Boy, I feel like an idiot. There is no good excuse for never having visited B&B Grocery, Meat & Deli on the south side of Des Moines before today. Sure, I knew it existed from the occasional article or mention in local newspapers. I also knew that this was where Archie Brooks built his political base, and where he returned to after his political dénouement. I was therefore shocked when I finally stopped by B&B Grocery, Meat & Deli for a sandwich. As they say, there are some things you have to see in the flesh in order to really appreciate it. First, I was surprised that it was as close to downtown as it is. I would have thought that I would have noticed the place driving down 9th Avenue. Second, I was surprised by the crowd. I have just come to expect that crowds only appear at fast-food places these days. Not only was the place absolutely packed, but other than some Lincoln High students the place was populated with “working men.” Many of them were wearing the different uniforms of their various trades. It almost reminded of a bowling alley on competition night. The parking lot and the roads all around the building were packed with delivery trucks, company vehicles, and idling cars waiting for someone to fetch their pre-ordered lunch. Yes, it is true that it is best if you call in your order ahead of time. We were quickly spotted as B&B newbies and they took our order but told us that the wait would be shorter the next time if we took one of the little green cards that had the lunch menu on it. Some menu cards were stuffed into our sandwiches to make sure that we called ahead the next time. I like how they looked out after us.
The history of the place is that the original location was opened in 1922 by a couple of teenage boys, J. Archie and John Brooks who decided that they wanted to go into the grocery business. How many kids do things like that nowadays? The business has been in the family ever since, and it is clear that the local community rewards the great food with faithful patronage. I could go on, but the webpage for B&B has a good history, along with pictures.
I ordered the Rib-eye Sandwich. This was a real slice of freshly grilled rib-eye in a bun. It really hit the spot. My spouse ordered the Reuben and I stole a bite and can report that it was way better than any Reuben I’ve tried lately. The sauerkraut was really tasty and it did not have that rubbery cabbage feel that so many Reubens have. For anyone else who wants to visit, you go to the meat counter area to order (if you didn’t call in ahead of time) and then back away to wait for the food to arrive. After you pick up the order, proceed to the checkout stand near the door. If you want to eat in, there is a no-nonsense lunch counter tucked away in a corner. I got the impression that this is not for leisurely chats with friends. This counter is built to allow hungry people to chow down and move along. It reminds me of a feeding trough for cattle. As the clock neared 1:00 p.m. it was interesting to see the place clear out as quickly as it had filled up. Within minutes the only people at the counter were some Lincoln High kids on an extended lunch break.
Check out the webpage for a series of interesting “Butcher Videos.” These are videos demonstrating how the various cuts are prepared the “old fashioned way.” Their steaks are cut from carcass beef and the hamburger you buy all comes from a single carcass. They even show how they create sausage. The video showing John Brooks Jr. breaking down a beef hind quarter will be amazing to anybody who has tried to butcher a large animal. From the looks of meat counter, it looks like a lot of the cuts are long gone before lunch, so if you want something in particular you may have to get there early. Here is a video showing how a beef standing rib roast is prepared.
Monday - Friday: 8:30am to 6:30pm (Grill Closes at 6pm)
Saturday: 8:30am to 5:30pm (Grill Closes at 5pm)
B&B Grocery, Meat & Deli
2001 SE 6th Street
Des Moines, Iowa 50315
FAX (515) 280-7037