Lava Lounge

Lava LoungeLava Lounge
14 Ratings
Lava LoungeLava Lounge

Type: Bar, Eatery

2401 Falls Ave
Waterloo, Iowa, 50701-5717
United States

(319) 234-5686 | map

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Ratings: 14 |  Reviews: 12
Photo of BuzzG
4.59/5  rDev +6%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5

I use to live in the Cedar Falls area but had never heard of the Lava Lounge. Went next door to have some taco's at Rudy's and discovered this gem. Two small bars right across from each other with an awesome selection of craft beer. If I was making a treck from north to south through Iowa I would stop at Toppling Goliath in Decorah, Lava Lounge in Waterloo, El Bait Shop in Des Moines, and end the night at the Cellar Peanut Pub in Oskaloosa.

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Photo of EricSloan
3.6/5  rDev -16.9%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 1.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4.5

Was happy to find a Bourbon County on the shelf!

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Photo of stedmala
4.69/5  rDev +8.3%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 4.75 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5

It's hard to beat this out of the way diamond in the rough.
Ridiculous selections to choose from, many recently trending beers are on tap. Plus a free jukebox with everything from Bob Marley to Weezer!?! Sign me up.

Also, Rudy's Tacos is next door!? These are staples when in the area.

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Photo of TGanyone
4.5/5  rDev +3.9%

Photo of ALC82
4.01/5  rDev -7.4%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4.25 | food: 4.25

This is a quaint spot in the hallway of a building that houses Rudy's Tacos (excellent food) as well as a couple small business' including a new Brewer (name escapes me currently) The atmosphere is excellent for a small group to stop in for a beer or two! Their selection is very good if you are looking for "something different" as they tend to have a couple selections that you've probably never tried before.

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

The Lava Lounge and Beer Hall (two bars, same owner, across the hall from each other) are my favorite local hang out. The Lava has a 60's-70's decor thing going. The Juke is free and full of Indie. Great handles and a great cooler. The tenders, Doug, Kevin, Kyla, are awesome. The Beer Hall is decked out in old beer signs like Schlitz and Hamms, old tables and chairs out of the 50's and is completed with an Evel Knievel lunch pail and action figure. It has another free Juke box contaning some great old songs. The flat screens run old beer commercials and they have a cooler that contains things like Hamms and Grain belt. More importantly, they have great (only great) beers on tap, and now are brewing under the name "Guerrilla". On Thursdays you can try out their new weekly small batch brew, but one handle is generally dedicated to their beer. It is where I drink my hopslam each year, and I have gotten my hands on rare to the area beers there. They also usually have a Toppling Goliath on tap, and a bells. Many times I have been in there when they have the "only keg in Iowa" of this or that. Great place and the only bar worth mentioning in Waterloo.

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Photo of KAF
4.28/5  rDev -1.2%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5

This place only seems to get better with time. I remember frequenting here in undergrad six years ago and thinking it was a great place then. Revisiting it has only seemed to get better. Always a very good tap selection which includes imports and usually something that no one else in town has. The atmosphere is very laid back and everyone that is there is laid back as well. I do not believe they serve food, but we used to bring in food from Rudy's Taco's which is delicious. The service from the bartender is always spot on and whomever is tending bar always seems to know a good bit about the beer they're serving.

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Photo of BretSikkink
4.16/5  rDev -3.9%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4

Contrary to mynie's opinion below, the Lava Lounge is not the best beer bar either in Iowa nor in the country, based on my equally humble experience (both his beer karma and beerfly reviews surpass mine, for what it's worth.) I would recommend two or three bars in Des Moines, and the man from Lafayette has surely visited the Map Room and other fine Chicago establishments.

The decor smacks you in the face: super-colorful, recovered-from-the-junkyard stuff from the 60s and 70s. Definitely unique, although I'm not sure it burnishes Beer's reputation as proletarian swill. Sure as shit wouldn't see a wine or martini bar looking like this. Mai-tai joint, maybe. Not fair to judge Lava Lounge negatively since I haven't done it to others in the past, but it would be nice to walk into a beer bar in the midwest that isn't decorated like a PBS series or Nick at Nite rerun.

When I visited, I believe there were only 8 taps, a little less than I expected from prior reviews. They were uniformly decent-to-good, no crap indeed. The marginal cases were locals (all of Iowa is local, by the way) which is fine by me. The St. Bernardus was not in its finest condition from my sample, so I passed in favor of a couple of Iowa brews that were quite fresh. The bartender was pretty lonely at 4:30, but his service time quickly dropped as a 5 o'clock rush came in. Not his fault, and the lone waitress was definitely kept busy as well.

For the section of town they're in and the plaza building, Lava Lounge and its fellow-tenants are doing a great job keeping people happy. I definitely went out of my way to go here and enjoyed myself, and I imagine other BAs have done the same. Most of the crowd was local and drinking cocktails, so they can't ignore that either.

We got some fairly tepid chips and salsa from the Mexican joint across the hall, but Lava Lounge itself doesn't have any food. However, it is an option for when you get yourself the munchies.

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

(I'm deleting my old review, which was years out of date.)

Let's get down to the brass tacks: this is the best beer bar in Iowa. It is, in my humble opinion, based on my humble experience, the best beer bar in the country.

Why? It's the coolest. If you think the Map Room is cooler, you don't know what cool is.

How? Well, for one thing, they've got a dozen crapless taps. 2-3 Iowa sessions are always on hand, along with 3-5 Belgians, 2-3 regular offering from craft brewers (often Bell's, Rogue, or Sierra Nevada), and then 2-3 rare/one offs from American craft brewers. That's coupled with about 60 different bottles, and this is one of a small handful of beer bars that makes sure to continually rotate their bottle stock, so you'll never get a stale beer.

Along with that, the atmosphere is the very tops. The juke box is free, and like the tap selection it is crapless. There are two bars, each across a small hall from one another. The decor is like you wandered into a Fritz the Cat comic, like an unnaturally colorful caricature of a late-60s bachelor pad. There's tons of vintage American macro ads, lots of gorgeous Goodwill lamps, awesome framed album covers.

Even though a lot of care has been put into decor, the vibe is startlingly unpretentious. You'd never mistake this place for a regular cocktail bar, and if you showed up wearing an outfit that cost more than 50 bucks you'd stick out like a burning christmas tree. And yet, amazingly, it avoids the pitfallls of places like the Map Room and Three Floyds taps, which try too hard to exert an alternative ethos and wind up often seeming douchey.

The Lava Lounge bold and weird because the people who run and frequent the place are bold and weird--it's an organic, well-kempt cool, a bizarro sort of poshness that absolutely isn't posh. Such an atmosphere is bound to turn off the frat boys, soccer moms, party sluts, and middle-aged white people, and, well, yeah; that's exactly the point.

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Photo of Amdahl
4.3/5  rDev -0.7%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5

I love the Lava Lounge. This is my favorite place for beer in town. This bar has a great selection of beers, especially Belgium. If you are a smoker, the Lava Lounge is probably not the place you want to go to, its non-smoking. This is a great place to go and unwind after work and have a couple of great beers. The juke box has songs from many different generations and can be enjoyed by anyone that visits this "beer bar". Good Mexican food is only feet away at Rudy's Tacos.

If you not in the mood for a beer, not forget to ask for a Monkey for your Margarita.

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Photo of dcough
4.38/5  rDev +1.2%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4 | food: 4.5

I absolutely love this place. Always have 3 to 5 Belgian beers on tap at all times. Doug the bartender that served us was extremely friendly and competent. I have not seen the bartender that the first reviewer was referring to in quiet some time and that is good thing.

Not only is this great beer oasis, but there is Rudy’s Taco in the same building. All the furnishing are art deco with Formica tables that you remember your family or grandparents having in their kitchen. It is also a good place to take kids, since there is plenty for them to look at. They have probably 200 Mexican puppets hanging from the ceiling. The place also has a very relaxed, family feel to it. The food is great with most of the produce is locally grown. We love this place so much, that we regularly drive 60+ miles to eat and drink here. Clearly the best beer bar in Iowa.

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Photo of badbeer
3.39/5  rDev -21.7%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 2 | selection: 4

This place is pretty much hit or miss. On a good day these ratings could be much higher, other days, much lower. The atmosphere inside is nice with usually some pretty good music playing. However, somedays the croud there is less than enjoyable and service can be downright rude. The beer is cared for well and they have a good bottle selection as well as tap selection. Food I didn't try but it's right next to Rudy's Tacos so I assume you can get some pretty good food there. It's amazing how there can be such a night and day difference in this place, some days sublime, some days...we'll just say not as good.

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Photo of Erdinger2003
4.64/5  rDev +7.2%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 5 | selection: 4.5

I think this is a great place to relax and try a vast selection of great beer. They have a cooler full of a great selection and belgian beers on tap. This is the place I drank my first quadruple. There's food around the corner, but I havent' had the will to get out of the bar for some food. You can bring beer into the restaurant, but don't bring food into the bar. The people are very friendly, if you ask about good beer they are willing to talk and get a beer from the cooler for you, they aren't just blowing smoke up your dixie either, they know their selection and can comment very well on it.

Went back 6-13-07:
I got some great service with a good description of the beers for beginners. I got myself my first Two-Hearted on tap that wasn't skunked at ALL! IT was GREAT!! I even talked beer with the two other guys sitting there. This place got a little better.

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Photo of hero27
4.36/5  rDev +0.7%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4

My local watering hole, since it's right down the street from my place..

Entirely retro theme, with old records, funky 70's furniture, and a completely psychodelic atmosphere. My advice, only hit this place up after dark. During the day, it's a completely different bar (and usually a fairly empty one). At night, all the lights are turned off except some retro lamps and chandeliers...and it's hard to appreciate how cool the red walls and chairs look when the lights are dim unless you see it for yourself.

If you like smooth jazz, underground music, and a "rat-pack" type atmosphere, you've gotta hit this place up. The jukebox has a great selection (and is 100% free, might I add), so there are always some cool tunes playing. Only drawback is that there is no TV..but it's done on purpose. This is not the type of place to chill, knock a few back with the buddies, and watch a football game. It's a place to relax, talk, and enjoy beer.

Their beer on-tap changes very often (Samichlaus & St. Bernardus Tripel were new tonight when I stopped in...) seems like every time I stop in there, they have at least one or two kegs of something completely new and unique to the area. As far as European beer goes, there is no better bar in the area. They have a good selection of Belgian bottles and usually even some relatively unique brews on-tap.. (eg: Piraat Triple IPA, Fuller's London Pride, & Alpha King - "Summer '05"). 10/20/05 Update: St. Bernardus abt 12, Golden Draak, Tripel Karmeliet, Delirium Tremens, and Abbaye Des Rocs Triple Impériale added to the lineup for fall. If you're looking for American macros, don't bother..this isn't the type of place you want to be at anyways if you're looking for a Bud Light.. definitely a "BA friendly" bar.

Overall, the service is good. I still remember the first time I visited the Lava Lounge, and Kevin let me sample a couple brews on-tap for free. Since then, I make it a point to stop in there fairly often with friends when we just need some time to get away from things and relax.

It's somewhat off-the-beaten-path, but a bar well worth seeking out.

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Lava Lounge in Waterloo, IA
Place rating: 4.33 out of 5 with 14 ratings
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