On first glance, the absence of a pool table is all that sets the Ankeny Cabaret apart from the space’s previous tenant. But Cabaret in Ankeny is working hard to ensure it’s not lumped in with the standard strip mall bar mold.
We visited the newest Cabaret locale on a Thursday during happy hour. Other than the missing pool table, the name was the only significant change to the space since Tonic closed and it reopened as Cabaret. Intact are the high-end finishes left behind by the previous owner, but added is a stage for specials events, including DJs on the weekend and the occasional comedy night.
We took a seat at the bar and ordered a bottle of Red Stripe, which was $3.25 during happy hour. Also during happy hour, which runs from 3 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, Cabaret offers $2 domestic draws, $1 off bottles and $3 wells. A Hawkeye basketball game was starting, and the game audio was on in favor of TouchTunes music. Around tipoff, we perused the wine and food menus.
The wine list includes seven whites, eight reds, a sparkling and two house wines. Most are offered by the glass and bottle, but a few are bottle only. But Cabaret’s interest in wine extends beyond the menu, with a wine club that meets the first Wednesday of the month from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., when all the wines on the menu are available for tasting along with free hors d’oeuvres.
But perhaps the most unexpected element of Ankeny’s incarnation of Cabaret is its elevated bar food. Yes, there are wings, but the predictable selections end with appetizers. The small-but-thoughtful menu includes shrimp or chicken scampi and a prime rib sandwich in addition to daily soup and pasta specials.
My friend opted for the soup of the day, a potato soup served in a homemade Parmesan bread bowl. The soup was thick and hearty; my friend finished every bit and vowed to order it again.
I tried the pasta of the day, an Alfredo-based dish also served in a homemade Parmesan bread bowl. The noodles arrived swimming in sauce and I feared for the bread bowl’s ability to prevent a flood, but thankfully its walls remained impenetrable. The flavor of the sauce was there; I just would have appreciated less of it. Regardless, we applaud the fact that Cabaret is taking its food seriously.
Cabaret opened mid-September as the weather was putting the kibosh on patio season. Neighbors of the bar were very vocal over the past year about the noise originating from the Tonic patio, prompting the bar to put a curfew in place that moved drinkers inside for the remainder of the night. Cabaret owners are considering a few options for coexisting with neighbors while also giving patrons an outdoor drinking locale, but nothing has been decided at this point.
Those who have visited other Cabaret locations should know each location packs its own clientele, atmosphere and specialties. Ankeny is no exception. If our visit is any indication, the Ankeny Cabaret is focusing on upscale food and drink options .
Cabaret in Ankeny
Find it: 2784 N. Ankeny Blvd., Ankeny
Hours: 3 p.m.-midnight Monday through Thursday; 3 p.m.-2 a.m. Friday; noon- 2 a.m. Saturday; noon-midnight Sunday