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The 10 Best Bars To Visit In Iowa

The 10 Best Bars To Visit In Iowa

Picture of Marcelina Morfin
Updated: 9 February 2017
From chic venues serving handcrafted cocktails to laid-back establishments featuring an extensive selection of brews, there are many enticing choices to enjoy a great night out in Iowa. Here is a list of some of the exciting options in Iowa that serve a great selection of your favorite drinks.

1st & Main

This bar is a hip bar and restaurant serving delicious drinks alongside gourmet eats. Recently voted the best new restaurant in Dubuque, the venue, which is nestled inside a downtown historic building, features a beautiful space complete with exposed brick walls and beams and wood floors. There’s a large selection of beers and specialty drinks with highlights being the blueberry cake martini made with blueberry vodka, maple syrup and Frangelico and the Johnny Boy with Templeton prohibition-era Iowa whiskey and raspberry tea. As for food, the menu at 1st & Main features a range of dishes all of which are inspired by local flavors.

1st & Main, 101 Main St., Dubuque, IA, USA, +1 563 587 8152

Clinton Street Social Club | Courtesy of Clinton Street Social Club
Clinton Street Social Club | Courtesy of Clinton Street Social Club

Clinton Street Social Club

Clinton Street Social Club is a gastro pub and speakeasy located in Iowa City. The interior, complete with exposed brick walls and wood beams plus wrought iron fixtures, makes for a comfortable environment in which to sample a host of classic and innovative cocktails, craft beer and wine along with local cuisine. Using fresh juices and house made syrups, the cocktail list is diverse with tasty options. It includes ‘Grandpa’s Coffin’ with Old Ezra seven year bourbon, Laird’s Bonded AppleJack, Laphroaig 10 year spritz, sugar and boutique spirits, and the ‘Blushing Orphan’ made with Boodles gin, St. Germain, Campari, fresh lemon and lemon twist. They also host live entertainment adding to the lively ambiance.

Clinton Street Social Club, 18 1/2 S. Clinton St., Iowa City, IA, USA, +1 319 351 1690


El Bait Shop

Located in Des Moines, El Bait Shop is an award winning bar that will appeal to any beer lover. Within a 1970s fishing-themed interior, beer aficionados have access to over 100 beers on tap plus an additional 175 in bottles ensuring that there is something to suit any taste. The ambiance is a lively one only made more vibrant through the venue’s events, including live music and the Jimmy Carter Happy Hour on Thursdays where samples from local home brewers are featured. El Bait Shop also offers guests a variety of cuisine from American to Mexican.

El Bait Shop, 200 SW 2nd St., Des Moines, IA, USA, +1 515 284 1970

Front Street Brewery

Founded in 1992 and set along the Mississippi River, Front Street Brewery is the oldest brewpub in Iowa. A warm interior, complete with exposed brick walls and burnished wood, plus a lovely brick beer garden awaits guests who visit to try the brewery’s craft beers. Some of the brews here are the Cherry Ale, which is an American light beer aged with cherries, the German Hefeweizen with a banana and clove aroma, and the Vanilla Porter aged with Madagascar organic vanilla.

Front Street Brewery Pub & Eatery, 208 River Dr., Davenport, IA, USA, +1 562 322 1569

Front Street Brewery Tap Room, 421 W River Dr., Davenport, IA, USA, +1 562 324 4014

Hessen Haus

Another great place for a fun night out in Des Moines is Hessen Haus. This restaurant and bar, as the name suggests, is a German bier hall-style venue tucked inside a former train station. Guests visiting this lively place are presented with a menu that features an array of made-from-scratch fare alongside a great selection of beers, including domestic and German varieties. They have 31 selections on tap, another 163 in bottles, plus 13 cans, but these numbers are subject to change, so check their website for current selections. Adding to the fun environment is the venue’s many events, including live music.

Hessen Haus, 101 4th St., Des Moines, IA, USA, +1 515 288 2520

Jameson’s Public House

Jameson’s Public House is an Irish pub founded in Waterloo. Presenting guests with ‘Irish warmth and hospitality,’ the owners have created an inviting space, complete with wooden accents salvaged from an 18th-century barn. Friends can gather to enjoy a host of drinks and pub eats, which include both Irish and American dishes. The bar features 18 beers on tap representing both domestic and Irish varieties, including Guinness and Smithwick’s, plus a great selection of Irish whiskey and Scotch. The pub also plays host to a range of events each month many of which are live music shows.

Jameson’s Public House, 310 E. 4th St., Waterloo, IA, USA, +1 319 233 0701

McCarthy & Bailey’s Irish Pub

McCarthy and Bailey’s is a lively Irish pub located in downtown Sioux City. Tucked inside a 1917 building, the pub’s owners have created a warm interior, complete with a century-old mahogany bar, stained glass, and cobblestones direct from Ireland. Here,  guests can sample delicious Irish classic dishes along with a great selection of beers, wines, and spirits. Both domestic and international beers are available with a dozen varieties on the pub’s frozen tapping system, which provides the coldest beer possible, plus another 35 in bottles. Be sure to visit Monday through Thursday for happy hour, which features half price appetizers and $2.50 domestic beers.

McCarthy & Bailey’s Irish Pub, 423 Pearl St., Sioux City, IA, USA, +1 712 560 4146



RōCA, which stands for Restaurant on Court Ave, is a lovely place to go out for a night on the town. The venue’s interior features 150-year-old exposed brick walls adorned with vintage photographs along with a sleek bar and modern furniture making it a wonderful blending of the old with the new. Within the vibrant atmosphere, guests can sample a variety of shared plates plus craft cocktails of traditional and specialty varieties, craft beers on tap, and a selection of wines. One unique cocktail to note is the ‘Smoking Gun,’ which combines Bulleit bourbon, maple syrup, Angostura bitters and wood chip smoke.

RōCA, 208 Court Ave., Des Moines, IA, USA, +1 515 282 3663

Sanctuary Pub

Established in 1972, Sanctuary Pub is an Iowa City-based venue delighting guests with its impressive selection of craft brews. The intimate, casual space with cozy booths, dark woods, and subtle lighting makes it a great place to unwind and have long conversations with friends. Voted the Best Beer Bar within Iowa two years in a row by Rate Beer, this pub features 27 craft beers on tap, which includes both American and imported varieties, plus many more selections in bottles. The pub also offers delicious food, including snacks, creative entrées, and pizza.

Sanctuary Pub, 405 S. Gilbert St., Iowa City, IA, USA, +1 319 351 5692


Located in downtown Cedar Rapids within the historic Ely Building, Zins is a wonderful restaurant and bar serving small plates, wine, beer, and handcrafted cocktails.  The warm, inviting interior is a great place to enjoy a night out with friends or a romantic rendezvous with a loved one. The bar stocks many beers, including local, American, and imported brews, and domestic and imported wines. For those wanting a craft cocktail, the drinks list offers several enticing choices, including the eponymous Zins Manhattan made with Knob Creek small-batch bourbon, sweet vermouth and Zins cherries.

Zins, 227 2nd Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids, IA, USA, +1 318 363 9467