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.
Papa Murphy’s pizza eschews monarchical store baking and provides fresh, high-quality pies for customers to enjoy on their own terms. Every pizza on the menu is made to order and whipped together in moments by artisan dough-throwers, who slather on a groundwork of sauce and cheese and then construct leaning towers of harmonized toppings. Stuffed pizzas sandwich a slew of meat and veggies between two layers of dough in a tasty Windy City tribute ($12.99–$14.99) and gourmet pizzas such as the Papa’s Favorite feature traditional red sauce and smorgasbord of meat and veggie pie packers ($11.99–$13.99). A cornucopia of thin-crust pizzas can be loaded with one of four different sauces, including traditional marinara and herb tomato ($5.99–$11.99). With detailed instructions provided for baking, grilling, or laser blasting your personalized pizza at home, Papa Murphy’s lets you finally reclaim culinary sovereignty from the dictatorial delivery boy.
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.
The crafty couple, Scott and Deb Coldiron, recreate the traditional Italian pizza with a menu of wood-fired pizza. In an imported, handcrafted oven, burning only seasoned hardwood, the pizza preparers cook up their tasty two-dimensional dishes at over 800 degrees. They do as the Neapolitans do by using locally produced ingredients when possible and baking fresh dough daily. The pizza pros proffer a selection of signature concoctions, such as the pie splattered with La Quercia dry coppa, Stickney Hills goat cheese, arugula, and crushed red pepper ($10), and the smoked provolone, goat cheese, fresh mozzarella, rosemary, and basil cheesily chatting atop hand-worked dough ($8). Personalize the belly-filling experience by topping a palatable pie with one of the 23 topping options, such as the toasted pine nuts, goat cheese, and prosciutto sausage, or by toting along childhood photos (build-your-own pizzas start at $7, with additional toppings $1 each extra).
From its unexpected burger toppings to its funky decor, Oddfellow’s Burger Kitchen is chock-full of character. The all-American menu, which is festooned with cartoon Elvis silhouettes and a colorful hippie van, features quirky items, such as pasta dishes tossed in peanut butter and barbecue sauce, and starters including an “ice cold can” of PBR. And as the eatery's name suggests, the specialty here is burgers—15 of them to be exact—and despite the playful names and wacky topping combinations, the restaurant takes its creations seriously. Every day, the staff grinds its own beef in house, hand-forms each third-pound patty, and bakes fresh buns in order to build burgers such as The Ring of Fire, which packs the heat with hot sauce, jalapeños, and a Cajun spice rub. The Crabby burger features lump crab and garlic aioli, and the bacon-and-cheese-topped Oddfellow burger is sandwiched between housemade glazed donuts. Guests can substitute a grilled salmon breast, a grilled chicken breast, or a veggie burger, or add another beef patty for $3.