Can’t go wrong with truck stop gravy

Tim Paluch and Zach Calef

In our first installment of “Eat-N-Write,” we decided to take a trip to the Cyclone Truck Stop on the outskirts of town. Located at 1811 S. Dayton, this is the place to go for affordable, home-style cooking in Ames, although it’s quite a ride to get there. After bumping along on rocky, gravel roads and over narrow bridges, we saw the truck stop, although nowhere did it say “Cyclone Truck Stop.” Instead, there were two large signs, one saying “FOOD,” the other “Restaurant.” For some reason, though, we knew this was the right place. Semis outnumbered cars in the parking lot; jacked-up pickups were a close second.

Restaurant Atmosphere

Tim: After seating ourselves in a booth in the non-smoking section, we were immediately treated to the pleasant aroma of, you guessed it, cigarette smoke. And I’m not talking Virginia Slims cigarette smoke; this was GPC smoke.

Zach: The first thing I did wasn’t whine about the smoke as my friend Tim did. Instead I did what any good food critic would do first – checked out the bathroom. Though it smelled like cheap air freshener, it was the cleanest truck stop restroom I’ve ever used. One thing that caught my eye, however, was the ash trays above the urinals. I guess if you’re a truck driver, that might be convenient.

Tim: For your information, I wasn’t whining; I was merely observing. After my lungs recovered, the next thing that caught my eye was the cleanliness of the place – pretty much spotless. I also had a nice view of the lottery machine and ATM in the gas station that was connected to the restaurant. The duck paintings on the walls mixed with blue Cyclone banners was a nice touch too. Very upscale. No background music, either. I was forced to talk to you, Zach, which, coupled with the smoke, did it for me. It was close, but thumbs down.

Zach: The people there were the type of folk who you just can’t help but to mingle with. I did feel a little out of place, though, since I left my blue Bud Light hat in the car. Thumbs up.



It only took a few minutes before the waitress came over, a young woman who apparently was trying to keep her name a secret. No name plate and no introduction. She basically threw the menus at us. Plus Zach was in the bathroom, so she had to come back.

Zach: I am glad I wasn’t there when she arrived. From what I can gather, the waitresses don’t sit down and converse like they do at TGI Friday’s. After dealing with that fact, I was better. Then the waitress did the impossible. She brought out our bill with our food. I just about gave it back to her with a note that read “what, no dessert?”

Tim: Yea, maybe they were trying to tell us something. We young hippies didn’t exactly fit in with the dinner crowd. But at least she didn’t bother us every three minutes like a lot of places. It’s thumbs down for me.

Zach: Did you just call me a hippie? I can’t believe I sat through a meal with out backhanding you. Thumbs down for me too.

Food Quality

Tim: The menu was quite stacked considering we were at a truck stop. For a while I was torn between the liver and onions and the biscuits and gravy. After some thought, I took door number two. It turned out to be the right choice.

Zach: I agree with Tim. The choice was excellent for us college students, since we rarely find time to eat a home cooked meal. I decided on a hot turkey sandwich with mashed potatoes, smothered in gravy.

Tim: I have tasted the future of biscuits and gravy, and by god, it’s delicious. The biscuits weren’t dry and the gravy was thick and lumpy, just how it’s supposed to be. It took me a couple of minutes to find the biscuits.

Zach: Hot, tasty, filling, and just plain good eatin’. The cooks did a wonderful job. I know it is hard to mess up an open face turkey sandwich, but man. They weren’t too shy with the turkey, and the mashed potatoes didn’t taste like cardboard. My gravy was free of all lumps, yet full of flavor. The perfect texture.

Tim: I got quite a hefty portion as well. I couldn’t quite finish the whole plate, but don’t blame the taste for that. I just can’t normally swallow four pounds of grease at one sitting. While this wasn’t exactly the Red Lobster of affordable truck stop dining, $4.66 for a giant plate of biscuits and gravy and a glass of iced tea big enough to drown a small child in was well worth it. Thumbs up for me.

Zach: I on the other hand, had no problem finishing the entire plate. And I finished it fast. I don’t even think I breathed between bites. The best part of the night was how full I got for just over six bucks, a Coke included. While you might not call it the Red Lobster of truck stop dining, it’s at least up there with the Sizzler. Thumbs up for me, too.