Get into the spirit with our list of Best Bars in Greater Des Moines, as voted by locals. From cocktail bars, beer bars, and dive bars to pubs and hidden gems, we’ve got the cure to what ales you. Take a shot on them, they’re all neat! #CATCHdsm
Even though it’s only around five years old, Hello, Marjorie has quickly become the stalwart of the Des Moines cocktail scene, with its spacious lounge adorned with deep green leathers, retro lampshades, and paintings of Marjorie herself (owner’s grandmother). That’s not to mention the iconic neon sign with the Jack Kerouac quote, “The prettiest girls in the world live in Des Moines,” which may just be the most Instagrammable spot in town. It’s like drinking in your grandma’s basement, if your grandma was Elizabeth Taylor.
Drink this: Editor’s Note – bourbon, apricot liqueur, demerara, smoked apple bitters
The Bartender’s Handshake
This intimate cocktail bar on Ingersoll serves up both creative cocktails and veggie-friendly snacks like hummus, veggie dogs, and mushroom and farro soup. The real draw is their astroturf patio, replete with lawn chairs, heaters in the cooler months, and firepits perfect for S’mores roasting.
Drink this: Aperol Spritz – Aperol, sparkling wine, soda, orange
The Winchester Public House
You don’t have to go downtown to find a dang fine cocktail. The Winchester Public House, in Historic Valley Junction in West Des Moines, is a prohibition-style pub in a beautiful space adorned with brick walls, dark woods, dramatic chandeliers, and stained glass. They also have an extensive craft beer list and ample selection of wines if that’s more your style.
Drink this: Blueberry vodka sour – vodka, St. Germain, blueberry syrup, house sour, blueberry
Bellhop Tiki Bar
No matter what the calendar says, you can be transported to a tropical paradise at Belhop Tiki Bar in the East Village, where it’s surely 5 o’clock already. Think classy tiki, with tropical foliage wallpaper, Palm Springs vibes, and drinks like the Mai Tai, Painkiller, and Mojito. Leave your troubles at the door and find paradise in the middle of the heartland.
Drink this: Painkiller – rum, toasted coconut cream, pineapple, orange, nutmeg
The New Northwestern
The new kid on the block in the East Village, The New Northwestern pays homage to turn of the century rail travel in Des Moines, with arched ceilings, historical artwork and photography, and elegant bar detailing reminiscent of old train cars. The menu is gin-forward, but with something to whet everyone's whistle.
Drink this: Gin and tonic flight
Good News, Darling
If you’re looking for cooler-than-cool New York City vibes, we’ve got good news, darling. Arguably, the hottest new place in Des Moines, Good News, Darling is located right behind Hello, Marjorie (check-in at the HM host stand) and is everything a good speakeasy should be. Dark, swanky, comfortable, with inventive cocktails you can’t find anywhere else. Reservations are recommended on weekends.
Drink this: Brambly – rye whiskey, blackberry, lemon, honey, ginger, dandelion root, beet, walnut, blue cheese
This beer-hall style local fave is the place to get a real taste of Iowa, with 99 taps featuring all Iowa beers. You can’t try them all in one sitting, but their flights will help you make a dent in that number and give you a reason to return. Pair with their elevated bar bites like Iowa hamballs or breaded tenderloin strips.
Drink this: Barn Town Neon Hazy IPA
El Bait Shop
262 beers on tap. That’s not a typo. That makes El Bait Shop home to the largest craft beer selection west of the Mississippi. It’s a great spot to grab a brew before heading over to Principal Park for an I-Cubs game. Or head next door to the attached Miller High Life Lounge, where the beer is decidedly more old school, as is the comfort food options like bacon-wrapped tater tots and pizza burgers (also available at El Bait).
Drink this: Confluence Gray’s Lake Nessie Scottish Ale
With more than 50 different German beers on tap, there’s lots to mull over here, with choices you won’t find anywhere else in the metro. Feeling adventurous? Engage with the “passing of the boot” – a drinking game centered around a glass boot filled with two liters of your favorite tap bier. Might want to order some soft pretzels and schnitzel first to get a good base going.
Drink this: Hoegaarden Wit
This Valley Junction beer hall offers communal seating, giant TVs, board games, a killer patio, and 54 beers on tap. They also boast four diverse food menus, with German fare, burgers, pub fare, and pizza. Let the good beer (and good times) flow!
Drink this: Peace Tree Blonde Fatale
Beer Styles Taproom and Gastropub
Located in West Glen Town Center in West Des Moines, Beer Styles is a British-style gastropub with a rotating list of over 100 beers on tap. With a good mix of local beers and hard-to-find seasonals, it’s a great place to grab and beer (or fill a growler) and one of their gourmet pizzas. The beer list on their website has a cool “real-time keg monitoring” feature, so you can see what was just tapped!
Drink this: Toppling Goliath Pseudo Sue
Nestled right along the Des Moines River just north of downtown, with lowkey our favorite patio in town, Captain Roy’s is a beautiful melting pot of bikers, boaters, hipsters, and everyone in between. Enjoy some live music and food truck grub while nursing one of their more than 50 cans of beer.
Drink this: Confluence Long Ride Pale Ale
Carl’s is the quintessential neighborhood dive bar and has become the preferred watering hole to everyone from townies and hipsters to international media and politicians during Caucus season. Surprisingly spacious, it's a great place to play pool or darts, listen to a band, or watch a game saddled up to the bar and soaking up the wide cross-section of life all around you.
Drink this: Busch Light tallboy, camo can
Kung Fu Tap and Taco
Every night is bike night at this South Side treasure. With tree stump barstools, loads of bike memorabilia, pool tables, dirt-cheap hard-shell tacos, occasional Jason Momoa sightings, and a giant motorcycle behind the bar, this unpretentious spot has character (and characters) for days. Which is all you ask for in your new favorite watering hole.
Drink this: Hamms
More faux-dive than actual dive (simply because it isn’t old enough yet), Ernie’s in the East Village spins 70’s country-western on a vinyl jukebox and serves a frozen coffee drink with Folgers and Black Velvet whiskey in a paper cup. All under the watchful eye of the bison head on the wall. Pair with a trip to the next-door Bellhop Tiki Bar for a study in contrasts.
Drink this: Schlitz on tap
Flat Tire Lounge
Bike rides and bars go together like peanut butter and jelly, and Flat Tire Lounge, located in Madrid along the iconic High Trestle Trail, is the best dang jelly you ever did try. Again, it’s all about the character, as this bar is housed in a former machine shed, with bikes (the pedal kind) hanging from the ceiling. Cold beer, hot food, a killer patio, and a nearby bike trail. Is it summer yet?
Drink this: Coors Light
Darts, pool, karaoke, trivia nights and malt liquor in brown paper bags. We’d say more, but I think we’ve already said enough. Fast times at The Ridgemont, indeed.
Drink this: A forty in a brown paper bag
GT Race Car Bar
There is no shortage of great bars along Ingersoll Avenue, from Star Bar and Juniper Moon to dive bars like Yacht Club and Greenwood Lounge. But GT Race Car Bar takes the checkered flag, with old school racing memorabilia, a pool table with an engine lamp dangling above it, and clientele that are authentic as this place’s vibe. Your best bet is to make this one-stop on an Ingersoll bar crawl.
Drink this: Jameson
For the full British pub experience, look no further than The Royal Mile downtown. With a menu of English favorites, soccer on the TVs, British beers, and an extensive scotch list, you’ll be speaking in a cockney accent in no time.
Drink this: London Pride English bitter
The Dam Pub
The Dam Pub in Beaverdale is a place so steeped in 80’s and 90’s nostalgia that you’ll consider, however briefly, feathering your bangs again. They serve up rib-sticking fare like burgers, nachos, and meatloaf alongside one of their famous mule drinks. We’re pretty sure this is the only place in town where you’ll find murals with both ALF and Eddie Vedder.
Drink this: V-ice – vodka, gin, rum, lemon, lime soda, lemonade
Magees Irish Pub and Eatery
Irish bars outside of Ireland can be a little homogenous, but Magees in Ankeny is a cut above thanks to the most authentic and best Irish food in the region, from traditional fish and chips and shepherd’s pie to reubens and St. Paddy’s melts. But it’s also a great place to just sit with a pint or two of Guinness as well.
Drink this: Pint of Guinness
Want to live like a local? Check out Francie’s on the South Side, which is the type of place where it’s hard to find anyone who has nary a bad thing to say about it. Dark, comfortable, and full of charm, it’s got the best Reuben and French Dip in town, one of the friendliest waitstaffs, and Guinness on tap. It’s even kid-friendly!
Drink this: Exile Ruthie
The quintessential townie pub, Wisco doesn’t look like much on the outside, but inside if filled with people you’ll want to saddle up and have a beer with. Particularly if you’re a Packers fan (Wisco = Wisconsin in case you hadn’t figured it out). Even if you’re not a Packer fan, if you’re a fan of wings, cheese curds, and cold beer, you’ll probably like it here.
Drink this: Potosi Good Old Potosi
Shorty’s Somewhat Fancy Bar
Not to judge a book by its cover, but we were already in love with this bar just based on the name. Located in a basement behind RoCA, this low ceiling lounge is a great place to chill and catch a game while knocking back some cold ones, tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Court Avenue above you. The somewhat fancy part comes into play in that you can order food from the RoCA menu upstairs. Diver bars and charcuterie plates? Yes, please.
Drink this: Smithwick’s Irish Ale
Occupying the space above Royal Mile, Red Monk also occupies a space that few bars dare to tread: rare Belgian beers. Ninety of them to be exact, but who’s counting? The Belgian vibes are strong with this one, with dark reds, stained glass, and even two alters incorporated into the décor. We pray you give this place a shot.
Drink this: Chimay Grande Reserve Belgian Strong Dark Ale
When you're located in the heart of downtown, it seems counter-intuitive that you could be a hidden gem, but this blink-and-you-miss-it bar across from Fong’s fits the bill. Serving up the best martinis in town and craft beer in a dark space that feels like something out of a Tim Burton movie, with local art adorning the walls, this place has cornered the "creepy comfortable cool" market (or perhaps created it).
Drink this: Frank’s dirty martini
Vinyl, tequila, and goth. Name a more iconic trio. This visually striking East Village tequila bar takes its aesthetic cues from underground music and cinema, with a red neon glow enveloping the interior. DJs spin an eclectic mix of tunes, and the tequila drinks are potent.
Drink this: A Tiragram – exotico blanco, Cointreau, lime, orange
We hate to spill secrets, but this place is too good not to talk about. This quaint neighborhood bar has one of the best views of the downtown skyline at night and a patio that screams “summer hang.”. Located in an old boiler house near the train tracks, you’ll find loads of charm, fresh cocktails, beer, and hip vibes.
Drink this: Glogg (Mulled wine) - Aquavit, red wine, sherry, almond, baking spice