Trostel's Greenbriar

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by PJ Seaton

What people see in this place is beyond me. Salad simple plate of weeds not good at all, prime rib best in Des Moines spare me it was terrible!!!! The best Prime in DM is at a little bar call Phils on friday nights. Melts in you mouth the way prime should not chew and chew like this dump oh and one other place that claims best prime John and Nicks don't bother it's even worse and the price...make Donald Trump faint!

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by A and D

Trostel’s Greenbriar
April 4, 2007

A and D returned to Trostel’s Greenbriar to review Wednesday evening dining. The last review was nearly 16 months ago and A and D have eaten there together and separately for dinner and lunch in the months between reviews. In the interim period, Chef Troy Trostel moved to the new Trostel’s Dish in Clive and has since returned to Greenbriar.

Once again, 16 months is a long time in the life of a restaurant and it can bring some notable changes, particularly when one compares it with newer restaurants that have opened throughout the Des Moines area.

Greenbriar has aged, or rather, remained locked in the past. The bar is still the typical ‘watering hole’ with its dark woods and its cigar-smoking old boys atmosphere. Somehow, though, it is beginning to seem a bit out of step, a bit out of time. And, it is beginning to look a bit tired.

Similar signs of aging are found in the dining rooms. The mirrors on the walls are smudged; the western art on the walls has become a cliché; the charger plates have become discolored and pitted; the carpet is not fresh any longer; the pervasive darkness is attempting to hide the advanced age of the ‘Twilight Diners’ who gather for the discount and separate checks.

If one observes closely, one sees uncomfortable diners. Iowans are not small people generally, and they have become larger in recent years. Yet, Greenbriar’s chairs are the small boudoir arm chairs that have little room for a relaxed and comfortable dining experience. One sees people unsuccessfully trying to find a more comfortable position, but these tortuous mini-chairs are unrelenting in creating pressure sores.

The table top is unchanged. A fresh rose is a nice touch, if a bit of a cliché itself. Silver and plate is unremarkable and dated. But one cannot resist the urge to ‘pick’ at the discolored charger plate in an attempt to dislodge what is actually pitting from too many years in service. Still, crisp white linen and napkin is always a plus.

Service is excellent. The wait staff is professional, efficient, experienced and attentive. A number of the staff have been there a long time and know what they are doing. Sherie is representative of those who take their profession seriously and do a superb job consistently and flawlessly.

A ordered the tempura shrimp, with steak fries and tossed salad. A is a shrimp lover. A was also comparing the tempura to that of a recent failed tempura at Appare Japanese Steakhouse to compare the differences. Chef Trostel’s tempura tapas at Dish were truly excellent, with crisp, fresh and classic Japanese batter; but at Greenbriar the tempura is apparently a pre-mixed, commercial dipping batter (or, banish the thought, pre-prepared and frozen) that soaks up the frying oil and results in an okay but not exciting or remarkable shrimp tempura. The large stacked steak fries were also pre-extruded and were quite weighty with oil.

D ordered the prime rib to compare how well Greenbriar is living up to its reported ‘best prime rib.’ On the last visit, the prime rib was quite wonderful, and expectation ran high for this taste comparison. A selection of garlic mashed potato and a sauté of fresh, mixed vegetables completed the dinner. The vegetables were sautéed beyond fresh and crisp to the point of limp and overdone. The garlic mash was diluted by the au jus of the prime rib, and sort of ‘swam’ on the plate, but had little in the way of flavor or seasoning, even the garlic was mute. But, the disappointment was the quality of the prime rib. It was ‘commercial,’ the only way to describe the texture and quality. It has become just another fair to middling prime rib, not the same as that of a year or so ago. In fact, the dishes seem to lack flavors.

The salads, while adequate, are just ‘salads.’ There is nothing special about them, or the dressings. The bread tray selection of George Fomaro’s South Union Bakery bread is a highlight. And then you realize the butter is in those little, tear-off-top packets, three to the butter dish. And then you realize, Greenbriar has become Noah’s Ark.

The Greenbriar entrée menu is unchanged now for a long, long time. The appetizers have expanded, but the entrees have remained static. Chef Troy Trostel created great, imaginative tapas at Dish, and his talent sang nightly from the kitchen. Back at Greenbriar, the kitchen seems to be bored.

With two glasses of great Calcareous pinot noir, and gin & tonic the bill with gratuity nudged $80.

But, perhaps it is not the difference in the restaurant. Perhaps it is the exposure to new restaurants and the advancement of the Des Moines culinary and dining experience. Perhaps, in comparison, Greenbriar has not declined, but rather, remained where it was.

Rating: 3 stars
Food: 2.5 stars
Service: 4 stars
Ambiance: 2.5 stars
Recommended: Yes, but with scaled-down expectations
Alternatives: Mosaix, Sage; both with culinary artistry, imagination and flair.

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by AmandaLynn0220

Incredible restaurant! I was one of the 70-some odd people involved in the infamous food poisoning incident a few months ago and I still recommend this place. (you cant hold one employees negligence against the restaurant, I figure) Every dish is great and the prices are fair.

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by JessicaM

How is the chains get so many reviews but locals receive so little attention on this site?

That said, Greenbriar has to be a top spot for an upscale dinner. Classic white tableclothes, fresh red roses, and plenty of old school dishes, but not without some innovation and creativity. Huge appetizer selection. Excellent selection for the steak crowd, and plenty of other options. Very nice wine list. Good patio in the summer, with a casual menu to match. I wouldn't consider the menu to be over-priced at all.

I've also been here in large groups for dinner, and usually in those circumstances the food suffers tremendously, but here I have never had a single complaint. I can honestly say I have never had any negative experiences here, in any area. Service is always quietly attentive and knowledgeable. Food is prepared impeccably.

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by A and D

Trostel’s Greenbriar Restaurant and Bar
5810 Merle Hay Road
Johnston, IA
Phone: 515-253-0124
Dinner beginning at 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday
Lunch is served daily from 11:30 a.m. until 2 p.m.
Twilight menu 5-6:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday

Trostel’s Greenbriar is one of those great restaurants where you can go comfy or to celebrate a special occasion wearing your best bib and tucker. The menu offerings include the usual line up of steak, chicken and prime rib as well as fish, pasta and seafood. Trostel’s also has escargot en croute, elk, rack of lamb and duck a l’orange as a welcome addition to the more traditional line up of fare. Table settings at the Greenbriar always include crisp, white linen table cloths and napkins, fresh flowers on the table and very nice levels of lighting throughout the restaurant. Seating during the summer months is also available on the very pleasant patio.

While our review is limited to our dinner experiences, Trostel’s also has a complete lunch menu offering meal sized salads, chicken, beef, fish entrees and sandwiches.

The biggest problem you will have at The Greenbriar is deciding which of the many offerings to try. Appetizers include the aforementioned escargot en croute in addition to seared ahi tuna, smoked pork tenderloin with chipotle cream, crab stuffed mushrooms with béarnaise sauce and chili pomegranate barbeque beef short rib, just to name a few.

All dinners are served with soup or salad, vegetable, bread and choice of baked potato, garlic mashed, rice pilaf or steak fries. Most entrees are in the $15-18 range with the menu topping out at $43 for the filet mignon and lobster combination. Most of the steaks, rack of lamb and prime rib are $18-30. The bread basket is always a surprise with an unusual artisan loaf included with the sourdough or boule. Salads are generous, crisp and beautifully arranged on cold plates.

“A” is particularly fond of Trostel’s beef dishes. Steaks and prime rib are superb, thick, well trimmed cuts full of flavor and almost fork tender. This is another restaurant that cooks its beef to the correct level of doneness so the diner does not have to second guess whether medium rare is going to arrive rare or medium – it will be a beautifully pink medium rare, as requested. The duck is also excellent, as is the rack of lamb. Trostel’s tempura fried shrimp are among the best “A” has ever enjoyed anywhere. Shrimp are also available charbroiled or Cajun style.

“D” enjoys the Broiled New Zealand Orange Roughy as well as the filet of salmon served with Hollandaise. Fish is beautifully prepared – always moist and flaky and full of flavor. Greenbriar also has grilled halibut steak served with a lemon dill cream sauce as well as a potato crust baked salmon served with saffron chive butter. Both are excellent dishes.

For those wishing to spend less and eat a lighter version of the full menu, Trostel’s offers their “Twilight Dining” menu, Monday through Thursday from 5-6:30 p.m. Most of the entrees on the Twilight menu are in the $14-16 range.

The presentation of all the food is among the best in Des Moines, but the desserts are artistic masterpieces of the almost too pretty to eat variety. However, the awe is short lived when either chocolate, tiramisu or crème brulee is involved so dig in.

All of the wait and bus staff at Trostel’s are seasoned professionals who go about their jobs without intruding at all on your dining experience. Meals are well paced so you do not feel like you are being rushed, nor are courses presented at too slow a pace.

The only word of caution we would offer regards the lounge area. If you have to wait for a table and the smell of cigar smoke bothers you, you may wish to wait for your table elsewhere. Whether it is an impromptu dinner out or a special occasion, head for Trostel’s Greenbriar for one of Des Moines’ most pleasant and delicious dining experiences.

Rating: 5 Absolutely!
Quality: Top quality
Service: Top quality
Value: Top value
Recommended: Absolutely!

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Tips for Trostel's Greenbriar from foursquare users

Vince F.

Would definitely recommend the Boursin mashed potatoes.

1 person has done this

Brian S.

Half-price wine on Wed. Sweet!

1 person has done this