Favorite Bars

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.

Thumbs, Ames
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.

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9 Comments

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9 responses to “Favorite Bars

  1. Cobbler

    “Thumbs, Ames
    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.”

    Absolutely.

    Next time you’re in Dubuque hit the Busted Lift on Mainstreet. It’s the best bar in Iowa.

  2. Bulldog

    Apparently Drake grads have all the same memories:

    Alpine Coolers washed down with a cold Hamms. A fun thing to do to the locals was to put $10 in the jukebox and play “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson until they unplugged the machine.

    Glad to see you went with West End instead of Peggy’s. Duck Blind was where I bought my first legal pitcher of beer, and they let me keep the pitcher. Great fireplace too.

    The call on the Miles Inn in Sioux City is spot on. Schooners of beer and Charlie Boys on Saturday made for great naps.

    Bill’s Tap made my list too. Went there before my wedding rehearsal and wound up smelling like we’d smoked a carton of cigarrettes – and none of us smoked!

  3. Tonja Hard

    Dives are of the utmost importance in the adult world of night life.
    I have found, and now manage an awesome hole-in-the-wall, neighborhood bar EVER.
    Located at 620 Lindale Drive in Marion.
    It’s small, cozy, perfectly lighted,low prices, smoking allowed, but we have Pur-Aire fans,so you’d never know. Best of all we have the pickled eggs in a huge jar, and pickled turkey gizzards to boot.
    We don’t have a fancy menu,it’s frozen pizza, but it’s damn good.
    The bartenders provide alot of entertainment, the pool table is level, and the jukebox is full of every type of music.Want to watch TV, there are 3 big screens. So when you are looking for a new out of the ordinary “dive”, check out PITCHERS on Lindale Drive in Marion. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.
    Bottoms up.
    Tonja H. of PITCHERS in Marion

  4. Nancy

    I loved your column, I was a cigarette smoker then switched to cigars whenever I am enjoying a cocktail,I have to have a cigar. Bills in Marion has been my choice since we moved down here 13 years ago. It’s dark and has a great jukebox{which I have to control} It is one of the best bars I’ve been to, and I’ve been in quite a few! Lunch on St Patricks Day at Bills is a must.

  5. Darrell

    I like the downstairs bar at Daniel Arthur’s. Nice outdoor patio as well.

    Bill’s is a close second though!

  6. Dot

    I agree with your list of local bars, except I don’t believe the ID should be labeled our signature bar. Well, unless you want to highlight the middle-aged crowd. For something a little more upscale, I’d suggest the Piano Lounge, either on Thursday nights (half off wine by the glass and martinis) or on a weekend night when they have a good dueling piano act — the crowd really gets involved.
    And you still owe me a beer.

  7. Dale

    I had a bourbon and water in the West End the evening of my 21st birthday. Didn’t return for several months. When I finally did, the bartender (cool old guy, but I can’t recall his name), looked at me and said, “bourbon and water?” Hell of a good bartender, hell of a nice place to drink. Glad to hear it’s still there.

  8. Murphy

    Mahoney’s is a great place where everyone does know your name. The people there become like family and are always willing to help a person move, do a home repair, etc.
    Kelly’s Westport Inn in Kansas City, KS. My husband and I went there in 2002 after he ran a road race so he could watch football. The bartender who served us that afternoon told us plays frisbee golf in Cedar Rapids . We returned 2 years later and had 3 rounds, we mentioned he hadn’t been charging us and he said “you were here a couple years ago that makes you regulars.”

  9. Pingback: Advice for blogging journalists from Todd Dorman « Pursuing the Complete Community Connection

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