- 200 S.W. Second St., Des Moines, IA, 50309
- Overall User Rating:
- (14 ratings)
- Bar: Open Every day: 11a.m.-2a.m. Kitchen: Monday-Saturday: 11a.m.-10p.m. Sunday: 11a.m.-9p.m.
- Official Web Site:
Perhaps the venue’s website puts it best: “The minute you walk in the High Life Lounge, you know you belong here.” I personally do not know anyone who would not, in some way, enjoy this spot.
Ambience: Though stylized to look like a 1960s corner bar — backlit retro beer ads, brown shag carpet, brown vinyl booths and the sort of brown wood paneling everybody wanted in their basements in the ’70s — the place thoroughly avoids being goofy or kitschy. In fact, the ambience feels so admirably weighty and real that you half expect to overhear a young man in the next booth explaining to his WWII-era father why he’s moving to Canada for a while.
I also appreciate the sane volume of the music — true to the corner-tap ethos, you could take your dad here and have a conversation.
Menu: Yearned-for midcentury classics crowd the menu. Sandwiches include current and retro bar-grill favorites (burgers, Philly cheese steaks, sloppy Joes, Spam-and-egg on Texas toast, etc.). Entrees veer more toward diner and cafeteria classics: goulash (the kind with macaroni), tuna-noodle casserole, liver and onions, meatloaf, pot roast and more.
Best bites: Nearly everything we ordered tasted as thoughtfully wrought as the décor. The broasted chicken is killer-good, bringing super-moist chicken (without that rubbery texture you get with solution-injected meat) and an abundant coating of perfectly crisp, amazingly greaseless breading.
After one of my dining companions finished her meatloaf — rife with onions and topped with a classic sweet, tomatoey slather — she asked her husband, “Can we eat here every night?” And the tuna-noodle casserole comes topped with potato chips — need I say more?
Two quarter-pound patties crown the open-face rarebit burger. I requested that the kitchen leave one off (I want to live), and I still had a thoroughly filling meal, thanks to the slithery grilled onions, a sharp rarebit sauce and a windfall of hot, crisp tater tots.
The best side was the mac-and-cheese: a tacky-textured take (versus a creamier style) that tasted rife with Velveeta — in a good way.
Could be better: Other sides evidenced authenticity gone awry: drab, color-drained canned corn and green beans, beef gravy tasting from a mix. While these items might be true to the times, that doesn’t mean we still want to eat them.
Bottom line: If more ’60s corner taps had truly served food this good, more of them might still be around.