The 10 Best Bars In Des Moines, Iowa

Photo of Benjamin M. Smith
9 February 2017

Although visitors may not expect it, Des Moines offers a whole host of thrilling nightlife options. Home to one of the midwest’s most sought after beer bars, and to many others with scenic rooftop patios, a good time is always at hand in this city. Here are our 10 best bars in Des Moines, Iowa.

Des Moines After Dark | © Pat Hawks/Flickr

El Bait Shop

Bar, American, Mexican, Cocktails, Wine, Beer
With 180 beers on tap, and with the largest selection of American craft beers in house, El Bait Shop is the Iowa destination for everything beer and beer-related. While it may be difficult to select a beer out of the myriad tap heads within sight at the bar, their bartenders are knowledgeable and ready to help out. While the bar area is certainly the main attraction, the food selection is impressive as well, featuring popular fish tacos and bacon-covered tater tots.

Wellman’s Pub and Rooftop

Bar, Pub Grub, $$$
Wellman’s Pub and Rooftop is one of the best places to unwind in Des Moines. With its spacious rooftop patio, Iowans gather here for any occasion, although many people come after work to relax at the end of the week. The DJs spin live sets on the weekends, making this pub an all-encompassing good time spot. Be sure to grab a bite here, as Wellman’s buffalo chicken mac’n’cheese has become a real favorite among patrons.


Voted one of the best new bars of the city, Up-Down is for the many interested in 1980s and 1990s video game nostalgia. This retro funhouse makes its home in a downtown Des Moines basement, where tokens are king, and drinks are flowing. With classics like Super Mario, Pacman, Skiball, and Jenga, Up-Down is a place for anyone appreciative of the glamorous past of gaming.

Up-Down, 500 E Locust St, Des Moines IA, USA, +1 515-243-4322

Court Avenue Brewing Company

Being the home and namesake brewery of one of Des Moines’ best bar districts, Court Avenue, Court Avenue Brewing Company offers a little bit of everything at its iconic location on the bottom floor of the Saddlery Building. With consistently good American pub food and in-house brewed beer, this taproom makes for a great stop before a show at the Civic Center, or even a night on the town. Their beers are great to try, but their Moscow Mules are veritable works of art.

Greenwood Lounge

Cocktail Bar, Cocktails
The Greenwood Lounge may not look like much on the outside, being little more than a green shack with a roof overhang, but to the lover of dive bars it is a paradise. From its wallpaper of card-playing dogs to its canned beer for sale, this bar’s quirky, yet essentially local character has brought Iowans together since 1933. Come here for their cheap yet effective drinks, their occasional live music, and for the Greenwood’s unwavering sense of cool that refuses to be bought out.

Royal Mile

Bar, Pub Grub, American, Cocktails, Wine, Beer, Belgian, $$$
For a British pub experience, the Royal Mile is the place to go, from it’s dimly lit bar full of nooks and crannies to its authentic British-style menu of food and ales. This bar is the best place to watch Premier League soccer as well. To make its international appeal stronger, the upstairs here plays host to The Red Monk, a bar dedicated to the beers of Belgium.

Star Bar

Bar, Pub Grub, Beer, Wine, Cocktails, American, $$$
Talk to any Des Moinesite and the chances are they would agree that Star Bar is a necessary staple restaurant and bar on Ingersoll Avenue. Elevating the reputation of traditional bar food, Star Bar’s menu features the genre’s greatest hits, garlic parmesan fries; spinach and queso fresco dip. With a notable craft beer menu and a full-service bar, Star Bar is a great choice to explore the nightlife of Des Moines.

Toad’s Tavern

Stroll over to the Eastside to visit Toad’s Tavern, one of Des Moines’ most loyally visited local bars. The big attraction here is their ridiculously long happy hour. If that proves to be too narrow a time frame, Toad’s offers a five minute happy hour every hour on Saturdays, to make the traveller’s experience just that little bit, well, happier.

Toad’s Tavern, 3002 State Ave, Des Moines IA, USA, +1 515-264-8623

Beer Can Alley

Bar, Pub Grub
Take a step downtown to find this country bar. Beer Can Alley offers the best live country and southern rock music in the city, with whiskey drinks and cold beer to match. As a venue, this bar has all the space its patrons need to mingle and line dance the night away. Get an understanding of Iowa’s small town identity here too, amongst Iowans from all parts of the state.


Bar, Pub Grub
As the repeated best bar on the south side, Francies makes its patrons feel comfortable amidst its all-wooden décor. From its wooden bar and chairs, to the wooden ceiling and walls, Franices is the bar every traditional joint tries to be. Come here for dinner and drinks, and value this bar’s genuine customer service, where the bartenders are quick to learn names and the chefs make it just the way you like it.

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