Toad's Tavern


2015 Cityview's Best Of

Best East Bar

Toad’s Tavern

The loyal following of Toad’s Tavern will keep it as the Best East Bar once again. With one of the longest happy hours around and a pool league not to be beat, the voters know just where to go when they visit the east side. 3002 State Ave., Des Moines. 515-264-8623;

Runners-up: Up-Down; The Blazing Saddle

Runner's Up

Best Overall Bar, Best Dive Bar, Best Happy Hour, Coldest Beer, and Strongest Drink

2014 Cityview's Best Of

Best East Bar

Toad’s Tavern

Last year’s best east side bar remains this year, according to our vote count. Toad’s Tavern has one of the most loyal followings of any old bar in town. The bartenders are friendly, and the patrons are peaceful. You don’t have to be from the east side to belly up here and have good time in the wee hours.

3002 State Ave., 264-8623,

Runners-up: Blazing Saddle; The Hull Avenue Tavern

Best Dive Bar

Toad’s Tavern

The voters have brought back this longtime category winner, Toad’s Tavern. This east-side favorite offers cheap, stiff drinks, darts, pool and a lot of laughter and chatter bouncing off the walls. It’s a come-as-you-are, no judgments kind of hole in the wall where anyone is welcome to hide out.

3002 State Ave., 264-8623,

Runners-up: Carl’s Place; Greenwood Lounge

Runners-up in:

Best Moscow Mule, Best Place Strongest Drinks, Best Place to Play Games, and Best Place To get Drunk Cheap!

2013 Cityview's Best Of

Best East Bar

Toad’s Tavern

Sunday Funday often starts on the east side where the bars are known for opening early, and our readers say Toad’s is a must-stop along the route. It opens at 10 a.m. every day. Every day, no exceptions. When having a brunch-time brew or cocktail is a must, our readers know Toad’s has got them covered. But it’s a hoppin’ night spot, too, with live entertainment, pool leagues and more.

3002 State Ave., 264-TOAD (8623),

Runners-up in:

Best Cold Beer and Best Place for Strongest Drinks!



Aaron Forney stands at your service at 6-foot, 8-inches, yet you’d be pressed to find a friendlier bartender anywhere.

Aaron Forney stands at your service at 6-foot, 8-inches, yet you’d be pressed to find a friendlier bartender anywhere.

Belly Up

Earn a name for yourself at Toad’s Tavern

By Amber Williams


If tell someone you’ve never been to Toad’s Tavern, you’re likely to get that slightly condescending response — like confessing you’ve never been to the ocean or you’ve never seen “Animal House” — “Yooooou’ve ne-ver been to Toad’s?!” So if you’ve never been, just go there. Get it checked off that list of things that everyone should apparently experience.

It’s worth the effort, and, unless the city’s is under ice, as it’s been lately, it’s worth the drive over to the east side. In addition to the bar’s online boasting that it’s “winner of the 2013 Cityview’s Best Eastside Bar, Cityview’s Bartender’s Ball Best Staff and Best Eastside Bartender and Runner-up of 2013 Cityview’s Best of for Coldest Beer and Strongest Drink,” the people there are a warm breeze on a brutally brisk night.

“Do you like pancakes?” asked a guy named Mike bellied up at the bar.

“As opposed to waffles? Sure. What’s not to like?” I answered.

He turns to a giant Teddy bear of a man behind the bar and began laying out his instructions: “We’ll need Jameson,” he said, with a crooked finger pointing to the bottle. Bartender Aaron Forney obeyed without question and poured a shot half-full of one of Ireland’s most locally celebrated whiskeys. The rest he filled with ButterShots Schnapps.

“That’s what gives it the pancake flavor,” Mike advised.

Followed by an orange juice chaser, the “pancake” shot was sweet and sticky — a belly-warming treat, for certain — but not quite like a pancake. That’s OK, though. It’s the hospitality that makes it work.

Mike was one of many interesting and friendly characters one will meet on any given night at Toad’s. Like a college frat house or a small-town dive, nearly every guy there introduced himself by a handle he’d earned some years ago — a “stage name,” as Squirrel Nuts calls it. He didn’t let his waning dart game keep him from having another beer. Then there’s Darren “The Boss” (a nickname I gave him, because he shares his name with my boss) proved chivalry was still alive, even during pool league play. His opponent Lloyd is 23 years sober and just here for the pool table and friendly people, he said. Too Tall Paul promised me a spot on the back of his Harley come spring. And Cowboy Bill earned his name in Texas (reckon it’s far more unique of a nickname on the east side of Des Moines than in Houston).

Despite the silliness, the orneriness and the drunkenness, there was an intimate or intriguing moment to be shared in every corner of the room, like a family gathering. Cowboy Bill explained it best, as he straightened his posture on his bar stool, turned off his flirt-o-meter, put down his mini-pitcher of Bud Light and imparted his words of wisdom after 50-plus years walking the Earth: “There’s nothing more important in this world than family — not a husband, not a wife — family.”

Think about it. If you don’t get it. Go to Toad’s Tavern, and see for yourself. CV


2013 Bartenders Ball

Favorite All Around Bar Staff
Toad’s Tavern
Mickey’s DT
Beer Can Alley

Favorite East Side Bartender
Grant Todahl- Toad’s Tavern
Penny Peterson- Ron’s Dawg House
Rita Stevens- Cheap Seats

Favorite Male Bartender
Bruce Huckfeldt- Mickey’s DT
Grant Todahl- Toad’s Tavern
Austin Rogers-Heroes

Favorite Female Bartender
Kristin Elliott-Beer Can Alley
Sarah Duberstein- Toad’s Tavern
Makenzie Risbeck-Blue Moon


Voted 2nd in Metro Mix Top 50 Bars in Central Iowa by Metro Mix

3002 State Ave  .  Des Moines, IA  .  515.264.8623