On a Sunday night in April I and a dinner mate popped into one of my favorite Southside pizza joints, The Tavern South on Army Post Road.
The original Tavern was founded in Valley Junction during the Great Depression and operated as a, well… a tavern, until the 50s when they started offering sandwiches and thin-crust pizza, much to the delight of generations of hungry customers.
Under the current ownership of the Celci family, The Tavern expanded in the 90s, doubling the size of the Valley Junction restaurant and opening locations on 50th in West Des Moines and Army Post in Des Moines.
I like The Tavern South for its mostly laid back patrons, the airy atmosphere afforded by the abundance of plate glass windows, the casual, friendly staff, and of course the food.
I particularly like The Tavern's Italian Grinder pizza, with their own ground Italian sausage on a bed of red sauce, then blanketed with mozzarella. This pizza usually puts me happily on the nod afterward, especially paired with their thin-cut onion rings and a side salad.
This night, seeking some bite I ordered the Grinder Sting, which adds jalapeños and hot pepper cheese to the traditional Italian Grinder pizza. For those seeking something more toothsome, but less spicy, The Tavern also makes a Special Grinder Pizza with the addition of green bell peppers, onions and mushrooms.
Trying something different, I also ordered up the cheesy fries for an appetizer. With a thin, seasoned batter, some of the fries were a tad limp but nonetheless tasty. They didn't seem overburdened with oil so I assume the issue was not with an under-heated fryer, but with the batter not allowing the fries within to crisp. I wouldn’t balk at trying them again in hopes of a crispier batch.
With hunger pangs abated and a complimentary refill of beverage already serviced, the Grinder Sting comes to the table, hot and ready to dig into. Not being a fan of mouth burns I held off and let the pie rest for a few minutes before jumping in with vigor.
As you may know from my recent visit to La Pizza House [see blog post] I like my pizza both saucy and spicy. Whereas La Pizza House blew me awy with their hottest red sauce, the heat levels of The Tavern’s Grinder Sting were much kinder to the palate. It would probably take comparing the Grinder Sting sans jalapeños against the original Italian Grinder pizza to detect the hot pepper cheese paired with the mozzarella, but there was no missing the liberal amounts of seasoned red sauce, replete with grinder meat.
In short, any of The Tavern’s grinder pizzas are marvelous, and taste pretty damn good cold the next day as well. Yeah, I really like cold pizza [see blog post].