Four food places I would comfortably cry at during a mental breakdown
Little Taipei || 2514 Chamberlain St, Ames, IA, 50014
It is the closest I have ever felt to an Asian grandparent taking care of me when I have never met mine. There is something about the way they will rearrange the table you’re sitting at that is full of tenderness and care. My regular order is the combination fried rice with a crab rangoon (they’ll give you an egg roll if you don’t specify which one you want). I regularly slip a 20-dollar bill in the tip jar. Their bilingual menu makes the place feel more authentic and take the time to notice the menu on the counter. My friend pointed it out to me and they sell almost hidden boba. They use the jelly pearls, not tapioca. My friend’s favorite is coffee and they wanted me to mention the employees put the boba in its own to-go bag to make sure it doesn’t spill. Check out their website for coupons and you can leave a note on DoorDash too. I associate this place with friendship, laughter, and comfort.
Pleasant Hill Diner || 5015 E University Ave, Pleasant Hill, IA 50327
It is the cheapest breakfast in the area. I genuinely do not know how they keep their prices so low. The portions are large, and the menu includes crepes to skillets and so much more. They have a retro diner vibe that actually feels old and not gentrifying the vibe into something cool kids will like. They have jukebox selection boxes on the tables and the little note saying “just for show” makes me giggle every time. My go to order is the cinnamon French toast deluxe for $7.25. Comes with four slices of circular French toast, two eggs (I always get scrambled with ketchup), and two bacon strips or sausages (I like the links to dip in the syrup). I associate this place with after-work-tiredness, Iowa nice (the good kind), and yearning.
Mongolian Buffet || 1620 S Kellogg Ave #103, Ames, IA 50010
Go on the weekends; I know it costs more, but it’s worth it. In the back right corner of options, there is a station filled with little metal cylinders. There you will find seaweed wrapped rice, red bean paste treats, and my favorite, taro buns. Delicious little clouds full of purple mush. They are sometimes the sole reason I go, and I learned they only serve them on the weekends. The buffet also contains all of the usual goodies at an Americanized Asian buffet. They also have a sushi bar and Hibachi grill. Yes, they do have a fish tank to stare at, but sadly you can really only see it at the entrance and not from any seating. I associate this place with an awkward family gathering, cliché-vague-Asian decor, and my almost constant desire for taro buns.
Dairy Queen || A lot of places
I miss their Snickerdoodle Cookie Dough Blizzard. It is my favorite Blizzard by far. The sugary-crunchy texture scratches all of the itchy parts of my brain. Their malts are another great option. To be honest I still do not know the difference between a malt and shake, but I’ll pick a malt whenever it is an option. Yes, you can add multiple flavors together. I enjoy banana and peanut butter. They use an actual banana and I recommend getting a spoon to eat the chunks. Their $6 meal deal from 11am-4pm seems like a great bargain, but I somehow always seem to visit at 4:05pm. It comes with a burger or chicken strips, fries, a drink, and a sundae. For $1 more you can upgrade the sundae to a blizzard. I associate this place with road trips, late night cravings, and so ordinarily-familiarly-alluring that you don’t realize how many times you’ve went there until you see DAIRY QUEEN #15 four times in a row on your bank statement.
About Trinity Dearborn
Trinity Dearborn (they/them) is a queer, nonbinary, person of color. They graduated in 2020 from Iowa State University with a degree in Women’s and Gender Studies. They want to be your queer cousin that sporadically gives hit or miss advice. When not accidently spiraling into an existential void, you can find them being vocal on social media at https://linktr.ee/trinitycd