Ames is not without an excellent selection of restaurants, cafes, and eating establishments. After all, it's home to Iowa State University, our state's largest university.
Many students and alumni (including yours truly) develop favorites during their tenure living in Ames and current residents certainly establish their go-to favorites. On any given day or weekend, there's all kind of reasons why people are coming to Ames - whether for business, campus visits, or to cheer on the beloved Cyclones.
Naturally, there are a lot of Iowans who regularly flock to Duff Avenue's Hickory Park Restaurant. Let's be honest, I've never had a bad meal there. It's certainly one of the first restaurants you think of when you think about Ames. However, right up there with Hickory Park, especially those who love pizza (and really, who doesn't?), is Great Plains Sauce and Dough Company.
Located on "historic" Main Street Ames, Great Plains has become an Ames icon. Previously, Iowa Adventurer has profiled Morning Bell Coffee and the Spring through Fall Farmers Market, both also fixtures of the Main Street district.
You won't find this place taking up many storefronts worth of space - it's pretty modest in size. But just look for the red buffalo and the red half circle awning on the north side of the street.
On a recent Thursday, I popped in before one of my haircuts at Tommy's Salon. I drive from West Des Moines to Ames every month for my haircut.
So what makes Great Plains so noteworthy? Well, really it comes down to one really big thing: honey!
They offer a variety of different crust options and then place a bottle of local honey (Spring Valley Honey Farms) on every table. If you think that sounds odd, you won't feel that same way after you try it. In fact, I'm guessing you'll wonder why you've never thought to combine pizza and honey before!
You order your pizza up at the counter.
They do have other menu options that are not pizza but I do not think I've ever had anything other than pizza from Great Plains. There's a large poster menu that gives you your options for crust, size of the pie, as well as toppings. They do offer a few specialty pizzas.
Their most famous and popular crust is the Denver size, which is a thicker wheat crust. It's ideal for dipping in the honey. I ordered a small with pepperoni and ground beef toppings. They give you a number when you order and call it when it is ready to be picked up from the counter. The anticipation can be hard for those who lack patience!
It's okay to be liberal with the honey - it's just such an amazing combination.
You can carry out your pizza if you don't want to dine in. They also do offer some delivery options. However, the atmosphere of the place is cozy. There's wooden booths throughout the main floor and then a few other tables as well.
I like that the tables are even covered in old potato sacks.
There is an upstairs loft that also has additional seating.
The neon buffalo is a nice touch!
Their are other artifacts and wall hangings that pay homage to the local history of the area.
One of the corners is full of plants.
If you need to utilize the restroom, it is located down a flight of stairs. That may be a challenge for some.
A section of the wall is covered in framed certificates representing their years of successes as being voted the best pizza in Story County. Actually, at this point, it might be a bigger deal if they DIDN'T win. They are that dominate.
If you get one of the thick crusts, you best come hungry or be ready to take some of it home as leftovers. They offer "by the slice" lunch specials, which is a good way to get your Great Plains fix without the commitment of ordering one of their too-big-for-one-person pies.
If you haven't experienced Great Plains before or it's been awhile, my recommendation would be to get it on the "honey" do list as soon as possible. There shouldn't "bee" anything keeping you from one of these iconic pizzas.
As always, I welcome your suggestions of places to visit and profile in Story County or any of the other 98 counties in Iowa. If you have a good idea or would like to host the Iowa Adventurer, please drop me a note through my website.