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El Bait Shop

March 25, 2019

  • 200 SW 2nd Street
  • Des Moines, IA 50309
  • (515) 284-1970
  • Website
  • Menu

I started asking around for brewery recommendations when I found out I was heading to Des Moines for the week.  I got a few but what I got more of is, “You need to go to El Bait Shop.”

The first full day in Des Moines was a long one  We put in a 12+ hour day and headed back to the house in Ankeny.  I wanted to go back in to Des Moines for dinner and asked if anyone else was interested.  One of the guys was.  The other still had some work he wanted to get down and passed.

We headed back towards downtown to find this amazing craft beer restaurant I heard so much about.  We found it on 2nd and Market Streets not too far away from Principal Field where the Iowa Cubs play. 

We were a little confused on where to enter.  There are actually two restaurants in this odd shaped building on the corner.  They both have the same food menu but the beer lists are totally different.  We took a left when we entered and realized that was the High Life Lounge, not El Bait Shop….so we got up and moved to the right space across the hallway.

We walked in to a pretty packed, unique, old school bar.  It’s almost dive bar-ish but the food and beer prevent it from being a true dive bar.

The place is crammed will high top tables and leather backed booths.  There are TV’s hanging throughout the space but there weren’t many people watching it.  The hardwood floors and exposed beam ceilings make the restaurant really loud so conversations were happening at an elevated level.

The walls are plastered with beer advertisements.  Old tin adds, stickers, mirrors, wood carvings….you name it.  If it has a beer name on it, it’s hanging on the wall.

The centerpiece of the joint is the bar.  There are 262 beers on tap.  Not a typo.  There are 262 beer taps behind the wall…in two rows all the way around the L shaped bar.  It is insanely impressive and even more so that the bartenders and waitresses seem to know where every beer is.

As you can imagine, the beer list is intimidating.  I turned to the page with IPA’s and went looking for something local.  I picked Chowdah from Barn Town Brewing from right there in Des Moines.  Chowdah is a Double New England IPA made with Mosaic.  The beer is a pretty classic cloudy NEIPA that was easily drinkable for a double.

The food is typical bar food but with some pretty unique twists on some things.  My colleague asked if I’d be interested in splitting some wings.  I never say no to wings.  He got an order of traditional wings dusted in their BBQ Dry Rub.  The waitress really sold this one to us but it didn’t take much for me.  The meaty, juicy, and fresh out of the fryer wings were covered liberally with a seasoning from Mo Rub based out of Des Moines. The wings were pretty amazing.  The rub gave a little heat and a little sweet to the steaming hot wings.  I could have eaten a couple pounds of these things without hesitation.

Both my colleague and I ordered burgers but I went big.  I picked the High Life Man.  This burger is a 1/4 lb hamburger and an Italian sausage patty separated by a slice of bread.  It’s topped with bacon, Swiss cheese, American cheese, grilled onions, jalapenos, mayo, and BBQ sauce.  The whole sandwich is topped off with a mini powdered donut.  With all of that going on, I was surprised at how good this burger was.  The mix of hamburger and Italian sausage patty in every bite was incredibly unique.  The jalapenos added that little crunch while the cheese kind of held everything together.  The donut at the end was just kind of like icing on the cake.  A little bit of a sweet treat after a big greasy, delicious mess.

The burgers come with a choice of regular sides.  Fries are not a regular option.  They are part of the premium sides which have an upcharge.  The fries are just frozen crinkle cut fries which are somewhat of a disappointment.  They were good with a little bit of mustard which is the only way fries like these should be eaten.

With 262 beers on tap, I had to try at least one more before leaving.  I picked Double Dry Hop Juice Factory from ReUnion Brewery in Coralville, IA.  The beer is a Pale Ale that comes off a little bit juicy.  It was a nice sippable bear to end the meal on.

We paid our bills separately but the waitress put the wings on mine so the burger, wings, and two beers came out to a little over $30 before tip.

I feel like El Bait Shop is a must stop for any beer lover when visiting Des Moines.  I usually go for breweries when we travel but I let several people talk me in to this instead.  El Bait Shop is the ultimate beer bar.  There’s so much to choose from both on tap and on the menu.

El Bait Shop Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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