See the action for the 2017 Drake Relays pole vault at Capital Square.


Coming into town for the Drake Relays and looking for a place to eat? The Drake Relays draws 40,000 spectators, 220 college and university teams and world-class athletes into town at the end of April every year. That's a lot of hungry people.

This year, the event takes place April 20-27 with events around town including marathons, the Beautiful Bulldog Contest and the Grand Blue Mile, with championship track and field competitions take place from April 24-27 at Drake Stadium.

Related: Where to eat in downtown Des Moines

And with all those people in town, attendees and athletes alike will need some nourishment. Sodexo at Drake University will provide food and refreshments on site. And the All-Alumni Tent party on Friday, April 26, will feature area eateries. But there are plenty of restaurants just steps away from the excitement.

Here are 13 places within walking (or running) distance of Drake University where you can eat a marathon of goodies or a sprint of a snack. Menus and seating may be limited during this time. 

More: Storylines to watch at the 2019 Drake Relays

Chicago Dog

Enjoy a taste of Chicago at his little hot dog joint featuring hot dogs, of course, in a wide variety of toppings and styles. A full list of sandwiches is offered including Italian combos — hot Italian beef and sausage with loads of giardiniera and Italian sausage grinders with peppers and melted cheese. Go for an original all-beef Chicago dog with mustard, relish, onion, tomato, sport peppers, pickle spear and celery salt on a poppy seed bun.

Location: 2314 University Ave., Des Moines

Hours: Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Contact: (515) 276-9602; dsmchicagodog.comFacebook

China Place

Open for lunch and dinner, China Place has all your Chinese food favorites for dine-in, takeout and delivery. Lunch specials are under $8 and include a choice of soup, egg roll or crab rangoon and steamed or fried rice. The dinner menu includes the same accompaniments for its specialty entrees and stir-fry dishes sorted according to protein. Remember to start with some pot stickers or shrimp and pork shumai.

Location: 2414 University Ave., Des Moines

Hours: Monday through Thursday, 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.; Sunday, 3 to 10 p.m.

Contact: (515) 633-9393

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Drake Diner

It's not a trip to Drake University unless you are introduced to the Drake Diner. Hearty American fare makes up the menu from morning until late at night. Grab chicken and waffles or chicken fried steak and eggs from the breakfast all day menu, the Maytag burger or the rarebit open-faced burger with a spicy cheddar cheese sauce or one of the blue-plate specials such as meatloaf or hand-carved roast beef or turkey served from 5 to 10 p.m.

Location: 1111 25th St., Des Moines

Hours: Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Contact: 515-277-1111; drakediner.comFacebook

Fernando's Mexican Grill

This little Mexican restaurant has plenty of dine-in or takeout favorites like burritos, quesadillas and nachos. Tortas come with a choice of fish, chicken or steak while tacos come filled with a choice of six options including seasoned beef, veggies or barbacoa. Shake it up and try a seasoned tofu burrito on one of Fernando's freshly made flour tortillas.

Location: 2316 University Ave., Des Moines

Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Contact: (515) 255-3700Facebook

Related: The ultimate East Village dining guide

Fong's Pizza

Fong's Pizza's newest location recently opened, serving pizza by the slice and by the whole pie for dine-in, carryout and delivery through Grubhub. Whole pies can be ordered in 10-inch, 16-inch or 10-inch gluten-free sizes. Fong's at Drake features a lunch special including two slices and drink or a slice, salad and drink ($7.50) Monday-Friday 11-2 p.m., and happy hour from Monday-Friday 2-5 p.m. ($2 slices and $5 apps).

Location: 3018 Forest Ave., Des Moines

Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Contact: (515) 277-3664; fongspizza.comFacebook

More: Fong's Pizza near Drake University is now open for all your Asian-Italian flavor fusion cravings


Gyros, baba ganoush, hummus, shawarma and all things Greek and Mediterranean make the menu at this tiny counter-service restaurant in the Drake neighborhood. But save room for some sweet and crunchy baklava.

Location: 1205 25th St., Des Moines

Hours: Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 4 p.m.

Contact: 515-309-9167Facebook

Related: Don't miss Gazali's for fresh and filling Mediterranean favorites


This sushi bar also serves Thai fare in a sleek and blue setting. The menu features rolls and nigiri, with sushi boats for large orders. Look for Asian fusion dishes such as coconut shrimp, Mongolian beef and chicken or beef in black bean sauce. Try the yaki udon, a Japanese noodle dish, or the pork chop marinated in a special sauce.

Location: 1315 31st St., Des Moines

Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 to 9:30 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m to 2:30 p.m. and 4 to 10 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 9 p.m.

Contact: 515-277-6704; haikudsm.comFacebook

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Jethro's BBQ

The legend of Jethro all started at Drake University, where the wood-fired smoker churns out pulled pork and chicken, smoked sausages, shaved turkey, brisket and baby back ribs. Brunch is served on Saturdays and Sundays, including four-egg omelets, biscuits and gravy or the Jethro breakfast with a tenderloin topped with hash browns, three eggs and more.

Location: 3100 Forest Ave., Des Moines

Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday, 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Contact: 515-279-3300; jethrosdesmoines.comFacebook

Lzaza Indo-Pak Cuisine

Lzaza's offers a lunch buffet featuring Indian and Pakistani favorites like tandoori chicken, aloo gobi (cauliflower and potatoes stewed with fresh herbs), saag paneer (spinach with cheese) and yellow daal (lentils with vegetables). The buffet includes hot chai tea and desserts like kheer (rice pudding) and mango custard. A regular menu with house specialties is available all day as well as gyros, Italian beef, Philly cheesesteaks and hot wings.

Location: 1409 23rd St., Des Moines

Hours: Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; closed Mondays. Buffet available daily from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Contact: (515) 381-1121Facebook

Mars Cafe

This independent coffee shop with a space theme serves up breakfast and lunch dishes such as sandwiches, salad, soups and more. Try a peanut butter and banana sandwich with just a touch of honey. For breakfast, the Space Egg sandwich with egg and cheese and Breakfast Quesadilla with egg, cheese, spinach and salsa are just some of the items that make the menu.

Location: 2318 University Ave., Des Moines

Hours: Monday through Friday, 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Contact: 515-369-6277; marscafe.netFacebook

Papa Keno's Drake

This regional chain recently opened a location in the Drake neighborhood, offering pizza by the 14- or 18-inch pie and by the slice (a slice as big as your face, $4.09; whole pies start at $13.99). Gluten-free crust is available. Try The Papa — a 26-inch thin crust pie ($26.99).

Location: 2330 University Ave., Des Moines

Hours: Sunday through Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Thursday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Contact: (515) 630-0796;; Facebook

University Library Cafe

You can always tell people that you’re studying at the library instead of going to this neighborhood bar. The nachos here are legendary, but do try one of the burgers or some sandwiches, such as the French dip, breaded chicken and bacon sandwich or Reuben. The restaurant also serves breakfast, so start the day with a Texas melt with bacon, eggs and cheese on Texas toast or breakfast nachos topped with eggs, bacon, sausage, onions and peppers.

Location: 3506 University Ave., Des Moines

Hours: Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m. to 2 a.m.; Sunday, 8 a.m. to midnight.

Contact: 515-255-0433; thelibrarydm.comFacebook

Woody's Smoke Shack

Woody's Smoke Shack is back with all of the same award-winning smoked meats and sides people have come to expect from this little barbecue spot near Drake. Barbecue aficionados can choose from sandwiches, platters and meals of sliced Texas-style beef brisket, twice-smoked pit ham, pulled smoked chicken or whole chicken, pulled pork, baby back ribs, pork loin and turkey (turkeys need a three-day advance notice). Almost 20 kinds of sides round out the menu including new kinds of baked beans and potato salad.

Location: 2511 Cottage Grove Ave., Des Moines

Hours: Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; closed Sundays.

Contact: 515-277-0005; woodyssmokeshackdm.comFacebook

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Bulldog owners answer what makes their dogs beautiful during the Beautiful Bulldog contest at Drake University. Des Moines Register



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