Places to get coffee in Ames besides Starbucks: Cafe Milo


Cafe Milo is a locally owned Ames cafe that welcomes customers in with a homey atmosphere and changing menu.

Sierra Hoeger

Susan Freeman, manager of Cafe Milo, apologizes for the broken fireplace. It’s quite old and would cost a fortune to fix due to the rarity of the parts. Despite this, the homey atmosphere of the coffee shop still remains. 

“It’s not a stop and go, it’s a sit and stay for a while,” Freeman said. “But most of it is the sociable aspect of coffee; it’s not just to wake up and whatever, it’s something to come in and sip with a visit with friends, and then the food is also a social aspect too.”

While Cafe Milo does see the few that stop in before work or class, Freeman enjoys those who make a point to stop and study or socialize throughout the day. 

“For students, just because I think it’s a nice atmosphere for studying,” Freeman said.  “The music’s not too loud, it’s there, but you can’t really hear it. I think it’s the same thing for the people in the community. We get a lot of older couples or groups of men, groups of women, business people, we get a pretty good assortment, and I think it’s because it’s light, it’s the homey atmosphere, and I think that’s what people really like about it”

Abigail Hartzler, senior in kinesiology and health and a barista and waitress at Cafe Milo, agrees with Freeman, noting that the atmosphere is warm and family friendly. 

“I chose [to work at] Cafe Milo because it is close to where I live, I love coffee and I know quite a bit about it and one of my best friends already worked there,” Hartzler said. “I had also studied there last year and loved it, so I decided to apply there.” 

Freeman and her husband own the coffeeshop and are fifth in line to do so. Cafe Milo has been in operation for about eight to 10 years, Freeman said. Before Cafe Milo, Freeman worked as a dietician in the state of Iowa, and her daughter is a chef, covering the food and drink aspects of owning and managing a coffee shop. 

On Cafe Milo’s website, the motto displayed on the home page is “coffee and friends — the perfect blend.” According to Freeman, that couldn’t be closer to the truth. The most interesting part of her job is meeting all of the people that come through Cafe Milo on a daily basis. From the students to the employees and those who come to visit, Freeman enjoys interactions with them all. 

“My dad was always a big coffee drinker when I was growing up, so I have always loved it,” Hartzler said. “It also gives you energy and brings people together.” 

Freeman believes that the most fun part of the job is getting to brainstorm and create new items for the menu, including monthly specialty drinks. However, some classics still remain customer and barista favorites. 

Hartzler said her two favorite drinks from Cafe Milo are an iced miel, which is essentially a honey and cinnamon latte, or a hot chai, especially on a cold day. 

Freeman said her goal has always been the same since day one.

“The simplicity of providing good, healthy food to people at a reasonable price and a nice setting,” she said. 

The homey setting of Cafe Milo is what sets it apart from chain coffee competitors such as Starbucks and Dunkin’, with couches, tables and food that tastes like your mother made it.