By, KRISTEN TOLLAS
Mark Bach sat at a new restaurant awaiting his 26-inch, four-meat pizza he was ready to share with his three teammates. He sat observing the restaurant’s full bar, multiple TVs displaying different sports and families enjoying the outdoor patio.
Later, an employee carried out the table-sized pizza. Bach and his teammates said they enjoyed the smell of fresh ingredients in these pizzas.
Bach is one of many Drake students who found opportunities at a new pizza restaurant, Papa Keno’s, to either work or indulge. Alec Davis and his brother, Evan, opened the franchise in August two blocks from Drake’s campus.
Located on the corner of University and 24th, Papa Keno’s attracts Drake students and members of the surrounding neighborhood. It sells slices of pizza that start at $4 and full pizzas that range between $12 and $40.
“We had talked about doing some kind of restaurant concept for a couple months, and we were kicking around some different ideas,” Davis said. “Then it was seeing this location and knowing that my brother, Evan, knew Papa Keno’s we kind of said, ‘Wait, we should do one of these,’ and then it was an idea, a light bulb, and bam.”
Davis’ brother originally managed a Papa Keno’s location in Lawrence, Kansas, which provided a basis for them to open a location in Des Moines. Davis manages the Des Moines location because his brother has a full-time position at Wells Fargo. However, his brother is still actively involved in the restaurant, Davis said.
Papa Keno’s serves a variety of specialty pizzas. Pizzas range from individual, head-sized slices to 26-inch full pizzas. Papa Keno’s also sells gluten-free crusts. In addition, the menu includes sandwiches, salads and an assortment of alcoholic beverages.
“My experience was tremendous,” said Mark Bach, a student-athlete on Drake’s football team. “We got there and being a few offensive linemen, we all knew we were going to eat a lot of food. Sometimes when we’re picking a restaurant we think, ‘Where can we get the most bang for our buck?’ We saw that Papa Keno’s had a very large pizza, I think it was a 26-inch pizza or something. Four of us took the entire thing down.”
With string lights across the patio and pink canned Rosé wine, the restaurant attracts a variety of customers.
“It was a really fun place to go with my roommates and friends,” said Jenna McNamara, a Drake sophomore. “I really liked the pizza’s variety but personally, I think it could’ve had more tomato sauce. I still enjoyed the atmosphere for sure though.”
Learning how to run a small business for the first time, the construction, lease and hiring an entirely new staff was challenging, Davis said.
“With most jobs, at least that I’ve had, I dread going to work and stuff,” said Alex Ciszewski, a senior at Drake who has worked at Papa Keno’s for about two months. “But with going to a pizza place, it’s kind of fun to mess around with pizza.”
Papa Keno’s is the only pizza place in Dogtown, the group of retail stores one block east of Drake’s campus. Papa Keno’s has received business from students and faculty at Drake. The restaurant partnered with Drake during Drake’s Taste of Des Moines event on Sept. 18.
“Being from Chicago, I have high expectations of pizza,” Bach said. “But this was the best pizza I’d had in Des Moines so far.”
PHOTO BY JANINNA GONCALVES