Cornbred. Photographer: Cameron Campbell, AIA. Courtesy of Nutini Architecture / Benjamin Design Collaborative.
Writer: Karla Walsh
Heading to Ames this fall to help a scholar settle in, see a show or cheer on the Cyclones? Fuel up at these restaurants, ones that would be worth the drive from Des Moines even without an event to draw you north.
If you’re on a date:
Bar La Tosca
You might recognize the name from its previous location on Main Street, but now the eatery shares a space with the Campustown coffee shop Stomping Grounds. Come lunch and dinnertime, small plates steal the show and provide a communal dining experience. Order a bottle of wine to share or sample cocktails as you split an antipasto plate, goat cheese and local mushroom toast, and marinara-smothered beef and pork meatballs. If entrees are more your style, give the ricotta gnocchi or grilled pork loin a go. (303 Welch Ave., Ames; barlatosca.com)
If you’re ravenous:
Cornbred (pictured above)
In early 2021, a Facebook post about their now-famous 1 1/2-pound cinnamon rolls nearly broke the internet. But that’s not the only creation on the menu at this barbecue spot in the old railroad depot downtown. For brunch, dig into the cheddar-chive biscuit and brisket or the “porffle,” a pulled pork and egg-crowned cornbread waffle. At dinner, order the slow-roasted burnt ends or turkey by the half-pound along with sides like cornbread pudding, fries, sweet corn salad or the creamy, cornflake-topped “hallelujah potatoes.” (526 Main St., #106, Ames; cornbredbbq.com)
If you’re with the family:
Provisions Lot F (pictured right)
While the Cafe on the north side is a timeless and tempting choice, its younger sibling near the south-side ISU Research Park has even more to offer kids and kids at heart. On Mondays, they add three seasonal pizzas to the menu, which join handmade pastas, fresh-baked breads, sandwiches, salads and more. Adults will adore the seafood and steaks, while kids go wild for the rainbow-hued fairy bread.
It’s also a stellar brunch spot for top-notch chicken and waffles, biscuits and gravy, and stuffed-to-the-brim three-egg omelets. And on the way out, swing by the bakery case for a fresh fruit tart or a slice of salted caramel cake. (2400 N. Loop Drive, Ames; provisionsames.com)
If you’re craving Middle Eastern fare:
Yes, we’re recommending a grocery store. But there’s a reason why this shop has been open for 34 years. While it’s not exactly a venue where you’d linger and enjoy the ambiance, the deli tucked inside the Middle Eastern, Indian, Pakistani, Turkish and African supermarket is home to some of the best gyros, hummus, falafel and baklava you’ll find in Central Iowa. Every entree is under $15, and most—including the top-notch chicken gyro dinner and kofta kabob sandwich with fries—ring in at $9 or less. Make sure to pick up feta and olives before leaving the west-side shop. (113 Colorado Ave., Ames; pammelgroceryames.com/deli.htm)