One Night At: The Locust Tap

One Night At: The Locust Tap

Locust Tap is a corner bar in the shadow of the Iowa State Capitol that fills up even on a chilly January evening in Des Moines. Snow drifts don’t affect the crowd that gathers at the Locust Tap for drinks, dancing and pool.

8:10 p.m.: The bartender offers the house Wild Turkey shots just for braving the weather tonight. I arrive to a full rail and have to pull the old “excuse me” to squeeze a few seats in the middle.

8:17 p.m.: We down $2 PBR cans while shouting over a Nirvana track. The scenery is aged, yet welcoming. Graffiti from several decades covers the paint-chipped walls. Plenty of messages reference vomit.

8:38 p.m.: I don’t mean to gush about a bartender, but this guy is all over the place. He’s entertaining a table full of dancing women, taking shots with his buddies and giving relationship advice to the traveling businessman from Omaha to my left. My drink remains full.

8:55 p.m.: Shaggy’s 2001 hit “It Wasn’t Me” plays for the second time and incites wild celebration from a table of four out for a birthday.

9:03 p.m.: Women are now dancing. It’s Wednesday night in Des Moines folks!

9:18 p.m.: Our bartender was briefly concerned about his scattered tips then toasts a Sambuca shot when he recoups. Sambuca is stomach rumbling stuff, minty with licorice after taste.

9:32 p.m.: Graffiti decorates the walls up to the tiled ceiling at Locust Tap. Patrons have placed their signatures here since many owners ago. The birthday celebrator pulls me aside and points out where she and her friends have signed in the past.

9:40 p.m.: There’s a prosthetic leg hanging above the entrance of Locust Tap.

9:49 p.m.: Pool is free at Locust Tap. Alvin says the Locust Tap is too much of a dive to charge for table games. I’ll mention, the girl to guy ratio on Wednesday night was 4:1.

9:53 p.m.: Not kidding, Shaggy “It Wasn’t Me” comes on for a third time. The table of four resume their dancing.

10:01 p.m.: They still have a pay phone mounted to the wall near the entrance of Locust Tap. It doesn’t work, even after trying a quarter.

10:05 p.m.: There aren’t many other bars like this place. Locust Tap is decorated like a sketch pad, yet remains charming, even as the roof chips away over your head.

10:17 p.m.: The listed capacity at Locust is 49. We’re comfortable, the 12 of us.

10:30 p.m.: Every single female in this place has exited by now and I take no responsibility for that.

You’re in for a good time when you visit the Locust Tap in Des Moines. Talkative staff, ladies, $25 budget, flexible soundtrack. The Tap on East Locust and East Fifth streets will provide a comfortable setting for your next low-key outing.

Locust Tap

Where: 434 E. Locust St.

Hours: 2 p.m.-2 a.m. Monday through Thursday; noon-2 a.m. Friday through Sunday.

Info: 515-243-9399; Facebook page


About the Author

Pete is a contributor to Juice magazine.



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