August 29, 2011

Fong's Pizza

Des Moines' weekly alternative paper, Cityview, is doing a survey in an attempt to identify Des Moines' Ultimate Pizza.  They've selected 42 local pizza places, including some old standards and some relative newcomers, and representing a variety of different pizza styles, from among which readers can vote.  The first round of voting will narrow the field down to 16, while subsequent votes will narrow things further yet, until the Ultimate Pizza is crowned. 

In looking over the list, we noticed that there are a fair number of pizza places in Des Moines that we've never tried, and some others we've not eaten at in a long time.  We took that as a challenge, so over the next few weeks we plan to try out a bunch of pizza places and write about them.   I don't think we're going to get close to 42, but our plan is to try to hit a few places we've never eaten at during the first rounds of voting, and to try to hit all of the contenders still in the contest for the last few rounds of voting.  With this goal in mind, we started with one fairly new to the Des Moines pizza scene:  Fong's Pizza.

Fongs, which opened in 2009, is located in downtown Des Moines.  It's a bar as well as a pizzeria, and in the short time it's been around it has gotten a lot of notice, both in Des Moines and on the national level.  Fong's has been mentioned on blogs from Chicago and elsewhere, and was recently featured on a segment of one of the shows on the Cooking Channel, in addition to being mentioned in Food Network Magazine.  Locally, it has gotten great reviews in the local papers and rating websites, and it has won a bunch of Cityview reader's awards, including Best Pizza and Best New Bar.

Fong's decor is certainly unique.  The restaurant website summarizes it as follows:  "Our decor is a mix of Chinese, Oriental, Polynesian & Italian with a 40's & 50's feel. Think of a 'frozen in time' dive bar with delicious food, great service & tasty tiki drinks that pack a real punch."  We chose to eat in the back dining area, but there are also tables by the bar. 

Fong's serves up pizzas with all of the traditional ingredients, plus several not-so-traditional ones.   Various combos are available, some pretty traditional, some not.  Some of their combo pizzas , such as Thai Chicken, Moo Shu Pork and Crab Rangoon, are strongly Asian in flavor, but there are also more traditional choices such as the Meatarian (all-meat), Veggie Supreme and Taco Pizza.  Their appetizer selection is also unusual for a pizza place, in that it includes several Asian selections, including vegetable or pork and chicken egg rolls.   Fong's also serves a diverse batch of salads, sandwiches and desserts.

Fong's egg rolls come 4 to an order (5 if you order the
vegetarian ones), but I was so hungry and they looked
so good I started in on one before Juli had a chance
to snap a picture.

For appetizers, we purchased an order of the pork and chicken egg rolls.  They arrived piping hot and were exceptional, with wonderfully flaky wrapping and a lot more - and more flavorful - meat than one usually finds in egg rolls.   Ours were served up with sweet chili sauce and hot mustard, and they really hit the spot. 

We also purchased a large thin crust pizza with a fairly traditional mix of ingredients - pepperoni, Canadian bacon, fresh mushrooms and tomatoes - along with the house red sauce and the house blend of cheeses.  It was literally steaming hot - I doubt it had been out of the oven for more than three minutes by the time it came to the table - and it was just plain delicious, with choice ingredients and a subtly smoky flavor.  Fong's is generous with its toppings.  The thin-sliced meats were layered on the pizza, and there were ample amounts of mushrooms, tomatoes and a delicious blend of cheese.  The crust was thin and crispy, and there was just the right amount of the wonderfully seasoned sauce.

This was the first time we've eaten at Fong's, but it won't be the last.  We're looking forward to returning, to try some of the less traditional pizza choices and to sample more of the great appetizers.  I suspect Fong's will become our go-to pizza place, because after a single visit it has pushed Bordenaro's out of the top spot on our "favorite Des Moines pizza places" listing.

Fong's Pizza is located at 223 4th Street, Des Moines, Iowa 50309.  Their hours are 11 am to midnight for the kitchen, and 11 am to 2 am for the bar.  Their phone number is (515) 323-3333.  Fong's Pizza can also be found on Facebook.

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