El Bait Shop


45 Reviews
El Bait ShopEl Bait Shop

Type: Bar, Eatery

200 SW 2nd St
Des Moines, Iowa, 50309-4706
United States

(515) 284-1970 | map

Open Everyday: 11 am to 2 am

Added by bditty187 on 04-22-2006

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Reviews: 45 | Ratings: 86
Photo of Flachs
4.74/5  rDev +9.5%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 5 | service: 4.75 | selection: 5 | food: 3.75

We heard about this place and the beer selection was great. 225 taps! The service still the bar was slow but they were busy. The food was so so not great not the worst. Will try again when in Des Moines.

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Photo of SD-Alefan
4.85/5  rDev +12%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 4

Funky, slightly run down look with beer stickers and signs covering nearly every available inch of wall space. And then you see all those taps! Great selection of Iowa and regional beers as well as world-class stuff. The service was top-notch both nights I was there. The food was mainly American diner classics and it's very good and affordable. A great experience.

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Photo of coldriver
4.45/5  rDev +2.8%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.25 | selection: 4.75 | food: 4.25

This place makes me want to move to Des Moines! 180 taps with a great diversity of styles including many Iowa locals, great share plate appetizers (mmm, bacon wrapped tater tots), and a wonderful vibe with cool people. Not much to complain about here!

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Photo of emerge077
4.35/5  rDev +0.5%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.25 | service: 4.25 | selection: 4.5

Cool eclectic atmosphere, definitely a beer destination if you're spending any amount of time in Des Moines. Feels like a cross between a roadhouse and desert oasis/beachbum paradise. Inside, the bar kind of meanders around on it's own path, with table seating in the middle and towards the back. Standing room only beer shelf around the perimeter of the place. Wood beams and paneling, covered in all manner of beer swag.

Service was quick and friendly. I'm sure they're used to people hemming and hawing over the beer selection, and were patient as I navigated the uniquely designed beer menu. They helpfully pointed out that Iowa beers were in bold, and from there we were off to the races. Enjoyed beers from 515, Alluvial, and Turner Alley, new Iowa breweries I wasn't able to try elsewhere. When the bartender saw we were from out of town, he handed us a fistful of beer swag.

Selection overall is unparalleled for the area. Cellar Peanut is probably a close 2nd for a multi-tap bar in the surrounding area, and Sanctuary in Iowa City. That's my limited experience though. El Bait Shop did not disappoint.

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Photo of rodbeermunch
4.1/5  rDev -5.3%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 4 | service: 3.75 | selection: 4.5

Cool place not where you'd expect it in Des Moines. They really do or are supposed to have 100 taps. A lot of stuff was out when we were there, but I bet they still had 60-70 beers on tap.

Most of them were good, there was about 25 stinkers. Good friendly service, it was kind of dead the night we were in town. Selection was wide and varied, no complaints there other than they were out of a lot of stuff.

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Photo of NickTheGreat
4.78/5  rDev +10.4%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5 | food: 4

I should have reviewed this sooner. But EBS is probably the best beer bar I've ever been to. Check that, it IS the best beer bar I've been to. I only live 15 miles away, and it's a shame I don't spend a couple days a week here!

Over 180 taps of quality "craft" beer. No Bud, Miller, Coors to be seen. Local brews or brews around the country. If you're looking for something they probably have it.

Now I'm the type of guy who knows more about TV's than the kid at Best Buy. Knows more about trucks than the guy at the Chevy dealer. Knows more about power tools than the old man at Home Depot. But the staff at EBS knows their beer. Are able to tell you about the beer, answer questions, and recommend things. Aren't shy to offer you a little sample if you want.

The food is okay. I mean, some of the stuff is kinda creative or interesting. It's good enough, but like someone else said, you'll not come to EBS just for the food. But if you're drinking beer, and there anyways, the food is good enough.

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Photo of YodersBeerEmporium
4.9/5  rDev +13.2%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 4

This is my favorite local hangout! Something like 180 taps now and they rotate stuff in daily! Good place for the occasional bottle share as well if you know the owner and bartenders well enough.

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Photo of nilesschmidt
1.01/5  rDev -76.7%

Stopped in Des Moines on the way to visit TG in Decorah... I was looking forward to this as much as the TG brewery as they had a very good selection of beers I cant get in Omaha listed online. Needless to say this a MAJOR letdown. Worst service I have had in a very long time, multiple beers listed available were actually tapped out and food was room temp when it arrived. Over priced and extremely rude staff. DO NOT RECOMMEND

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Photo of IowaBiertrinker
4.19/5  rDev -3.2%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4.75 | food: 3.75

Nice place to visit if not overly crowded. Food is o.k, but go for the variety of beers and not the food. Flights are a little overpriced at $10-20 per, but pints/snifters are reasonable. Usually fairly friendly with samples.

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Photo of errantnight
4.24/5  rDev -2.1%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.25 | selection: 4.5 | food: 3

Huge selection, fun, funky vibe, reasonable prices, friendly, knowledgeable, staff... I try to make a trip every time we hit Des Moines.

Regularly have Toppling Goliath, which is nice, but it's a popular spot so many of the more in-demand items get gone through relatively quickly, which is to be expected. Really, no complaints, other than what I've had of the food is: this will do if I'm drinking, rather than: let's go eat at El Bait Shop!

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Photo of SportsandJorts
4.16/5  rDev -3.9%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.25 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4.75 | food: 4.25

Atmosphere: great atmosphere, looks like they host a tri with an added eating event. cool inside, mix between beer stuff and the things that make the city, especially biking stuff. great outdoor area and a sports bar style set up inside.

Quality: lots of high quality from various taps from toppling goliath to the greats of the west and east meeting in the middle. bottle selection with some jester king and even a 2 and a half year bottle of founders bolt cutter.

Service: not the strongest trait their but they get the job done

Selection: pretty tough to beat. great taps as mentioned before and impressive bottles too. offer bottles and growlers to go.

Food: good wings and nachos. great bar food.

Overall: this was my one stop in des moines on my way through. and I was not disappointed. would highly recommend this place to any one who wants a good beer.

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Photo of Mothergoose03
4.4/5  rDev +1.6%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 5 | food: 4

This was stop #1 for my wife and I on a 21-day pub crawl from Michigan to N. CA and OR. I don’t know what I can say about this place that has not been said in prior reviews. The place is not much to look at from the outside of the building, and it is almost like a ‘dive’ inside, but in a good way with all of the beer signs, etc. on the walls. We liked it!

The availability of choosing between 100+ taps is awesome. Sadly, the first two beers that I wanted to try were not available because the kegs had blown and no replacement yet. The beauty of all of these taps is that there are plenty of others from which to choose, and nearly all of them were very popular beers among the craft beer community.

There is a good selection of food on the menu that is best described as pub grub, and what we ordered was very good. It was late afternoon on a Monday and the place was not busy, so we had great service.

We liked this place so well that we'll always try to go back here when we're passing thru Des Moines.

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Photo of antott0523
4.9/5  rDev +13.2%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 4

Visited El Bait Shop on Monday, April 21, 2014. I was on business for an annual client meeting with a locally based company. The restaurant is a few blocks off the beaten path from the Court Street bars and restaurants, but I like to think this fact reflects that El Bait Shop truly does stand in a league of its own. The selection of draft beers and bottles is unprecedented.

I had to take advantage of trying some Iowa-based brews that we do not get in NJ. Started with a West O Beer Pilsner, then a Green Flash Double Stout, topped off with a Pseudo Sue from Toppling Goliath. They had three other Toppling Goliath's on tap, and many other sought after beers that we do not get on the East Coast. The bartenders were extremely knowledgeable and friendly.

The atmosphere is awesome. Worn and rundown dive feel full of beer paraphernalia including signs, stickers, and advertisements all over the walls and bar. The place was full, but not jam packed. There were a few open tables, and some space at the bar. I sat right down at the bar, though I was there on a Monday night.

There are two downsides: Three of my first stout choices before Green Flash were kicked, but I guess that might be expected with so many lines, and that I did not visit this place when I traveled to Des Moines my first time last year. I will not be making that mistake again, and will make this place my first stop every time. Oh, and the cheese sticks, which really are pepper jack type cheese inside of a chinese egg roll are freaking awesome.

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Photo of Matthewpakula
4.49/5  rDev +3.7%
vibe: 4.75 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.25 | selection: 5 | food: 3.5

This place is great. The beer selection is off the hook and the people that work here are extremely knowledgable and nice. If you are in the Des Moines area, make sure you stop in and grab a cold beer. You can take bottles home with you or grab a growler to go. Prices are reasonable as well.

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Photo of wapcap
4.43/5  rDev +2.3%
vibe: 3.75 | quality: 4.75 | service: 4.25 | selection: 4.75 | food: 3.75

The best place in Des Moines to get craft beer. An absurd amount of drafts, all quality taps.
You can buy a bottle and take it with you, and they also do growlers, both halves and full.

Foods were not bad. Nothing appeared to be from local farms however. But it'd work in a pinch and seemed to be at least made from scratch.

Definitely worth the visit(s)

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Photo of ALC82
4.49/5  rDev +3.7%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.25 | service: 4.75 | selection: 4.75

This place was one I was told to try because of selection alone, I was not disappointed! They have such a selection that you will never get bored and will always find one to your liking! The service was excellent, I would give our bartender a 5/5 for knowledge of their selection and tastes. This is a great place to go if you have nothing on your schedule for a couple hours as it is almost overwhelming the selection to choose from!

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Photo of Scott17Taylor
5/5  rDev +15.5%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 5

Great bar! Tons of beer on tap food is good. Definitely the best beer bar in Des Moines. This is seriously a must stop if you're anywhere close. Tons of beers on tap, all but one craft, they do have bud light, and a decent social bar. Highly recommend.

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Photo of jmarsh123
3.69/5  rDev -14.8%
vibe: 1.5 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4.5

Went here while in town for some family graduations.

Atmosphere is definitely not what I'd expected. Small and somewhat cramped with lots of nooks and crannies. Was incredibly packed even though it was only 7:30 at night. A live band started at 8 which I hate in a craft beer bar that's already crowded and loud.

The draw obviously was the 100+ beers on tap including a lot of local stuff. By far the main draw. I wish the menu were laid out a bit better to easily see what was draft vs. bottle, but great selection.

Didn't have the food, but the appetizers we saw looked like typical greasy bar food.

Decided to leave after a beer to find someplace we could actually sit down since we were there for 45 minutes without any seats opening up.

Very disappointing place after all the good things I heard. Beer selection is second to none, but the atmosphere was a total turn off. I'd like to go back sometime when it's a bit warmer and the patio is open or at a less busy time. I'd like to be able to sit down and have a conversation and this was not the place for that.

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Photo of darvinlikemarvin
4.73/5  rDev +9.2%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.75 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 4

I came to El Bait Shop as an Iowan who discovered beer while living in another state. This year I moved our family from Northeast Ohio back to Iowa. El Bait Shop had been much heralded and I wasted no time making a trip once we were settled. I can comfortably say this the best Beer Bar I have ever stepped foot into.

The atmosphere is very charming in the sort way one might expect a craft beer establishment to be. Lots of posters and signs on the wall to grab your attention while sipping on a beer. The frustrating part about this place is that it is a very popular destination for travelers coming through Des Moines. I've noticed that the city has taken every chance it can to fill it's downtown areas with festivals, marathons, concerts, rodeos and countless other gatherings. This results in El Bait Shop being increasingly busy which is a turn off for me. We have already decided against El Bait Shop a couple times when traveling into the city because we knew the crowds would be more hassle than it's worth.

The service that I've experienced at El Bait Shop has been absolutely outstanding. Our first trip there our server was prompt, courteous, professional, and very knowledgable. That particular evening they were busy and our server still took time to endulge me in a bit of conversation about some of the special releases they had on hand, which made an impression on me. My second trip there I purchased some bottles out of their cooler and took in a pint of Bell's Black Note. Their point of sale system crashed right when I was trying to pay. The bartender rewarded my patience with a liberal taste of the 2012 Stone Vertical Epic. Both instances left me extremely impressed.

The selection at El Bait Shop speaks for itself. 100 taps filled with with high quality brew top to bottom. They even got on the Beer Menus website which allows for more frequent updates to their beer menu. Local breweries are well represented as are several major players such as Founders, Bells, and Stone. If there weren't impatient drunks lingering behind me as I examine the expansive tap wall, I could easily take up 30 to 40 minutes just deciding on which amazing beer to choose. Again, best beer selection I have ever seen in the course of 5 years that I've been a "beer guy".

My wife and I had appetizers and burgers during our first visit. It's nothing fancy or overly imaginative but it all tasted good and left enough room for the beer to get the attention it deserved. I would eat there again, no question. I'd say the pricing on the food and beer is competitive to other craft beer bars or brewpubs.

El Bait Shop is a fantastic establishment doing god's work in a state that is still developing its craft beer culture. It's easily one of Des Moines best attractions for those that are so inclined.

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Photo of Herky21
4.15/5  rDev -4.2%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.75 | service: 3.5 | selection: 5 | food: 2

I have been to El Bait shop countless times. It is a Des Moines Staple and the selection and atmosphere have rightfully earned it a spot in the top 100 bars in America. I love to go during the week and to see what is on the seasonal brews menu, which can be around 20 beers in itself. There is a huge selection here and some very rare brews. The food is average to below average, don't let anyone tell you different. Some of it is unique, like bacon wrapped tator tots, but most is run of the mill bar food. You can order from either the el bait menu or the high life lounge menu, which is the attached bar.

Value: They have very few beer specials and I'd say the lowest pint price is about $4.75. In my opinion, it is a bit overpriced. There are times where I see a low abv summer ale or something on my bill and it's still $4.75. I have always been willing to buy expensive beers, and I do, but there is so much bar competition in Des Moines these days that I have less and less desire to go here because of the prices. It's funny because I'll happily pay $7 for other beers, but when it's a lighter, low abv style that I know the bar didn't have too pay much for I always feel like I'm getting a poor deal.

That being said, the place is awesome. It's a must visit if you're passing through Des Moines. I'm just being a little nitpicky. I always drink the expensive stuff here anyways. I do wish the service was a bit better.

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Photo of bennetj17
4.51/5  rDev +4.2%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.75 | food: 4.25

I have always thought El Bait Shop was a bit quirky, but I like it and it keeps getting better. With the antiquated Iowa beer laws of the past this bar did it's best to bring a wide selection, and nowadays the sky is the limit. There must be a hundered taps and a fine selection of bottles. The food is solid, and with two different menus there is plenty to choose from. The prices are reasonable too. The only negative is the markup on some of the premium bottled beers, although that sort of thing is not atypical. For example the Cantillon Kriek was $45 for a 750ml.

On my most recent visit, I noticed some great stuff available such as: Bourbon County Stout, Founder's Breakfast Stout, Toppling Goliath (multiple), Jester King (multiple), and a good selection of sours including Tilquin, Cantillon, Panil, etc. I like that the bartenders there are pretty laid back, one even let us bring in a bottle of Surly Smoke to share with the group.

Bait Shop is definitely a place I will keep checking out whenever I am visiting. I highly recommend it if you are in the downtown Des Moines area.

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Photo of KateK
3.47/5  rDev -19.9%
vibe: 4 | quality: 3 | service: 2.25 | selection: 5

El Bait Shop is my favorite place in downtown Des Moines. If you want to try new beers, this is the place to go! They have a lot of local beers which is great. They are often out of a lot of the beers on tap though, which is kind of a bummer. Huge beer menu. Never had the food here.

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Photo of lionnusmb
4.45/5  rDev +2.8%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 3 | selection: 5

I enjoyed. Every time I've gone before I was not in the right frame of mind to realize they had such an extensive craft brew selection. Now probably one of the only places I will frequent when thirsty in DSM.

For the new beer connoisseur or someone just getting into craft brews it can be a little intimidating, but just give it a chance and make sure to ask lots of questions to your server or barkeep.

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Photo of msubulldog25
4.4/5  rDev +1.6%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.75

Visited August 28, 10:00pm-ish to about midnight

This was probably my only 'must' place on my recent trip to Des Moines (a Top 100 mention in Draft magazine helped, so did an endorsement from Mike at Toppling Goliath Brewing Co). After a quick stop at nearby Court Avenue, I found EBS easily enough; it's a low-slung single story, with large logos painted on its facade, a block or two from the river. And ubiquitous Harleys are parked outside. Inside has a 'roadhouse' feel with lots of neon and signage, taxidermied stuff and wood paneling. There's a lone folksy-bluesy dude crooning at a mike, lots of folks laughing and drinking. As an Oregonian, I noticed the 'Oregon Brewers Guild' sign mounted right next to the bar, and all sorts of stickers and schwag elsewhere. Pretty great vibe.

I snagged a stool midway down the 6-seat bar (there's an odd little octagonal extension to my right) and faced a bounty of tap handles, er... 'draws', (over 100) and three reach-ins worth of bottled/canned goodness. On this night, New Belgium had an additional 18 handles as part of a 'Tap Invasion' (lots of great stuff, including: Tart Lychee, Cocoa Mole, Mo Betta Bretta, Matt's Cascadian Dubbel and an all-time fave, La Folie). My bartender was Charles, who seemed a little curt, but was honest with his opinions and efficient with his service. He whole-heartedly recommended Toppling Goliath's Golden Nugget IPA as his 'favorite' to me and several others (which was great, because TG was at the very top of my list of Iowan breweries to try), so I ordered a pint right off the bat. WOW, it is GOOD!

Eventually the live music ceased and the guitarist sat next to me, quietly sipping a local lager. I watched as more and more people arrived, most seeming to have only a passing interest in the beer choices - and it made me wonder how well ingrained the beer culture is here, even in what seems to be the best beer bar in Iowa. I never once heard anyone order any of the New Belgium beers on tap (although I'm sure some did - right?). After my first Nugget, Charles poured me a Brau Brothers IPA (not on the printed menu) and added a special dose of hop oils that were steeping in a nearby French press. Whoa ~ what a burst of 'green!' that was - I'm anxious for Fresh Hop season now more than ever!

I'd eaten a hearty dinner earlier so I skipped food altogether at EBS. I finished with a Bell's Two Hearted (an all-time favorite) and a small taster of Frangelic Mountain Brown, downing the last sip just as a rowdy, liquored-up group fresh off the nearby Def Leppard/Poison concert came loudly stumbling in. My tab was under $15, so either beers are really cheap here or something got comped; I left a $20. Regardless, I had a great couple of hours at EBS (even stuck my head in its adjoining sister bar, The High Life Lounge) and made it back to the hotel without incident. Whenever I'm in Des Moines again, I know where I'll be going for great beers.

PS: While jotting down notes, I was asked "do you write for a magazine?". Nope, but I did say that BA was kinda my 'travel journal' and that a review would likely wind up here soon... and here it is! Cheers!

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Photo of prmurphy63026
4.53/5  rDev +4.6%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5 | food: 3.5

105 on tap and more in the fridge. Although 14 were either sold out or coming soon there was a wide selection. Granted that today is an unusually warm day in the middle or March, but the place is packed on a Wednesday night.

First up is Bells Hopslam on draft. Being a hop head, I love the aroma and bitterness of this ale. I bope to make a beer as well as this. Next up is Old Rasputin. $2 for chips and salsa.

The crowd is younger than me, but hey, it's proactive one of the few places where PBR is in a bottle.

I had a good time, the food was bar food, but the bed selection was great!

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El Bait Shop in Des Moines, IA
4.33 out of 5 based on 86 ratings.
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