’s first delivered, and the next moment as you’re taking your first bite it’s running down your chin. Impeccable. It is hands down the best burger in Des Moines, and I’d argue just about anywhere.
For my side I ordered their parmesan risotto. It’s completely loaded with parmesan — to die for.
I noticed they had Salt and Vinegar Fries, and being a huge fan of Salt and Vinegar Chips, I just had to try them. So I placed an order, not entirely sure what to expect. What came out was a mound of freshly cut and fried potatoes, with a healthy dusting of finely ground salt, and smothered in vinegar. It was absolutely heavenly! This was the star of the entire meal. It was so pungent, strong, salty, and crunchy. I cannot wait until I get my hands on some of these again.
My wife went with their Pasta Carbonara. It featured their house cured smoked bacon, peas, and a sherry shallot cream sauce. She really enjoyed it and I was fortunate enough to try a bite. I thought it was very well done, with tons of flavor. Although, I think for me personally, I would have wanted something with a bit more something, maybe vegetables, or something else to round out the pasta. But don’t get me wrong, it’s an incredible dish.
When it came time to order dessert we couldn’t agree on just one so we settled on two: their crème brûlée and their chocolate walnut torte. The crème brûlée was wonderful. The chocolate torte however was a bit “dry”. I imagine the finely ground walnuts in the torte were the cause.
Over the past year or so, we’ve had a number of wonderful dishes at Gramercy Tap. The service is always spot on and I love the decor. I’ll continue to argue fervently that they have the best burger and fries anywhere. The real plus of Gramercy Tap is their prices — everything said out the door with tax, title, and licensing, our meal with drinks, appetizer, two entrees, order of fries, and two desserts came to just over $50…truly, a bargain.
I have no qualms suggesting it for anyone looking for a nice meal or date night. If you’ve yet to try Gramercy Tap, I would suggest giving it a try.