Hickory Park in Ames is one of those places that is always busy. I cannot imagine how much food they push out the doors every day. More than once I have tried to visit the place and have found huge crowds spilling out into the parking lot waiting in vain for a chance to get in. As I sit here and try to think of another restaurant in Iowa that could equal the sheer tonnage of food that is sold every day I am at a loss for its equal. I am sure that there are corporations and colleges that have diners that might come close, but even then, I’m not sure. So, what makes a place like Hickory Park so popular? I suppose that the generous portions of real meat and the large selection of menu offerings has something to do with it. The staff is trained to get people to their seat as efficiently as possible. The food comes quickly and is very straightforward. This is a paper napkin, no table cloth sort of place, as you might expect for a restaurant that is geared to feed as many people as modern restaurant science will allow. The building is outfitted in that sort of country-cabin-cowboy look that makes decorating a fairly easy effort and will satisfy every cowboy wannabe or soccer mom. The huge kitchen and wide aisles keep the food moving as quickly as possible. But at the heart of any successful food enterprise is good food. I tried the smoked beef sandwich and found that this was really good dish. The meat tasted like it had really been smoked.
Service was efficient and while the noise level was fairly high during this lunch hour visit, it was tolerable for conversation. Hickory Park won’t win any awards for fine dining, but it gets the job done for the demographic that it is serving. The restaurant is just north of Highway 30 on the east side of Duff Avenue at 1404 S. Duff. It is not open for breakfast.