Cupcake Emporium

You might have heard of this cool little cupcakery named Cupcake Emporium located in Ames in June when they competed on the TV show Cupcake Wars along with Des Moines dessert shop Creme Cupcake.  While they didn’t take the trophy, they did give us a glimpse into the shops cool decor and yummy cupcakes and I knew I would have to make the trip to Ames and check it out.  So we did!



I didn’t realize that this isn’t strictly a cupcake/milkshake shop like Scratch Cupcake in WDM or Carefree Patisserie which is cupcakes and cakes and cookies, in Valley Junction.  Cupcake Emporium actually has a full lunch menu including sandwiches, soups, salads and walking tacos.

They serve their cupcakes and lunch in the cutest retro-soda shop themed diner-type restaurant.  The decor really is a style all their own as is the menu and personalty of the restaurant.




I’m pretty sure you can’t go wrong with any of the cupcake flavors, but we really enjoyed the cinnamon “roll” cupcake because the cake actually had cinnamon chunks baked right in to the batter and my son thought the pie-crust star cut-outs on the cherry pie a-la-yum cupcake were ingenious, as did I .  The frosting on the pink champagne was to-die-for and the peanut butter cup was rich and smooth.  The cakes were all moist and the frosting weren’t overbearingly sugary.  We liked them them all and had to refrain from trying more.  I see another trip in our near future.

We also enjoyed a chocolate milk-shake on our visit, but have yet to try the lunch options.  I am looking forward to coming back soon to try some of the soups.

You could really plan a Fall day trip to Ames hitting Center Grove Orchard on your way up to play at the Farmyard and hit Cupcake Emporium for lunch and cupcakes.  Sounds like a great day to me!


Don’t Fight it..Eat a Burrito

Fairly new to Downtown at 309 13th street (just) off of Locust street is the Ames-originated Fighting Burrito.  The concept is the same as Qdoba, Chipotle or Pancheros where you pick a burrito, bowl, salad or tacos and then pick your toppings.  They have a few pre-constructed ideas for you too if you’d rather not think that hard.
We started off with some chips and queso that were tasty and similar to other quesos you’d find at local joints.

We both ordered bowls and picked our own toppings.  White rice, no beans, chicken, grilled veggies, spicy corn salsa and lettuce for him.  Wild rice, black beans, beef, cheese, sour cream and Jalapeno peach salsa for me.  I have to note that the portion sizes were significantly smaller than than the other concept-similar restaurants.

Hubby said his was tasty and the spicy corn salsa was the highlight.  I

really enjoyed the marinated shredded beef with the peach salsa combination.  It was unique and probably could have eaten 3 times the portion size.

So all-in-all, a great choice for a quick, downtown lunch with a lot of taste.  Order a large/extra topping if you have a big appetite.  The staff was friendly the restaurant was clean and family-friendly.  If you’re a burrito-lover, check it out and see what you think!

Ps. Kids under 10 eat FREE all day on Sundays!


A Great Reason to go to Ames! (Sheryl vs. Katie)

There was no wait this afternoon, but Nathan
enjoyed a few minutes of cartoons anyway.

Sheryl says…

I sometimes find myself dreaming of my next visit to Ames, Iowa just so I can eat at Hickory Park.  Hickory park is about as family-friendly as it gets.  There are often long wait times on the weekends at this popular restaurant, but they have you covered with constant cartoons playing on a big screen TV to occupy the kiddos.

The self-serve candy store is always a bribery point for me for getting my son to eat all of his meal. Not that the 100 different kinds of ice cream sundae isn’t motivation enough.

The candy ranges in price
from 5 cents to 25 cents
so you won’t break
the bank to keep your
kid happy here.

This place it pretty huge! After the walk to your seats, the kids are greeted with crayons and coloring pages to keep them busy so you can focus on the larger-than-life menu. Make sure to ask for the gluten-free menu if you need one. Lots of choices for you here!

Can you believe this was only $5.95?

They have traditional barbe-que faire including smoked meats like ribs, chicken, pork and brisket and deli sandwiches, salads and platters.  My choice is always the 1/4 chicken with two sides, for only $4.95 (I get the white meat option for a buck more)!

Kids meals are an affordable $3.50 and they include main courses like hot dogs, burgers, chicken tenders or smoked meats with a side, drink AND ice cream.

No visit to Hickory Park is ever complete without ice cream though…Click here to see this outrageous ice cream menu. With choices like the “Merry-go-round” that includes a carousel of animal cracker animals adorning your dish, how can you skip it?!  Today I chose the Carmel Apple sundae (for only $2.95) and it didn’t disappoint.

Come here when you are in Ames seeing a show or game at the University or make it a destination, either way you’ll be craving more.  The bathrooms are clean and there is changing table for little ones, so no worries about bringing the whole family to the awesome restaurant!

Katie says…

I recently took my two little guys to Hickory Park while we were in Ames. It is always a fun, tasty, and cheap place to eat and this time was no exception.
For $3.50 your child can get a meal with a side AND a scoop of ice cream for dessert. That’s a cheap kid’s meal and they have healthy options!
Starting at $4.95, adults can get anything from a BBQ Sandwich to dinner platters that are served with generous portions of food. For example, I had 1/4 white meat chicken, roll, side salad, and dish of pickles (weird side choice but great!) for only $5.95. Our total for two kid’s meals and two adult dinners was $19.00.
Hickory Park is also known for their awesome sundaes. You can get any type of toppings on your ice cream or make your own creation. Be sure to save room for ice cream!
Other helpful hints:


  • There is a large screen TV in the waiting area in case you have little ones with you. It was playing Flintstones cartoons when we were there.
  • There is a candy stand on the way out where you can buy individual pieces of candy with your pocket change. Pieces run from $0.05 to $0.50 and was a fun way for my kids to pick out of something of their own for the ride home.
  • We like to pay a little bit more for more food–it makes for cheap leftovers the next day!
  • Their entire menu is available online.
  • They have a separate “Gluten Intolerance” menu available.
  • Try an old-fashioned drink like a Green River or Sarsparilla while you’re there.