A nondescript black-and-white sign hangs outside The Standard Martini Bar, reflecting the understated elegance inside. Bartenders shake and stir 49 different martinis, including 15 modern interpretations with ingredients ranging from Godiva dark-chocolate liqueur to green tea to banana schnapps. These drinks accompany the eclectic, bistro-style menus of paninis and tapas, which draw inspiration from Cajun, Italian, and Mexican cuisines.
The decor echoes this subtle sense of refinement with its stone columns, paintings-lined walls, and caviar-filled saltshakers. The Standard Martini Bar keeps the environment lively, though, by hosting live music, karaoke nights, and trivia contests throughout the week.
True to its name, Up-Down is filled with the sounds of glasses being raised or placed on tables, and arcade cabinet joysticks clicking to and fro. The combination bar-arcade features more than 40 games and pinball machines, including Dig Dug, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Terminator 2, as well as three skee-ball alleys and Nintendo and Sega console games. To complement its entertainment, the bar serves 20 regional and local craft beers on tap, and cocktails—with names such as Vega's Bomb and Princess Peach Punch—that serve as sippable nods to retro games. The bar also hosts regular events, which include a monthly Wednesday-night pinball tournament.
The long stem of a martini glass serves a purpose beyond its elegant appearance—it keeps the concoctions it bears cold without ice, which can dilute even the most potent cocktail. A practiced bartending staff uses these slender glasses to hold the more than 30 martinis that dot Lime Lounge’s drink menu, each of which is infused with premium liquors. Mango purée and a hint of chili pair with Absolut vodka in the Mango Tango, a staff favorite, and classic gin and vodka martinis, prepared to each guests' specifications, contain blue-cheese-stuffed olives or cocktail onions. The Lounge's selection of frozen cocktails don't need a martini glass to stay chilled, instead blending rum or tequila with ultra-fine shaved ice to induce an intoxicating brain freeze. With cocktail in hand, patrons can roam the contemporary interior, taking in the lights-and-sound spectacle and tapping their feet in time to live music or DJ sets.
Des Moines Social Club's in-house, cabaret-style bar hosts revolving sets of live entertainment from music to comedy while serving a broad, liquid array of drinks and cocktails. A specialty blood orange cosmo ($8) can play a sipping accessory while taking a break during salsa dancing on Monday's Latin Night, while stumped participants can seek an answer to Tuesday's Team Trivia night at the bottom of a Campari-based Jersey Shore ($8). Community pride manifests through 19 signature neighborhood beer and shot combos for $5 a pair, from the East Village inspired duo of Flying Dog Pale and SoCo Lime to the Ames coupling of Grainbelt and Goldschlager. Further drink options along with other recurring events can be found online. Absent an in-house spectacle, the expansive Pappajohn Sculpture Park with its chiseled works of mozzarella and pepperoni art is easily seen trough the façade of windows facing north.
Midwest Black Angus beef, free of hormones or antibiotics, joins with creative ingredients such as A.1. sauce and chipotle aioli to create more than 15 unique burgers at Legends American Grill. These burgers embody a variety and thirst for excitement that radiates throughout each of the grill's central-Iowa locations. There, nestled amid deep-umber booths or brick walls, diners watch sports flicker across flat-screen televisions, rooting on their team and showing disdain for the ref’s decision to wear white pants after Labor Day. But if the score is disheartening, fans can dig into the menu to cheer themselves up. Hand-cut Creekstone Farms steaks offset surf entrees such as salmon in béarnaise sauce or grilled mahi-mahi in a sweet-and-spicy thai sauce. Comfort-food favorites such as meatloaf and fried chicken also make an appearance, pairing with cocktails and beers served by the bottle and pint.