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Belly Up

Sept 22 , 2011
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Capital Pub and Hot Dog Co. hits hot dog niche

Bartender Nathan Ritz is part of the "wiener staff" at Capital Pub and Hot Dog Co. Try his Capital Punch, if you can handle it.

By Amber Williams

The ladies of the house “love wiener,” at least that’s what it says on the back of their shirts at Capital Pub and Hot Dog Company, the newest addition to the East Village Market District located at 400 S.E. 6th St.

The Capital Pub building was once on the City of Des Moines’ condemned list. Two years ago it was “one of the ugly eyesores in town,” according to co-owner Nick Ritz, who, along with partners Brian Tigner and Chad Ervin, chose to roll the dice on buying the 116-year-old house.

“When I first saw this place, I said, ‘No way.’ Brian said, ‘You have to see it.’ He drew me a picture, and it’s funny, the picture he drew turned out to be pretty true to how it looks now,” Ritz said, standing behind the bar where a modest kitchen once lacked functioning appliances and was home to only vagrants and critters.

It has since been transformed into a spacious pub. Most of the seating area, which offers comfy booths and standing pub tables, was added onto the structure in order to accommodate what is already proving to be a loyal and growing crowd looking for a place that will serve their favorite beer or cocktail along with a specialty hot dog from a unique menu.

The owners originally just wanted to open a bar but decided to add hot dogs to the business to keep in compliance with the zoning ordinance set for that district. They had no idea it would earn the entire city block the nickname, “Dog Block,” as they moved in right next door to a doggy daycare.

“People love it, though,” Ritz said. “On their way out, they stop over and pet the dogs next door,” and it’s also led to a comedic consequence: an abundance of wiener jokes, which they’ve embraced with not only the “Wiener Staff” T-shirts worn by employees, but several others that are for sale, including one favorite that says, “Does This Shirt Make My Wiener Look Big?” (Referring to hot dogs, of course).

Some of the drinks are even christened according to the theme, like “The Pink Wiener,” one of bartender Nathan Ritz’ creations made with raspberry vodka, coconut rum, pineapple and grenadine — a ladies’ fruity favorite, Ritz said. Ritz’ brother Nathan mans the bar during the night shift, while his mother, Nancy, manages behind the bar by day.

“We’re a family establishment, but we try to be a little on the edge and have fun with it,” Ritz said. “Three families have put our all into this place to make it a comfortable eating and drinking atmosphere.”

In prime proximity to Martin Luther King Parkway and the recreation trail, Capital Pub draws an eclectic mix of fitness buffs, bureaucrats, corporate employees and regular Joes, with easy access both to and away from downtown.

“This area’s going to grow,” Ritz said. “We might be a little ahead of our time, but that’s what we’re excited about.”

Stop in for a dog or a Bloody Mary made from a secret family recipe.


Capital Pub and Hot Dog Co.

400 S.E. 6th St.


Happy Hour: 50 cents off all drinks from 3-7 p.m., plus NFL game day specials

Hours of Operation: 11 a.m. to close, Mon.-Sun.; kitchen, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Amenities: Food served; arcade and touch screen games; outdoor patio; 8 flat screen TVs; NFL ticket

Max. capacity — 120

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