The floods of 2008 shut down Court Avenue fixture Buzzard Billy’s.
The Cajun-creole restaurant, previously located at 100 Court Ave., was the first bar opened by Full Court Press, the company that also runs Hessen Haus, High Life Lounge, Mullet’s and other bars and restaurants.
For four years diners could order a few Buzzard Billy’s items at Hessen Haus or enjoy Crappy Beer Night at High Life Lounge, but now Buzzard Billy’s has made its triumphant return on higher ground — in the space formerly occupied by the All Play bars Fanatics and Stadium Grill and Bar.
The outside of the building was also significantly reworked, with a large, second-story deck added to the south side of the building. Between Buzzard Billy’s and Mullet’s, Full Court Press bars offer two of the better views of the Des Moines River in town.
Much of the wood inside Buzzard Billy’s comes from a barn in Dexter, Ia., that Full Court Press partners Andy and Dan Massoth salvaged.
After purchasing the barn, the brothers discovered the farm played a part in a 1933 shoot-out between Bonnie and Clyde and police. Bonnie was shot, and the fugitives fled to the farm (where the barn was) and stole the farmer’s car.
Dan Massoth said finding the right location for a new Buzzard Billy’s and opening new Full Court Press restaurants like Mullet’s and Fong’s contributed to Buzzard Billy’s long absence.
“On a daily basis we would get asked ‘When are you going to reopen?’ ” Massoth said. “Right after the flood we were in a panic mode of finding somewhere new, but eventually we realized we needed some time to find the right space and concentrate on the existing bars.”
The space for Mullet’s and Fong’s were both considered for Buzzard Billy’s. When the owners of All Play made Full Court Press aware of the open space, the group decided the time was right.
The inside will look familiar to those who remember Buzzard Billy’s Court Avenue digs, only with a lot more space. The old restaurant featured tables with old television show collector cards embedded in them. Most of those tables were destroyed in the flood. A few remain, but the rest have been replaced with tables featuring cards of former Iowa and Iowa State athletes. With Wells Fargo Arena so close, Full Court Press is playing up the sports theme.
Former Buzzard Billy’s manager Justin Berkley is back at the restaurant, as are several former servers and kitchen staff. Old favorites like armadillo eggs, gator fingers and fried catfish have returned, but the menu has also expanded, with more Italian/creole fusion dishes like jambalaya pasta and heart-healthy dishes like buffalo chili.
“We’re not trying to win any awards for the hottest dish,” Berkley said of Buzzard Billy’s dishes. “We’ve got spice, but it’s always just the right amount.”
Find it: 615 Third St. (same building as All Play)
Hours: 11 a.m.-midnight daily