Business in the front… kind of, at Mullets4/23/2014
This bar-and-grill is a location to investigate, perfectly poised just out of the way enough to offer a scenic view of the downtown skyline and river ways. Past the fishermen trying their luck over the bridge sits Mullets. One of the first things a guest will likely notice about this riverside bar is the giant fish on the sign with a big kissy face glaring at passersby, like the overly-confident mascot for the neighborhood. It’s fitting, as Mullets is a junction spot for the confluence of the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers, making it ideal for a patio brunch or an outdoor drink.
Upon entering, Florida’s refreshing spring break seaside bars are reminiscent. A vintage ship steering wheel serves as a clever coat rack near the hostess station, where customers are greeted by an array of mounted aquatic creatures watching them take their seats — inside at glazed-top booths with a rustic feel and outside on picnic tables and patio furniture like a redneck backyard. A photo of the dimpled Mario Lopez with his “Saved by the Bell”-era mullet hangs among other apt decor.
Besides the school of fish and celebrity nostalgia on display, a dozen regulars huddled up in the vintage bar for $2 beers intermingled with families grazing under flat-screen televisions over seafood dishes.
Upon trying everything deep-fried the menu had to offer — from pickles to frog legs — it’s clear to see why people have been swimming in schools to this charming riverside bar.
“We really try to give a relaxed atmosphere. Everything from the food to the drinks to the location,” said one of a team of owners, Wayne Johnson (note: no mullet). “This is a cool neighborhood with a lot of character, and we like to work with that.”
Johnson and staff take full advantage of the bar’s off-the-path location overlooking Principal Park. Mullets is an easy before-and-after game stop for Iowa Cubs fans, especially on Friday’s firework-finale home games — quite the show to catch fireworks from the upper deck of the patio with reasonably-priced drinks and a cool breeze. The exquisite view of the city offered at Mullets makes it an after-party stop for an array of events, from marathons to poker runs, charity balls and more.
But what’s with everyone being stuck in a past decade, especially wearing one of humanity’s most mortifying hair styles so damn proudly? The vibe of Mullets works closely with the bar’s namesake. The front entryway holds a board lovingly titled “The Mulletin Board,” where customers can share photographs of their favorite mullets. From family photos to famous celebrities, the snapshots can be seen all throughout the restaurant and give the location a fun ’80s vibe.
“There’s no real reason behind the name of the place,” said Johnson. “A mullet is a type of fish. None of the owners had mullets — but we have seen quite a few in this neighborhood.” CV
Chris Kelley is a graduate of Greenlee School of Journalism at Iowa State University and offers occasional articles for Cityview.Mullets 1300 S.E. First St., 244-1443 HOURS: 7 a.m.–close HAPPY HOUR: 5–7 p.m., daily drink specials KITCHEN: Breakfast Monday-Friday: 7–11 a.m., Sat.-Sun.: 7 a.m.–1 p.m.; Lunch Monday-Thursday 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Friday-Sunday 11 a.m.–11 p.m.; Pizza and Nachos Friday-Saturday 11 p.m.-midnight ENTERTAINMENT: Occasional live music in the summer, patio space, event after-parties