Honey and garlic, crab rangoon and loaded potato. Bacon popper, ramen pizza and mac and cheese.
You could find these types of pizzas at Fong’s Pizza on 3018 Forest Ave., Des Moines, IA — an easy walk from Drake University for students to grab a quick slice of something delicious. In November 2021, however, Fong’s posted a note on their door announcing the closure of the flavorful neighborhood favorite.
“We regret to say that after 2 ½ years of trying to make things work here, we have decided to close our doors for good, effective Saturday 11/13/2021. Thank you very much for your patronage and support over the years. We have been honored to be a part of your neighborhood.”
Managed by the Full Court Press, a group that oversees some of Des Moines’ favorite restaurants and bars, the Forest Avenue location joined the Fong’s collection (223 Fourth St., Des Moines; 1006 Third St. SE, Cedar Rapids; 1450 S.W. Vintage Parkway, Suite 120, Ankeny) back in April 2019.
For many in the Drake community, Fong’s on Forest provided a perfect quick-service place for the Drake Neighborhood to grab a slice on-the-go, especially for any late-night cravings.
“Fong’s was a fun, cheap place to eat that was even closer to campus than Dogtown was,” senior Elyse Dye said. “And it wasn’t a chain restaurant like McDonald’s.”
Fong’s also provided student-deals — something many students seek out in establishments to support.
“I loved their student deals,” Dye said. “Before COVID-19, they used to be open until 2 a.m. It was a perfect place to stop for some cheap food after a night out.”
Besides losing an affordable restaurant, the Drake Neighborhood has lost an eccentric gem, and students aren’t exactly sure why.
“I definitely think that Fong’s added a different vibe to the Drake Neighborhood,” junior Sydney Skemp said. “It was a fun, welcoming atmosphere that combined locals and Drake students from every age range.”
The closure of Fong’s on Forest Avenue confused Skemp, because to her, they were always successful.
“I was pretty sad when I heard Fong’s closed and honestly kind of shocked, too,” Skemp said. “I always thought they did well in the neighborhood, so I was surprised to see them shut their doors. I honestly don’t know why they closed.”
While the exact reasoning behind Fong’s closure is uncertain, there was controversy behind the management of the Forest Avenue location.
In March 2021, co-founder and part owner of the downtown Fong’s Gwen Page “alleged that she was fired ‘without notice of cause’ by a group of investors that included Full Court Press owner Jeff Bruning”, according to an article published by the Des Moines Register.
Full Court Press, however, denies those allegations.
Regardless of why Fong’s closed, community members will miss the mingling of flavors of pizza, drinks and starters. And they’re eager for something similar to fill the hole it’s created.
“The loss of Fong’s is sad because we all have so many fun memories associated with that place and its food,” Skemp said. “I would love to see it come back or for another small place with a similar vibe to fill the neighborhood again.”