STORY BY ETHAN FICKAU
Among the more popular restaurants located in the Drake community, many restaurants like Mars Cafe, the Drake Diner, Jethro’s BBQ and Lefty’s Live Music, which is slated to open just as the Drake Relays kick off, are gearing up for the annual event.
Mars Cafe features a menu of coffee and light treats along with a lounge-like atmosphere that consistently draws large numbers.
Mars Cafe owner Daniel Bosman said that he always looks forward to Relays in the spring.
“All the Drake students are out and everything is just super exciting,” Bosman said. “Every year has been a little bit different for us during the Drake Relays.”
“We’ve done everything from alumni parties that we’ve had here to other special events … The quality of our coffee is the best around in my opinion,” Bosman said. “Our coffee here at Mars Cafe is just out of this world, no pun intended.”
Bosman said that the 9-year-old establishment’s signature coffee is the Sputnik, a honey, cinnamon and almond latte.
He and his staff like to paint the windows and put out patio furniture to attract customers during Relays.
Just across the street is Lefty’s Live Music, which is a new music bar that is set to open during Relays week.
Owner Anne Matthey and booking manager Erik Brown have put a lot of effort into opening venue.
Matthey says that she is psyched for Lefty’s to officially open as their first music event takes place on April 22.
“We have live music programming during the whole week going through Sunday that week,” Matthey said.
Matthey talked about her fondest Relays memory as a Drake alumna when one year the street painting event was cancelled due to rain, but she and a group of friends went out and did the painting anyway.
Brown said that they are excited for Relays, but they also want to really establish themselves in the community and work as partners with Drake University.
“Next year, we want to be as closely involved as we possibly can. As our relationship grows with Drake, we want to bring more interns over. We want to do stuff with the music department and have recitals,” Brown said.
Brown said the two of them will be out at the Relays handing out pamphlets and other fun freebies. They may even bring their mascot, Lefty, Matthey’s dog who is missing his front left leg and is the inspiration for the business’ name.
Another crowd pleaser in the neighborhood is the Drake Diner, which features their popular Rarebit Burger dish and cake shakes.
General manager Shannon Vilmain mentioned that she loves it each year when the Relays take place.
“Every year during Relays week we open our patio area,” Vilmain said. “We get a lot of out- of-town visitors so it’s a busy weekend. I really love seeing the star athletes come through here during Relays. We’re a big supporter of Drake athletics so we love everything about Relays.”
The Drake Diner has been around for 28 years and Vilmain said it’s great that the Diner is mainly known to people by word of mouth.
Rounding out the list is Jethro’s BBQ. Jethro’s general manager Chris Lehnertz said he’s excited for Relays to start.
“As always, we’ll have a tent out front serving beer and sandwiches to people coming by,” Lehnertz said. “We’ve had the tent every year since we opened in 2008. The biggest thing is the amount of people that come here from outside of the state. Though Des Moines is a small city, we have this world class event every year. We love being an ambassador to the city during Relays. We’re looking forward to being a part of Relays again. We’ll be here and we’ll be ready.”
Lehnertz also talked about how Jethro’s loves to reach out to the community and do some philanthropy.
He said that boneless wings, the macaroni and cheese, and the brisket and ribs are what tend to get chosen the most from the menu by customers.
For the seventh year, Jethro’s is ready to have a big presence at the Drake Relays.
“We’re looking forward to being a part of Relays again,” Lehnertz said. “We’ll be here and we’ll be ready.”