An English born and Australian raised restaurateur and entrepreneur living in New York meets a native Iowan also living in New York and they move to Iowa and start a flourishing line of upscale restaurants in the Des Moines metro.
Does that sound like a Hallmark Movie?
Well, maybe not quite.
But it is the true story of Alexander Hall, the man behind the three presently open St. Kilda restaurants in Des Moines and a fourth planned for the Valley Junction neighborhood of West Des Moines. In fact, just recently, Hall participated in a #ThisISIowa press conference with Governor Kim Reynolds highlighting the career opportunities, real estate availability, and lower cost of living that exists in Iowa.
St. Kilda is the part of Australia where Hall learned the restaurant business and so he has utilized that as the namesake for his various eateries. St. Kilda Cafe and Bakery, on the south side of the downtown area, is the original location and has developed a great following among foodies in Central Iowa. He's followed that up with St. Kilda Surf and Turf in the East Village and then St. Kilda at the Temple for Performing Arts, occupying the space where the downtown Starbucks was before they moved to a new location.
Not long after St. Kilda Surf and Turf opened, a friend and I dined there for an evening meal. It's located in the East Village on Grand Avenue, almost directly in the middle of the downtown and the Iowa Capitol.
This particular neighborhood has experienced significant gentrification over the two few decades and is now, without a doubt, Iowa's trendiest neighborhood. The restaurant itself is built in a brand new building across from Des Moines' City Hall.
The truly unique feature of this multi-story building is that it has been constructed of mass timber, the only one of its kind in the entire United States.
The walls to the outside of the restaurant are almost all glass and thus obviously let in a lot of natural lighting.
Inside, the restaurant has a very modern, urban, and industrial feel.
The mass timber beams and woodwork are a big part of the interior but you also find attractive lighting features and a variable blend of seating options, including at a bar.
The website advertises the place as offering, "Healthy modern fish & chips, souvlaki, house-made bakery items, egg dishes, veg & grains, and bites for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, artisanal drinks featuring Counter Culture Coffee and a full bar serving cocktails, beer, and wine."
My friend ordered the lamb souvlaki, which comes with the fries inside the wrap. She got them on the side instead.
I ordered the fried chicken sandwich and chips, which was also quite tasty.
All of the food comes served on metal trays and the water glasses are also metal. It really fits well with the whole vibe and decor of the place.
I've only been to the original St. Kilda once and this is, to date, my only visit to the Surf & Turf location. I have not yet been to the one at the Temple for the Performing Arts and the location in Valley Junction is not yet open. However, there are many more things on the various menus that I am looking forward to trying in the months and years ahead.
Iowa is quite fortunate to have someone as talented as Mr. Hall in Iowa. Des Moines' food scene is pretty solid but the addition of these St. Kilda restaurants have certainly taken it to another level.