Above: The distinctively homey lounge Hello, Marjorie says hello to visitors at the R&T Lofts complex, previously home to the Des Moines Register and Tribune.
200 10th st.; 515-257-4744
A handsome wall of whiskey beckons the minute you walk through the door, and that’s your first hint: Bubba is this city’s bourbon central. The high-ceilinged, giant-chandeliered lounge—resembling a stylish update on a grand and glamorous Southern parlor—is a fine ol’ spot to sip one of the 50-plus bourbons in stock. Also enjoy classic and creative cocktails and a dedicated craft beer selection.
717 Locust St.; 515-369-2296
Though it’s tricked out with 100 percent funky midcentury finds, Hello, Marjorie (pictured, left) is an irony-free zone: The pinks, aqua-blues and oranges in the color scheme, along with the crushed velvet soft seating, clunky ’70s-style dining-room sets and ornate vintage china cabinets now serving as bar shelves, are not meant to mock. Rather, they come together with grace and beauty, and you sense an earnest admiration for the spirit and style of a bygone era. Located in the former lobby of the Des Moines Register and Tribune Building, the lounge was named for co-owner Nick Tillinghast’s sloe-gin-sipping grandmother. Indeed, Marjorie must have been one fun lady, because this is one fun spot.
1326 Walnut St.; 515-244-5399
Housed in a renovated warehouse, this cabaret and music club updates the allure of the Jazz Age for our own era. Well-known vocalist and pianist Max Wellman heads up the jazz programming on a somewhat set schedule: The Des Moines Big Band, an ensemble that originated in the 1950s, plays on Wednesday nights, while Thursday nights bring “Jazz on the House,” with no cover charge. Rotating local, national and regional acts take the plush blue-curtained stage on Friday and Saturday nights. Insider bonus: Late on Friday nights, stop by for “Last Call with Max Wellman,” when Wellman and bassist Steve Charlson play a cover-free show of standards from 10:30 to 12:30.
REPUBLIC ON GRAND
401 E. Grand Ave.; 515-518-6070
Located on the sixth floor of the AC Hotel in the East Village, this is our favorite spot in town to enjoy alfresco drinks. Spacious terraces offer fresh air, a buzzy crowd and views of the East Village and downtown. We love the way the top-floor spot, high above the street, feels like an in-crowd hideaway in the center of everything. More good news: Heat lamps allow the terraces to remain open longer than one might expect. Yet even if winter chases you indoors, plush soft seating and a swanky blue and silvery decor can make you feel like you’re truly where it’s at. Colorful craft cocktails and a sharp wine list, including seven bubblies by the glass, add to the draw. +
The sip-worthy bluish concoction on the left is Lavender Love Potion #9, a lovely offering at RoCA, on Court Avenue.
Lavender Love Potion #9 at RoCA
While some craft cocktails in the city are fun novelty acts—nice to try, but not always worth a revisit—the Lavender Love Potion #9 (left in the photo) is a keeper. A refreshing, lilac-colored beauty, this sip combines crème de violette, St. Germain, lime juice and prosecco for one of our craft cocktail scene’s loveliest and most inspired concoctions. Be sure to stick around for chef Aaron Holt’s equally inspired shared plates menu. (208 Court Ave., 515-282-3663; rocadsm.com)