Note: This is a companion piece to my Sunday column. It is by no means a complete list. Please add to it liberally.
Old School Dives
Alpine Tap Room, Des Moines
Small, dark joint on Ingersoll Ave. During my Drake days, the budget-minded drinker could get Hamms in a can at a very reasonable price. Many hours spent in comfortable, vintage booths.
West End Pub, Des Moines
Did much of my college drinking at this bar on the east end of the Drake campus. I haven’t been there in years, but I bet they still serve giant Long Islands and play “Margaritaville” 20 times a night.
Classic dive just a few blocks northeast of campus town is a throwback with pool, darts, lots of beer selections and big drinks. There’s a little concrete walled patio outside with all the charm of Beirut.
Miles Inn, Sioux City
Good old-school brick neighborhood bar known for Charlie Boys, a great tavern sandwich, and frosty schooners of beer.
Homy Inn, Omaha
My kind of bar. Last time I was there the walls are covered with old Omaha World-Herald front pages chronicling wars, grisly crimes and the like. The ceiling was covered in a mosaic of old restaurant menus. They serve warm peanuts in dog bowls and you can order pizza from a place across the street, run get it and eat it at the bar.
The American Legion, Roland, Iowa.
The only bar in Roland boasts the coldest beer in Iowa and has T-shirts to prove it. It’s a great small town bar that doubles as a community meeting place and serves a big dinner crowd on many Friday nights.
Gone but not forgotten
The Duck Blind, Des Moines
I spent many hours drinking beer, eating heaping plates of nachos and playing darts at the Duck Blind, which had fireplaces and other hunting-lodge stuff. It was gutted and converted into a soulless place named Zimm’s after I graduated.
Boomer’s, Fort Dodge
Last I knew, the bar down the street from the Fort Dodge Messenger was no more. It was a good place for us to commiserate about working at one of America’s great newspapers. It’s also the only bar where I’ve ever seen a knife pulled.
The Jolly Acre, in the middle of nowhere north of Pinckneyville, IL
The Jolly Acre, now closed I’m told, served me my first can of Stag, a popular beer round my wife’s home stomping grounds in Pinckneyville. The Jolly was a good example of the seemingly nameless, cinder-block beer and whisky bars that are everywhere you look in Southern Illinois. With cement floors and drains at one end, clean up’s a breeze.
My favorite CR local bars, so far
Little Bohemia — What can you say, the place is damn near perfect. Good food, a cranky but skilled bartender the night I was there and priceless local color.
Irish Democrat — A must-visit spot with great food. I think every city has a signature bar and you can make a good argument that the ID is Cedar Rapids’
Mahoney’s — Lots of great beer choices, big screens for sports, pool and live music all jammed into a great neighborhood bar that’s actually in a neighborhood.
Bill’s Drinking Establishment — The downtown Marion joint has become my favorite Friday after work hangout. The name alone would land it on my list.