Remember that scene in the movie “Pretty Woman” where the street vendor is calling out, “What’s your dream? Everybody’s got a dream.” OR perhaps you DON’T remember it because you were too focused on the scene where a bleach blonde Julia Roberts is unzipping her thigh-high pseudo-leather boots. If so, shame on you! At least have the decency to pretend your favorite scene was when Julia tried to eat the snail or when Richard presented her with the priceless diamond necklace.

I admit…Pretty Woman is every girl’s fantasy (minus the fact that you have to be a prostitute first). But what female doesn’t want some rich guy to sweep them off their feet… and foot the bill of their personal Rodeo Drive shopping spree? My only complaint with this movie is the scene where Julia and Richard are sitting on a blanket in the park reading poetry. Supposedly this is “very romantic.” But what part of romance includes being eaten by bugs and sweltering in the California heat? Surely there is a nice air-conditioned 3D movie theatre around featuring a smorgasbord  of jumbo popcorn, milk duds and junior mints. THAT might be my dream! that might be my second dream. My REAL dream is to host a television show like the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives”…but Iowa Roadie style. That means that instead of visiting local little restaurants and highlighting their specialty dishes, we are stopping at little Iowa dive bars to showcase all the quirky fun they can provide. (Remember the fun of reading the Wonky Donkey or the woman at The Place 2B showing my husband her pierced nipple?) Who wouldn’t want to tune in to THAT?!

But alas, the television gurus have failed to realize the Emmy potential of the Iowa Roadie Adventures (yet!) and thus far all my dive bar fun has been without financial gain. (However I did acquire some nice Lucky Donkey koozies and a coat from The Pub in Menomonie.) So until MY dream comes to fruition, I will carry on as though the cameras are rolling. (Although in hindsight, it may be best that they weren’t…unless one wants to view an entire “bloopers” roll.)  

However this latest Iowa Roadie adventure in East Des Moines does have a certain  “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” feel about it, as after a night celebrating our daughter’s 21st birthday, fruity drinks and funky shots held minimal appeal. Instead I was looking for something to fill my stomach and counteract an evening at The Blue Moon dueling piano bar. (Quick side note…This was the second time I had ever gone to the Blue Moon. The first time was several years ago when my brother-in-law purchased a fish bowl. This is a big blue drink served in–yep–a fish bowl. Despite the warning that firmly states a fish bowl should be shared, the Iowa Roadie (who was not the Iowa Roadie at that time) did not heed that advice. What I learned from that experience…It is never be a good thing when strangers tell me that I am fun.)

Fortunately history did not repeat itself, and I was able to get up and moving on Saturday. My primary motivation for getting out of bed was a tiny place called Kelly’s Little Nipper on the east side of Des Moines. The building itself was constructed in 1908, and has housed not only a bar, but a general store and a brothel (Sing along with me…Pretty woman. Walking down the street.)  Now as Kelly’s, from 10 am -1 pm on Saturdays, it serves $1 bloody marys and $1 biscuits and gravy. I repeat. One. Dollar. So even though I was not feeling the bloody mary situation (thankfully my husband took one for the team and ordered one–very tasty), I got the biscuits and gravy. When the waitress took my order, she suggested I add a side of DEEP FRIED BACON. If heaven were a fried pork product, this would be it. Seriously. I don’t even care how sacreligious that sounds. This was the best, most crunchy, perfect bacon I have ever eaten. How has this bacon never been featured on tv? It truly deserves its own Netflix special.

In fact, Kelly’s Little Nipper really warrants its own full-length Iowa Roadie blog. Unfortunately we had to head out, but this place is definitely up for a return visit. (Imagine the BLTs here!) Anyway after what seemed like HOURS at Bass Pro and a “quick” stop at Bath & Body Works (semi annual sale in progress), my husband I stopped in to another little place called The Eastsider. (Quick interjection…Although the revitalization of Des Moines may not have reached the east side yet, there are lots of fun little dive bars there. Please do not let the exterior of some of these buildings be a deterrent. The Eastsider is just one of these places.)

Upon entering the Eastsider, we were greeted by an older gentleman with some sort of accent. It is with regret that  I failed to ask this gentleman his name, although he shared that his sister was the bar owner. He worked the morning shift three days a week. (The Eastsider opens at 8 am! And they do not serve bacon.) On Thursdays, The Eastsider hosts karaoke, and they have live music each Friday and Saturday night. As it was only 2 pm, the only music playing was an old Willie Nelson song over the jukebox.

Seated next to us at the bar was a gentleman that the bartender described as a “mountain man.” Evidently Mountain Man goes the entire summer without wearing shoes. (I hoped he was current on his tetanus shots.) However as it was winter, Mountain Man was sporting appropriate foot attire, along with a nifty rugged backpack. Also seated at the bar was a 30ish couple. While not married, the female described her male companion as “Prince Charming.” This description was in comparison to her last un-Prince Charming boyfriend, I guess. And while Prince Charming did not have a white steed or even a crown, he was very amicable… despite setting the boyfriend bar Very High with such a lofty title. (The Iowa Roadie has never described her husband as Prince Charming.)

While our bartender poured our drinks (Sprite for me, cheap draws for my husband), we asked where the best place to grab something to eat was. Our bartender recommended a little place nearby called E. 25th Pub & Grub. He claimed they had the best capicola sandwich. Intrigued by this new cuisine, the Iowa Roadie and her husband plugged the location into google… and pulled up to an inconspicuous little building in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Seriously. On all sides, E. 25th Pub & Grub was surrounded by homes. It was like when the tornado just plunked Dorothy’s home down in the middle of Oz (minus the munchkins and the yellow brick road). OK…So I’m not really sure about the Wizard of Oz analogy…other than the restaurant just seemed out of place.

E. 25th Pub & Grub is a cozy establishment with a limited menu consisting of five sandwiches, six appetizers, and three side dishes. All food is prepared either on the one-person grill and fryer across from the bar, or in one of several instapots. (Note: While the instapot is some people’s miracle appliance, I have yet to truly comprehend its wonder. The only thing I can make in it is chili…although the chili did win first place at a local cook off last year.)  

Besides us, there was one other gentleman in the Pub & Grub, and he recommended we try not only the infamous capicola sandwich (consisting of spicy sliced Italian ham, grilled peppers, pepper jack cheese and sauce ) but the tenderloin as well. He also suggested that we get the potato salad.

Here is where I wish the Food Network cameras were rolling. Per the gentleman’s advice, we ordered both the capicola sandwich and tenderloin, and the waitress gave us a sample of the potato salad. I thought The Little Nipper bacon was the epitome of food bliss. Turns out, I might be wrong. To reference yet another cheesy movie (but one with good ol’ Iowa roots), when Shoeless Joe Jackson asks, “Is this heaven?,” the response should NOT involve a cornfield but a counter seat in the E. 25th Pub & Grub.

And if we could throw some of that deep fried bacon on one of those sandwiches? Now THAT…and my Iowa Roadie Emmy Award… is my dream!

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