Midwest Black Angus beef, free of hormones or antibiotics, joins with creative ingredients such as A.1. sauce and chipotle aioli to create more than 15 unique burgers at Legends American Grill. These burgers embody a variety and thirst for excitement that radiates throughout each of the grill's central-Iowa locations. There, nestled amid deep-umber booths or brick walls, diners watch sports flicker across flat-screen televisions, rooting on their team and showing disdain for the ref’s decision to wear white pants after Labor Day. But if the score is disheartening, fans can dig into the menu to cheer themselves up. Hand-cut Creekstone Farms steaks offset surf entrees such as salmon in béarnaise sauce or grilled mahi-mahi in a sweet-and-spicy thai sauce. Comfort-food favorites such as meatloaf and fried chicken also make an appearance, pairing with cocktails and beers served by the bottle and pint.
When Craig and Lea Culver created the first Culver’s restaurant in 1984, they wanted to serve homemade burgers like Craig’s mom used to make. These burgers—now known as the ButterBurgers—are made with fresh, Midwest beef patties, and served on a toasty, buttered bun. The burgers are also what helped put Culver’s on the map—there are now more than 500 locations scattered across 19 states. At each restaurant, patties are cooked right on the grill. The other main hallmark of Culver’s menu is its rich, creamy frozen custard, which you can have drizzled with hot fudge or use as a foundation for a signature Concrete Mixer and have it decorated with Oreos and Butterfingers.
Ames British Foods was originally started to sate the comfort-food cravings of Iowa State’s expats, but it didn't take much time for owner Marcus to discover he had a native fan base as well. His new restaurant—The Chip Shop—serves up traditional fare from across the pond in a friendly setting that encourages relaxing over a plate of fish ’n’ chips or starting a game of cribbage. Customers can also shop Ames British Foods in downtown Ames for imported British biscuits, chocolate, and other UK-leaning groceries, and enjoy a free cup of tea offered by a friendly staff member or that overly friendly regular customer.
A quaint Italian restaurant with old-country roots and classic flair, Pazzesco heaps piles of pasta and charm onto guests’ plates while leaving ample room for a succulent hand-cut steak. Founder Chris Patterson’s fusion of fresh Italian and chophouse fare incorporates menu items that have been passed down through generations or decoded from complex metrical schemes in Virgil’s lost epics. The antipasti freddi ($13) starts meals off heartily with an assortment of Italian meats and cheeses served with peppers and olives, and diavolo eggs ($3) make spicy souvenirs from Dante’s trip to the Inferno. Spaghetti marinara ($8.50) and lasagna layered with sausage and cheese ($12) co-star in an extravagant production of pasta dishes that includes a supporting cast of homemade meatballs or sausage links ($3 each). Hand-cut chophouse steaks such as the thick 12-ounce Iowa Chop ($15) or the juicy 14-ounce rib eye ($18) are chargrilled or broiled in butter and garlic and topped with a rich brown-butter sauce.
Wallaby's sports-centric atmosphere lures revelers with big-game broadcasts, daily drink specials, and an upscale pub-grub menu, which has led to a 10-time ranking as the Best Sports Bar in Story County by the Ames Tribune. Under the luminous glow of 34 sports-beaming televisions, kick off a meal with a group of friends or pet footballs by savoring a single order of ISU State Flappers, classic wings served in a choice of sauces including sweet asian chile, buffalo garlic, and inferno ($5.99 for 6 or $10.99 for 12). Open-faced Wallaby burgers use mushroom-and-marsala-wine sauce to incite incisors ($8.49), and the Wally dip's sliced roast beef and cup of creamy au jus provide fuel for choreographed homerun celebrations ($8.79). To quell inland blues, treat taste buds to underwater treasures, such as the grilled Atlantic salmon or the Cajun ahi tuna ($9.99 for each).