Ernie’s Boondock, Des Moines, Iowa

Every now and then someone asks me to review dive bars. I don’t go to bars as such very often. I like a drink a little more than the next guy, maybe a good bit more, but my days of going to bars ended around the time I married Nancy. When I was a child, I drank as a child, I misunderstood as a child, I thought as a child, if at all: but when I became a husband, I put away childish things. Well, I kept some in reach. Many of the places I like are regarded as dives by many people here in Washington — the original Steak N Egg Diner, for example — but that’s really a reaction to a little wear and tear. Truth be told, there are no dives in Washington. DC Bars have to serve food — by law.

But Nancy often likes to go to one place just for a drink before we go to a restaurant. In Des Moines, that took us to Ernie’s Boondock. We’d picked a place for dinner in the trendy Historic East Village of Des Moines, which, like many trendy historic areas, was a dump not too long ago. Now it’s mainly condos, shops, and restaurants. And Ernie’s. We strolled around a bit as the temperature cooled, and saw groups of happy young people sitting outside of Ernie’s. Let’s try it.

Nancy grabbed a table, and I went in for a cabernet and a local IPA. I immediately recognized that Ernie’s is a true dive bar. Here as my first clue:

You see extra large mugs and cheap beers at lots of places, but Beer and a Bump listed on the menu, those Bombs, the BPR, and the advertised 20% charge in left credit cards are sure signs of a real dive bar. The clincher is that they don’t serve food. A food truck parks there on weekends, but Ernie’s Boondock is a bar.

My second clue came when I asked about wines. They had pinot grigio in 12-ounce cans. I figured it would need some ice, so he gave me a mug full. I returned to our table, and we stayed and enjoyed our drinks. At least I enjoyed mine and I helped Nancy a little with hers before disposing of the bulk in the tree box. Then off to dinner.

The reviews of Ernie’s speak of a “chill vibe” and the romance of going to a dive bar. The local IPA was good. So give it a try if you’re in Des Moines in the mood for an IPA or a chill vibe, or if you’re in a mood to make some bad decisions.

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