SIOUX CITY | Even though he's only 28 years old, Jesus Sanchez said his mind often drifts back to an earlier, more innocent era.

"It would've been so cool to be around in the 1930s and 1940s," he said. "Especially during the period right after Prohibition ended, because I imagine it was a particularly rebellious and romantic time."

That historic connection is why Sanchez named his new historic Fourth Street business 21st Amendment Bar & Kitchen.

"I named it after the (1933) amendment that repealed Prohibition in America," he said. "And I wanted the decor to match that time in history."

Along with business partner Renso Moreno, Sanchez took over the former Tom Foolery Pub & Grill, at 1008 Fourth St., more than a year ago. Over the past two to three months, the two men have completely redecorated the space and completely overhauled the menu.

"We've changed the image of the bar," Moreno said, "and wanted the food to reflect that upgrade."

Working with Chef Jacob Staber -- formerly with Clyde's Grill & Pub -- 21st Amendment now has a full menu of what Sanchez calls "modern American bar food."

"America is a melting pot of different nationalities and that's also true for its food," he said. "Our menu contains items that fuse American ingredients with Italian food, and Hispanic ingredients to traditionally American fare."

"Our customers really seem to enjoy the mix of flavors," Moreno said. 

For example, 21st Amendment's Sinatra Meatballs are made with fried-finished Italian sausage meatballs tossed with a homemade marinara sauce and served with Parmesan toast points.

"We wanted our meatballs to be special," Sanchez said. "That's why we named the appetizer after Frank Sinatra."

Likewise, chislic -- a traditional South Dakota appetizer -- gets an Italian twist. At 21st Amendment, marinated top sirloin bites are fried-finished with a Parmesan and basil pesto before being topped with fresh greens.

In addition, a south-of-the-border favorite like shrimp scampi is served with roasted red onion, fresh tomato and a basil pesto butter on hand-stretched flatbread pizza dough.

"I love our shrimp scampi," Moreno said. "It's probably my favorite thing on the menu."

A U.S. Navy veteran who served in Afghanistan, Moreno said he never aspired to own a bar and grill.

"This is all new to me," he said. "I call it on-the-job training."

Moreno got involved in the business through his friend Sanchez, a University of Iowa finance graduate.

"Buying and running a bar has been challenging," Sanchez said, "but it's also been a lot of fun."

Open from 3 p.m.-2 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday, Moreno said 21st Amendment has been capturing a younger crowd late at night. Older customers have been sampling the new food menu earlier in the evening.

"We need to appeal to everybody to stay relevant," Sanchez said. "I think our expanded cocktail selection and food will be popular with all ages."

Some of 21st Amendment's border-shattering meals have included a Capicola Burger (a house burger topped with Italian capicola, a fried egg, basil-pesto aioli, tomato, romaine lettuce and smoked mozzarella served on a pretzel bun); Shrimp & Grits (sauteed shrimp, bell peppers, onions and tomatoes in a pan Creole sauce, served over homemade, creamy Italian-style grits); and seasoned chicken wings served with a choice of pineapple chipotle, Buffalo, barbecue and garlic-Parmesan sauces.

"When people walk into a pub, they want excellent cocktails and great food made with the freshest ingredients," Moreno said. "We have a fun atmosphere at 21st Amendment and, now, we have great food."

And that includes an appetizer named after the Chairman of the Board. Does Sanchez think Ol' Blue Eyes would appreciate 21st Amendment's house meatballs?

"I'd like to think (Sinatra) would approve," Sanchez said. "They really are delicious."

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Food and Lifestyles reporter

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