June 25, 2024

Choosing My Game Day Dining Adventure

Photo Courtesy of Nicole Gustafson

Basketball game days can be a little hectic with tip times around dinner. I found myself with some extra free time this season after being laid off, so I decided to treat myself to an Ames restaurant or bar I hadn’t been to before. There have been a lot of changes in the [redacted] years since I was in school, and it was nice to catch up. 

Here’s a look back at where I went, what I ate, and what I thought.

Es Tas

What I ate: Quesadillas, margaritas, and mixed drinks

Before anyone starts throwing tomatoes and declaring me a fake Cyclone, I have been to Es Tas before but didn’t eat. This year I went with a group after the women’s basketball exhibition game. 

There is plenty of seating and the drinks are great. The quesadillas were PIPING hot — like, so hot I was watching everyone else eat and periodically burning my hands on my food. They hit the spot once they reached a workable temperature. This is your typical Campustown-style establishment, and it is perfect for large groups.

Provisions (Lot F)

What I ate: Spinach artichoke pasta, strawberry shrub mocktail

Nicole Gustafson | The Tailgate Society

Provisions is one of the nicer options I visited. It features lower lighting and a small-ish menu that is full of intriguing options. The menu is also clearly labeled with vegetarian, vegan, and gluten dietary information. There is plenty of parking and fast service.

The shrub was fantastic and kind of started me on a little non-alcoholic, fancy beverage kick. Provisions also got Robert Griffin III’s approval when he was in town during football season.


What I ate: Carbonara with chicken

I went to Wallaby’s once when I was a student, but that was in the old location. Now further north on Stange Road, they have large, private booths and several good-sized TVs. It would be a fun place to watch a game. 

It’s a great bar and grill option for families or anyone looking to go a little further away from campus. There are enough menu items for anyone to find what they’re in the mood for, and some orders can be customized through add-ons or selecting gluten-free pasta.

The Cafe

What I ate: Korean steak and eggs, snickerdoodle cake

Korean Steak
Nicole Gustafson | The Tailgate Society

The Cafe offers farm-to-table dishes and a menu that changes seasonally. They list the local providers they use. Menu items are clearly labeled with dietary information.

This was my favorite meal of all that I tried. The presentation and taste were top-notch. The atmosphere was kind of cozy and romantic, and there were cute views of northern Ames with lights on the trees outside when I went.

Nicole Gustafson | The Tailgate Society

Dublin Bay

What I ate: Bruschetta grilled cheese with bacon

This is a popular pre-game spot with an extensive beer selection and a lot of interesting Irish pub decor. The food was good, and many items can be made gluten-free. I would love to come back again when I don’t have somewhere to be and enjoy more of the bar selections.

Aunt Maude’s

What I ate: Blackened chicken angel hair pasta, vanilla bean creme brûlée

Nicole Gustafson | The Tailgate Society

Ames is not exactly where I was expecting to find menu items like cajun prime rib! I had the toughest time picking what I wanted to order, and everything I had was great so I would definitely return to try the rest.

The vibe was lively and fun. Aunt Maude’s uses local ingredients, and also offers gluten-free substitutes for buns and pasta.

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Nicole Gustafson
Nicole Gustafson 56 Articles

Nicole was born in Chicago and raised in Des Moines. She took her talents to The Iowa State University, where she earned a degree in journalism. You can find Nicole cheering on her favorite sports teams, hanging out with her dog, or finishing a Netflix marathon. Nicole is a big fan of #pitcherswhorake, fat guy TD's, and carbs. She's not a fan of mornings, winter, or vegetables and will complain to anyone who will listen.

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