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Pregame tailgating at the Grove Cafe – Iowa State Daily

“Just like home, you don’t always get what you want,” reads the wall of the Grove Cafe, a local restaurant in downtown Ames. Here, students and community members can get together for a home-cooked breakfast, especially during football season.

With their doors opening at 6 a.m. on Saturdays, football fans can grab fluffy pancakes as big as their plates before heeling in, no matter what time the game starts. Whether visitors are looking for a light snack or a hearty breakfast, The Grove has options for anyone looking to eat before a day of garden games, watch the game and have a few drinks.

“On weekends with football games, I’d say 9 a.m. or 8:30 a.m., we’ll start to get busy,” owner Larry Goodale said. “It wouldn’t shock me that the first hour, 6:30 to 7:30, somewhere around there, if we’re really busy.”

For hookers not watching or attending past games, the restaurant is open until noon on Saturday with daily lunch specials.

“We get a lot of students on weekends, sometimes a little later in the day,” Goodale said. “Most of the time it’s after they’ve been out partying, that’s not uncommon.”

In 2018, Food Network magazine named The Grove’s pancakes the best breakfast in Iowa, the second time the magazine has given them that title; the other was in 2011. Local Eats also named them one of the top 20 breakfast restaurants in America in 2012.

“Vegetables come out of a box, but cookies and gravy I make on Saturdays,” Goodale said. “We have a rhubarb and raspberry pancake, usually with a rhubarb and raspberry sauce, which I make. Nothing went in the microwave.

In addition to their well-known massive pancakes, they also serve omelettes, French toast, sandwiches, and a variety of sides and desserts. Every meal is made from scratch, as the cafe doesn’t even have a microwave. Since buying the restaurant in 1977, Goodale has been there nearly every day to cook for every customer, with continued help from his nephew and nine other staff members.

There are many regulars, usually Ames residents, whom Goodale sees several times a week or even daily. On weekends or weekdays before class, it is common to see visiting students and family members. The number of students per day varies depending on school activities or sporting events taking place in town.

Even with their reduced staff, Goodale has no plans to close the business anytime soon. He plans to keep it as it has been since 1948, the year it opened, until he finds someone he wants to sell to.