Grace: 2 Stars
Josh: 3.99 Stars
Megan: 3.5 Stars
Nick: 3 Stars
Josh: Grace and I had a couples date with Nick and Megan at Jingle in the Junction. After walking around and attempting to get samples (there weren’t many good ones), we were hungry. Tavern was actually our second choice as Coopers was very busy.
Grace: Plus…who doesn’t love pizza?
Nick: We were at Jingle in the Junction, an evening full of free samples, #shoplocal, and friendship tea. And as the perfect night cap, we decided to go out for some delicious grub at Cooper’s on 5th. That was the plan at least. And as you can probably tell from the title of this review, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. With over half an hour wait at Cooper’s and four hungry stomach to fill, The Tavern beamed like an oasis in a foodless desert.
Josh: We decided to split two large pizzas and an appetizer. We started off with their Garlic Cheese Bread with marinara sauce (which by the way is 50 cents extra…bastards). The garlic bread was good. It was cheesy and garlic-y just like it should be.
The two pizzas we split were the “Meat-Eater” and the “Chicken Alfredo”. Both pizzas were very solid choices and I thoroughly enjoyed both. If I had to choose one, I’d go for the Chicken Alfredo. It doesn’t win by much but it slightly edges out the “Meat-Eater”
I should also state that I love Parmesan cheese. Freaking love this stuff. I smother pizza with this delicious, powdery (yet legal) substance. If God doesn’t put this glorious stuff on his pizza, then there’s no hope for this world. As you can see, we destroyed this bottle of goodness.
Look at that slice below?! I know you tried eating your computer screen. Don’t lie
Grace: So… hi, I’m a buzzkill (what’s new right?). The garlic cheesebread was good but nothing over the top. I didn’t like the marinara sauce it came with. Weird aftertaste. It was all just kind of meh. The pizza was decent. I preferred the Meat Lovers over the Chicken Alfredo, but neither were anything mind-blowing. I really wanted to order a deep dish pizza (*ahem* the best kind of pizza) but I got shot. down.
I’m gonna say it: I think a lot of pizza in Des Moines is overrated. Chuck’s, Blue Tomato, La Pizza House, Tavern. Overrated. I’d rather have Papa John’s tbh. Sorry not sorry. *hair flip emoji*
(I could tell you about some real good wood-fired pizza places in Des Moines, but this is neither the time nor the place. We’ll go to those places and then I will tell you about them.)
Megan: We started with cheesy breadsticks and marinara sauce. They were very good but could have been spiced up with some garlic (or more garlic). The marinara was served warm and was a good addition to the breadsticks. We shared two different pizzas – chicken alfredo and meat (can’t remember the name?) pizza. My favorite was definitely the chicken alfredo. The meat pizza was true to its name and had lots of different types of meat on it – canadian bacon, sausage, etc. however, every time you took a bite, half the toppings would fall off because the meat chunks were a little on the large side. Not a deal breaker, but I wish it would have held together better. The chicken alfredo was very good – it had an alfredo sauce as the base and then had seasoned chicken, slices of onion, and cheese on top. The onion really added something to it, as not all alfredo chicken pizzas include that ingredient. I think everyone at the table included about a cup of parmesan cheese on each slice of pizza, but personally, I would have done that anyway, even if the pizza was 100% fantastic. The crust was OK but not my favorite. I usually prefer thin crust and that is what we ordered (much to Grace’s disappointment), but it just didn’t have a lot of flavor to it. All in all, some good pizza but I wouldn’t call it a favorite.
Nick: On to the main event. At The Tavern, you go thin crust or you go home. While they do offer a thick, Chicago-style pizza, please don’t order it. You don’t order a burrito at a burger place and you don’t order thick pizza at The Tavern. We ordered 2 thin pizzas, chicken alfredo and some form of carnivore pizza. As for the taste, I’m of the opinion that the less sprinkle cheese you have to add, the better the pizza tastes. A good steak doesn’t need steak sauce. A good pizza doesn’t need much parm cheese. Let’s just say that the communal jar of cheese made its way around the table a few times. That isn’t to say the pizza was bad. It just wasn’t great. It wasn’t “write-home-about” good. It was about average on the pizza scale. It’s better than anything I could cook, but I can’t see you making your way to Historic Valley Junction just for some Tavern pizza. If you’re in the neighborhood and crave some pizza, it’ll definitely fill that need. As for a drop-everything-you’re-doing-and-eat-this-pizza, this isn’t the Italian restaurant you are looking for.
Atmosphere, Service, Price
Grace: The Tavern is nothing fancy, just your typical small-town pizza place. I thought it was kind of expensive for what you got – not much to the pizza, pretty greasy (I mean yes it was meat lovers but still), just eh. Sorry guys, I wasn’t into it. Our waitress was very nice though! Yay waitress!
Josh: Tavern is a classic. I’ve been here multiple times and I really enjoy it. I will state that I like thin crust > deep dish (and I will fight Grace on that). I also love the Valley Junction area which makes Tavern more appealing. The inside is nothing to brag about and the tables are kind of small (especially for a group of four). The prices rival other local pizza establishments and the staff was friendly. I would recommend if you enjoy a good slice of thin crust pizza!
Megan: With the exception of a little girl running up and down the aisles and her parents thinking it was the cutest thing they’d ever seen, the atmosphere was very comfortable and welcoming. The booths were a little small to fit 4 people comfortably with coats, purses, and two large pizzas on the table, but we made it work. It didn’t look like it was a very new or updated establishment but I would still say that it was nice on the inside. The staff didn’t go out of their way to be extra friendly, but they didn’t ignore us either. The price seemed pretty reasonable for the amount of pizza you get, and the cheesy bread was pretty inexpensive. I would go back if I were in the area and had a craving for pizza, but I don’t think I’d go out of my way to go there specifically when there are a lot of other good pizza and Italian places in the Des Moines area.
Nick: It’s a family joint. Kids ran around. It was loud and busy. The booths were just barely big enough to fit four average adults. I can’t say that the setting was anything special. A few TV’s played a random assortment of local television. Valley Junction is full of quaint stores and The Tavern hits that vibe perfectly. It is a smaller venue (not nearly as small as Cooper’s though) and you do feel pretty close to your fellow patrons. The staff was very friendly and filled our cups quickly. Food came out at a nice pace. The prices were pretty much what you would expect from a pizza joint. Taking the family out for pizza won’t break the wallet, but it’s no Little Caesar’s (probably for the better). Like the food, the atmosphere was nice but average. It’s not a deterrent by any means, it just isn’t an attraction to go out of your way to see.