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A hearty birthday feast

Fatboy celebrates Year One with a monster tenderloin at Winston's.
STEVE POPE / Street Smart Fat Boy
This month marks more than just the usual Yankees appearance in the World Series -it's also the one-year anniversary of Street Smart Fatboy. So as the Yankees continue to knock the ball out of the park, it seems only fitting that I'm reviewing the work of one of Iowa's biggest Yankee fans as well as the one person who has been my biggest eating influence over the years.

Do you remember what you were doing Oct. 18, 1977, as Reggie Jackson hit his third home run in game six, leading the Yankees to their 21st world championship? The Fatboy does. It may have been the first of a thousand big-ol' food feasts. Steve Little, who is a long-time restaurateur now at Winston's in Des Moines, was preparing what might have been one of his first mass-group feedings in a duplex his grandmother once owned just off Ingersoll Avenue.

The pan of lasagna he was putting together cost more than $100 (back then a hundred bucks was a whole lotta money for anything, much less a pan of zags), and weighed in at 25 pounds if it was an ounce! I recall watching the cheese as it bubbled, sniffing the scents from the oven that wafted over the duplex and headed down the street, and waiting in agony for nearly an hour after the pan landed on the counter before being allowed allowed near the kitchen. It was not a pretty sight.

But the wait was worth it. This turned out to be one of the best, biggest pans of zags that I have ever been lucky enough to have feasted upon.

The kind of care and patience put into that feast has been relived time and time again under Little's watchful eye for the past 21 years. He's currently at Winston's at 601 Locust St., on the skywalk in downtown Des Moines.

To say that Little's culinary skills and restaurant endeavors have seen many many ups and downs (not the least of which were two floods) is an understatement. But if the fixings we tore into last week indicate anything, it is that maybe the best is yet to come.

A loin to love

Take the fried tenderloin sandwich, the special at Winston's on the day I visited. It was so big that after I quartered it, it fed four people. Now, I know that claiming a tenderloin is the biggest is like saying the pizza is the best or the beer is the coldest, because someone somewhere will jump up and down and make a liar out of you. Nevertheless, I will say this: I have never eaten a loin as good as that one. And rarely have I ever eaten anything as big as the loin o' the day.

The only problem was after we cut the bun into four chunks there was only enough bun to make a finger sandwich but we each had a chunk of loin bigger than the original bun! We needed to order one sandwich and four buns!

Other Winston's wonders

We also tried the English grinder, a sandwich that featured hamburger mixed with Italian sausage; covered with sauteed onions, mancini peppers and provolone cheese, and baked to perfection. "Outstanding" is as good a word as any to describe that entree.

Speaking of delicious, eating a bowl of Little's clam chowder might be just about as much fun as one can have with clothes on! I'm not sure how a city boy from Des Moines can brew up chowder like he does, but it definitely has something to do with his love of cooking and using the best ingredients. The soups change daily and rarely stray too far from right on the money.

Also on target was the shrimp pasta salad -six shrimps as big as my thumb; diced red, yellow and green sweet peppers; red onions; tomato and black olives over a Fatboy-size pile of penne noodles with splash of Little's homage Italian dressing. Wowza! All his dressings are homemade, by the way. My guess is that any salad you try will work real well.

All of Little's food is served in portions fit for a king, and the service is second to none. Craig Laws, a partner in this and in a couple of other restaurants that Little has operated over the years, makes sure things are as they should be from that moment you walk in the door. Nearly every day, both Little and Laws are at Winston's, making sure things flow smoothly.

Ready for sophomore year

Just a short rambling note about the Fatboy's column turning 1: Thanks to everyone who has written, faxed, e-mailed, called, shouted or jumped up and down this past year. Knowing that folks are reading and laughing and scratching their heads makes it all worthwhile. But please, keep up the banter. I have stumbled on many great eateries and made many new acquaintances this past year. Thanks for a great year!

I always encourage feedback, complaints and bellyaching.Weather you agree or disagree, I want to hear about it. And most importantly, if you have someplace you think I should visit please get in touch with me. You can reach me 24/7 at (515) 770-1869 (cell phone), e-mail at Leave feedback or your own rant on my web