Sbrocco is a Court Avenue oasis of first-class service and cuisine in a land devoted to unfettered inebriation. It is also a story of perseverance after the 2008 flood filled the basement. If you hear the staff tell the story, it is amazing that they were able to get it back up and running. I don’t want to downplay some of the other great establishments in the Court Avenue District, such as Royal Mile, Hessen Haus, The Standard, Court Avenue Brewing, and Dos Rios, but Sbrocco is the lone standout when it comes to wine, a fine meal, and a white tablecloth for two.
The ambiance is rehab/modern, with some tables up front where some of the wine is displayed and a long wine bar flanked by some tables and booths. The bar offers a distinctly different and more upscale feel than many of the bars in the Court Avenue District — and that is a good thing in my book. Downstairs is a large room for private parties (though the rest rooms are also down there). Another important feature of Sbrocco is the wine selection. Sbrocco is a wine bar in addition to a restaurant and the wide wine selection is right out where everyone can see it — along with prices. I was surprised to find that the posted prices did not seem out of line with just buying a bottle at the wine store. I’ve heard that there is a corking fee if you want to drink the wine in the restaurant. Still, there is none of that “locked away in the Sommelier’s cellar” ostentation. I recommend trying the wine flights if you want to zero in on a great wine. We tried both the red wine ($10) and the white wine ($8) flights. One of the red wines, a zinfandel, was a real standout.
The food is renowned for being farm to table fresh and both times we recently visited this was clearly in evidence. In the most recent visit we shared three small social plates. The first included grilled blue prawns served with grits and flavored with some garlic ($10). They were expertly prepared. Next, we tried the anti-vegetarian Berkshire pork belly on carrots and slaw. This was a juicy serving of hunks of solid belly meat and fat (think bacon). This dish reminded me of the succulent meat dishes offered by the Boiler Room in Omaha.
For the cheese plate we got four cheeses served with Marcona almonds and Turkish candied apricots. The cheeses included a medium Manchego Spanish cheese, a Pietro Vecchia Italian firm cheese, an Australian black truffle medium cheese and a soft brie-style cheese from Wisconsin.
In a previous visit we also tried a number of small plates. We started off with some salads, both the butter lettuce ($7) and Caesar’s Salad. Both were crispy and fresh. The Caesar’s Salad had all of the correct ingredients. For the main course we tried the Mac and Cheese with truffles ($9) which I found to be intensely flavored — not your usual Mac and Cheese. Next, we tried the scallops, which were also well prepared ($13). We also tried the beef tenderloin skewers ($8). They were all great.
For dessert after the most recent meal we ordered the Tiramisu, which was properly light and creamy and a Makers Mark flourless chocolate torte with walnut chips. We did not order a dessert after the earlier visit — just too full!
Service both times was a joy. The waitress had that rare gift that makes every customer feel like their choice of food was the absolute best. She was also a real pro the way she kept the orders and food moving quickly.
209 Court Ave.
Des Moines, IA 50309
Bar: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. to Close, M-Th, 11 a.m. to Close F-Sa
Food: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.