Restaurants to try near Drake University, Drake Relays in Des Moines


Elite athletes from around the world travel to Drake University in late April for the Drake Relays. High schoolers, college track stars, pros and more make the trip for the annual track and field event which includes road races, pole vault, decathlon and heptathlon, many of which take place at the blue oval on the north side of campus.

Before or after a date, head to one of these nine Drake’s Neighborhood eateries that serve everything from dinner and hummus to breakfast and pizza.


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Black Cat Ice Cream

Black Cat Ice Cream serves interesting flavor combinations such as Red Velvet Oreo, Chocolate with Ding Dongs, and Bourbon Vanilla.

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A sweet treat on the edge of the Drake Zone, Black Cat Ice Cream makes homemade ice cream daily from owner Alex Carter right out the back of the shop. Order red velvet Oreos or one of the rotating flavors such as sugar cookies with sweet cream, vegan chocolate, or gluten-free and dairy-free Hawaiian Punch sorbet. Sit on the patio when the weather cooperates and don’t be surprised to spot a stray cat or two prowling around.

Black Cat Ice Cream, 2511 Cottage Grove Ave, 515-689-7466. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.

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Dough Co. Pizza

Dough Co. serves 26-inch pizzas, enough to feed about eight people.

Originally launched as a franchise in Missouri, Dough Co. Pizza found its way to the heart of Des Moines, down the street from the Drake campus. Specializing in pizza by the slice and the gargantuan 26-inch pizza, Dough Co. Pizza is loved by Drake students for its New York-style thin crust pizzas with specialties such as the Pepperoni Popper covered in pepperoni, bacon, cream cheese, jalapeños and green onions.

Dough Co. Pizza, 2300 University Ave, 515-630-0796. Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

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Drake Dinner

Vegetable Benedict at the Drake Diner.

You could say you’ve never really eaten in Des Moines until you visit the Drake Diner, a neighborhood staple since 1987. The restaurant offers classic comfort food and serves as a time capsule to mid-century restaurants. with its counter, deep cabins and kitchen open to the dining room. Order dinner classics such as meatloaf, hot beef or liver and onions, or try Drake Diner’s original Maytag burger topped with Iowa Maytag blue cheese, sautéed onions and Monterey Jack cheese. A breakfast of omelettes, fried chicken steak and egg sandwiches is served all day. Hit the patio as the weather warms up.

Drake Diner, 1111 25th St., 515-277-1111. Open 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday and Sunday, and 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.

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Fernando’s Mexican Grill

Fernando's Mexican Grill and Hummus Mediterranean Grill share the ground floor of Home2 Suites at Drake University.

Barbacoa or blackened fish tacos, seasoned vegetables or vegan chorizo ​​burritos, tortas and quesadillas make up the menu at Fernando’s Mexican Grill. Fans of the restaurant love the make-your-own burrito options with fresh tortillas, both corn and flour.

Fernando’s Mexican Grill, 2650 University Ave, 515-255-3700. Open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Saturday.

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Ethiopian Grill Gursha

A combo plate of all meat products from the Gursha Ethiopian Grill.

The family-owned Gursha Ethiopian Grill offers quick and casual dishes such as a spongy sourdough flatbread injera or rice which customers can then add in vegetable and meat options. Fans of the restaurant love the doro wot with chicken, onions, garlic, ginger, hard-boiled eggs and berbere – a hearty mix of Ethiopian spices.

Gursha Ethiopian Grill, 2316 University Ave, 515-630-1077. Open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and from noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

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Mediterranean grilled meats with hummus

Quick and casual dishes at the Hummus Mediterranean Grill star with a choice of chickpea falafel, chicken, lamb and beef shawarma or gyro meat, then add toppings and sauces. Try the hummus or baba ganoush of the same name. Hummus shares space with Fernando’s.

Hummus Mediterranean Grill, 2650 University Ave, 515-369-4063. Open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Saturday.

Lzaza Indo-Pak Cuisine

A quail dish from Lzaza Indo-Pak Cuisine.

Lzaza offers a warm ambiance and decor mingled with the pungent smell of Indo-Pakistani cuisine in this family restaurant that serves a buffet of Punjabi dishes. Tandoori chicken, samosas, naans and skewers use mom and pop’s homemade recipes.

Lzaza Indo-Pak Cuisine, 1409 23rd Street, 515-381-1121. Open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. from Tuesday to Thursday for the buffet lunch, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for the buffet lunch and from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. from Friday to Sunday.

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Lucky Horse beer and burgers

Lucky Horse Beer & Burgers opened in the Drake neighborhood in July 2020.

Lucky Horse opened on University Avenue in July 2020 to allow students from the Drake area to come after class or work in a relaxing environment. Lucky Horse offers a sports bar-style menu with burgers, sandwiches, salads, and flatbreads. Student discounts are available with a cup of drafts for $5 a day and a combo deal with just one cheeseburger, fries, and a pop fountain.

Lucky Horse Beer & Burgers, 2331 University Ave, 515-381-9088. Open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Happy hour from Monday to Thursday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday all day.

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Rico is at Drake’s

Rico Gafford, who plays for the Green Bay Packers, opened Rico's in Drake in the spring of 2020.

Green Bay Packers wide receiver and Des Moines native Rico Gafford brings chicken wings to Drake’s neighborhood at his namesake restaurant Rico’s at Drake. The former Des Moines East and Dowling player serves staples such as burgers, fried fish, paninis and salad in addition to chicken wings.

Rico’s at Drake, 2314 University Ave., 515-630-1664. Open daily from 11 a.m. to midnight.

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Omar Waheed is a spring 2022 intern for the Des Moines Register.


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