The Continental opens a new restaurant in the East Village in Des Moines
First the pandemic closed restaurants in March 2020. Then in July 2020, the Continental lost its space on East Locust Street in the East Village, where it had specialized in small plates, cocktails and live music since 2005.
Nearly two years later, owner Jennifer DuBay returns to the Des Moines dining scene with a revamped version of The Continental in a new space in the East Village. The restaurant and lounge that leans into New Orleans-inspired dishes is taking over the former Dirt Burger space at 407 E. Fifth St.
“We love the East Village and couldn’t pass it up,” she said.
DuBay says she spent the better part of two years looking for the perfect place to reestablish the restaurant and lounge. “It’s less than a block away,” she said from inside her new location which has been just around the corner from the 15-year-old Continental’s house.
Now, instead of a shotgun-scale footprint, the Continental has a bar at the end of the space that seats about 60 people with four-tier tables, a long, thin seating shared lounge for communal meals that overlooks Fifth Street and the low-hanging chandeliers above. Black walls, a handful of gilt mirrors, a black-and-white image of Cary Grant smoking and Brigitte Bardot playing cards line the wall.
Her husband, Kevin, runs Reclaiming Iowa, a West Des Moines furniture store that uses reclaimed wood. He used old barn wood for the bar top and other furniture.
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Familiar touches also return – a painting of Napoleon, the jukebox in the corner, and the dark, alluring surroundings with small candles giving the space a cozy vibe.
To the front, floor-to-ceiling windows open onto a small patio which on long summer days extends daylight into the dining area later in the evening.
DuBay said sharing plates were still popular. Favorites from the old menu return, including melon and prosciutto crostini, truffled mushrooms, French fries, a roasted pear salad and a blackened chicken sandwich. As the kitchen settles into its routine, more familiar favorites may appear.
The french fries come with options such as loaded with queso blanco and garlic ranch, Sicilian with spicy homemade marinara and mozzarella, or South of the Border with queso blanco and chorizo.
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New arrivals include fried mozzarella on a stick, baked goat cheese, and a double mash burger, which DuBay calls a version of an In-N-Out burger with two crispy patties and a secret sauce ( and luckily not the soft, soggy fries at In-N-Sortie).
For dessert, she now has donuts, these fried dough pieces sprinkled with powdered sugar.
Much of the menu is a tribute to New Orleans, donuts and blackened tilapia.
Of course, cocktails have always been a staple at the Continental, and many favorites such as the all day bloody mary or maria return for $9. Seasonal spritzes like a Southern Belle with sweet tea vodka and mint or Unicorn Juice with vodka and Prosecco are $10.
DuBay has also created summer jars of cocktails that start with a base, like watermelon and basil or raspberry and mint, then add vodka, gin, rum, or tequila mixed in a mason jar. and garnished with San Pellegrino.
Jazz takes over the restaurant on Saturday evening from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.
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The vegan restaurant Dirt Burger closed at the end of 2021 with the intention of reopening. The restaurant that occupied the Fifth Street space for two years has no new location.
The Continental’s former space at 428 E. Locust St. will become Bar Nico, a coastal Mexican restaurant from Jason Simon, owner of East Village American restaurant Alba, Mediterranean-inspired Eatery A on Ingersoll Avenue and pizza specialist deep from Detroit Parlor to Beaverdale.
Find it: The Continental, 407 E. Fifth St., 515-528-2300.
Bar open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to Thursday and from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
Kitchen open from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday and until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Happy hour from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday with $6 fries, red sangria and mojitos; $7 melon and prosciutto crostini, spicy meatballs and Newly Fashioned cocktails; and $5 drinks and draft beers, among other entrees.