Black Market Pizza, Ames, Iowa

Yes, there’s more to Ames, Iowa than Iowa State University and its wonderful buttermilk brownies. Those who know me from college are very familiar with my assertion that Iowa State will dominate the Big 12 if the Cyclones are ever smart enough to give their football recruits the brownies they serve in the press box at Jack Trice Stadium, but Ames is also home to some excellent pizza at Black Market Pizza, just north of the university’s campus. Given that I’ve yet to review anything from the Hawkeye State, which I now call home, it’s the perfect time for this review.

What sets this pizza apart at Black Market is the unusual kinds of pizza you’re going to find on the menu here. Black Market is famous for taking sandwiches and turning them into pizza form. See if you can recognize what inspired their Witness Protection Pizza based on its ingredients:

Ground beef, Thousand Island sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed crust.

If you guessed a Big Mac, you’re absolutely right. Other pizzas served at Black Market include taco, Reuben, chicken bacon ranch, bacon double cheeseburger and Patty melt. Every ingredient you’d find on these creations in their normal form shows up on the pizza. The Reuben, for example, uses rye seeds to mimic the rye bread one normally eats a Reuben on. It’s an interesting concept that really works.

Of course, the reason it works is that Black Market uses quality ingredients and makes sure the flavors match up perfectly. In my pizza at the top, ranch sauce is used in place of tomato sauce on the pizza, and it’s then topped with chicken, bacon and tomatoes. I can hear the purists howling in New York, but it’s actually really good this way. A pizza isn’t much different from an open-faced sandwich when you think about it, and Black Market certainly has.

This pizza was outstanding. It’s exactly like a chicken bacon ranch sandwich, with the meats broken into chunks and the creamy and cool ranch sauce flowing through it. The ranch sauce instead of tomato sauce is a welcome touch, and it’s something you really only find here. Plus, you still have the tomatoes. Fresh tomatoes are always better than tomato sauce in my experience, and Black Market continues to prove me right on that suggestion.

If you’re not up for a sandwich as a pizza, Black Market also serves the traditional thin crust and deep dish pizza those in New York and Chicago respectively have grown up eating. In fact, its Chicago-style pizzas are just as much a part of its identity as its sandwich pizzas. If you want something really different, try one of these pizzas using a sweet potato crust. Different toppings also routinely dot the specials board and are available for customers to try.

Size-wise, these aren’t ridiculous sizes like at Big Pie In The Sky. Black Market serves their pizza in a standard size, with 16 inches being as big as they go. The 10-inch pizza, their smallest size, can feed one person quite well.

It’s a shame that Black Market couldn’t sustain a second location in the Des Moines suburb of Altoona, but some places are just meant to be in one spot. Clearly, that applies to Black Market, which has found itself a home in the college town of Ames.


Time to go: Lunch or dinner work well here. The small pizzas work great for a lunch serving, while one big one can feed a family for dinner.

Wait during my visit: None outside the wait for the pizza to cook. It’s Ames, not nearby Des Moines. There’s not going to be a ridiculous crowd unless you’ve decided to go when the Cyclones are playing a home football or basketball game.

Location: Black Market Pizza can be found at 2610 Northridge Parkway in the northern part of Ames, Iowa. It also delivers to locations around the Ames area.

Parking: Again, it’s Ames. You shouldn’t have a problem here.

Cost: Most pizzas are about $12 to $13.

Website: Black Market Pizza

Signature items: Sandwich pizzas, deep dish

Black Market Pizza on Urbanspoon


About nighthawk2005

A hungry guy in the land of the Hawkeye discovers America's best restaurants for himself.

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