Des Moines tastes oddly similar to macaroni and cheese.
At least, that was the aroma that overwhelmed passers-by near Parents Hall last Wednesday.
Noodles & Company was one of six neighborhood restaurants eager that obtained the approval of Drake students at Taste of Des Moines, hosted by the Student Activities Board (SAB).
Enthusiastic in their marketing endeavors, the vendors readily dispensed coupons, samples and information, encouraging students to venture off campus and discover the immense culinary value Des Moines has to offer.
“While the event only represents a small number of restaurants in the area, it is certainly a good starting point for students to begin exploring Des Moines,” said Nick Jenderko, vice president of SAB and the event administrator.
The event was a spin-off of the Taste of Chicago and is likened to the World Food and Music Festival that occurred this weekend in downtown Des Moines.
An event that advertises food, especially free food, brings out natural human behavior.
When a fresh delivery of Bordy’s pizzas was unloaded at the gathering, the masses converged on the table. Yet, the students are not the only party to benefit.
“It’s definitely a symbiotic relationship,” Coordinator of Student Activities Kodee Wright said.
“The restaurants are giving out free food to the students,” Wright said. “So the students get free food; but the restaurants are (becoming) known, so probably it’ll increase their business.”
College students are a tremendous source of income for local businesses, so marketing to this population in the extreme is a necessity.
Alan Ruden, the owner of Orange Leaf, sees value in appealing to Drake students, both with his frozen yogurt as well as other commodities.
“We have Wi-Fi, you can do some homework if you want; you can just have a study break, we’re close,” Ruden said. “The Drake community has been good to us.”
Mutually, the students of the Drake community were satisfied. Everything from hot wings served by Jethro’s BBQ to Qdoba’s chips and queso to sandwiches from Planet Sub was represented at the tables.
“I’m going to try something from every stand at least twice,” senior Aaron Menick said.
With such a variety of samples available to students, the event succeeded in reflecting the diversity of the restaurant industry in Des Moines.
“This is a great melting pot right here in Des Moines,” senior Stuart Kofron said. “It’s really just a huge amalgamation of different cultures.”
In the Olmsted Center, peers and faculty mingled around high top tables, feasting on numerous samples.
“It’s fun because you’re seeing people you don’t usually see in your major every day,” Kofron said. “It’s kind of a cross campus event.”