Elite athletes from around the world head to Drake University at the end of April for the Drake Relays. High school students, college track stars, pros and more make the trek for the annual track and field event that includes road races, pole vaulting, a decathlon and heptathlon, with many taking place at the blue oval on the north side of campus.
Before or after a meet, head out to one of these nine restaurants in the Drake neighborhood that serve everything from diner fare and hummus to breakfast and pizza.
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Black Cat Ice Cream
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A sweet treat on the edge of the Drake area, Black Cat Ice Cream makes hand-crafted ice cream daily from owner Alex Carter right in the back of the back of the shop. Order red velvet Oreo 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 lurking around.
Black Cat Ice Cream, 2511 Cottage Grove Ave., 515-689-7466. Open Tuesday through Sunday from 1 to 7 p.m.
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Dough Co. Pizza
Originally started as a franchise in Missouri, Dough Co. Pizza found its way to the heart of Des Moines down the street from Drake’s 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 with pepperoni, bacon, cream cheese, jalapeños and green onions.
Dough Co. Pizza, 2300 University Ave., 515-630-0796. Open from 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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It could be said you have never truly experienced dining in Des Moines until you check out the Drake Diner, a staple in the neighborhood since 1987. The restaurant sports classic comfort food and serves as a time capsule to midcentury eateries with its counter seating, deep booths and kitchen open to the dining room. Order diner classics such as meatloaf, a 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. Breakfast with omelets, chicken fried steak and egg sandwiches is served all day. Hit up the patio as the weather warms.
Drake Diner, 1111 25th St., 515-277-1111. Open from 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
Barbacoa or blackened fish tacos, seasoned veggies or vegan chorizo burritos, tortas and quesadillas make the menu at Fernando’s Mexican Grill. Fans of the restaurant love the make-your-own burritos options with fresh tortillas, both corn and flour.
Fernando’s Mexican Grill, 2650 University Ave., 515-255-3700. Open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
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Gursha Ethiopian Grill
The family-owned Gursha Ethiopian Grill offers fast-casual dishes such as a spongy sourdough flatbread injera or rice that customers can then add vegetable and meat options. Fans of the restaurant love the doro wot with chicken, onions, garlic, ginger, boiled eggs, and berbere — a warm blend of Ethiopian spices.
Gursha Ethiopian Grill, 2316 University Ave., 515-630-1077. Open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.
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Hummus Mediterranean Grill
Fast-casual dishes at Hummus Mediterranean Grill star with a choice of chickpea falafel, chicken, lamb and beef shawarma or gyro meat, then add garnishes and sauces. Do try the namesake hummus or baba ganoush. Hummus shares space with Fernando’s.
Hummus Mediterranean Grill, 2650 University Ave., 515-369-4063. Open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Lzaza Indo-Pak Cuisine
Lzaza offers a warm ambiance and décor intermingled with the pungent smell of Indo-Pakistani cuisine at this family-owned restaurant that serves Punjabi food buffet style. Tandoori chicken, samosas, naan and kebobs use mom-and-pop homestyle recipes.
Lzaza Indo-Pak Cuisine, 1409 23rd St., 515-381-1121. Open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday for the lunch buffet, and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for the lunch buffet and 5 to 8:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday.
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Lucky Horse Beer & Burgers
Lucky Horse opened on University Avenue in July 2020 as a place for students in the Drake area to come after classes or work with a relaxing environment. Lucky Horse offers a sports bar style menu with burgers, sandwiches, salads and flatbreads. Student discounts are available with $5 drafts mug daily and a combo deal with single cheeseburger, fries and fountain pop.
Lucky Horse Beer & Burgers, 2331 University Ave., 515-381-9088. Open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Happy hour Monday through Thursday from 2 to 5 p.m. and all day on Sundays.
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Rico’s at Drake
Green Bay Packers wide receiver and Des Moines native Rico Gafford brings chicken wings to the Drake neighborhood at his namesake restaurant Rico’s at Drake. The former Des Moines East and Dowling player serves pub staples such as burgers, fried fish, panini 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 reporting intern for the Des Moines Register.
This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Restaurants to try near Drake University, Drake Relays in Des Moines