Wednesday, June 19, 2024

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Step back in time at High Life Lounge


When you look around and see every other person texting, face-timing, blogging and taking selfies, you realize how much you miss the simpler times of previous decades. There’s no denying the positive impact all this technology has made on our world, but wouldn’t it be nice to unplug and step away from it all for just a few hours?

High Life Lounge opened in 2005, but looking at the 1960s-themed décor, you’d never know it.

High Life Lounge opened in 2005, but looking at the 1960s-themed décor, you’d never know it.

For that type of time-traveling escape, one need only look as far as the High Life Lounge.

Located in the heart of downtown Des Moines, just a few blocks from the Court Avenue District, High Life transports its visitors back to the 1960s, when wood-paneled walls and dim lighting set the scene for a typical night out.

High Life could be considered a dive, presenting its theme so well you’d never guess the bar only celebrated its 10th anniversary in February this year. Instead of looking outdated or cheap, the laminate tables, carpeted floor and well-used leather chairs are right at home here.

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Even the photos on the wall show the ’60s and ’70s at their finest, complete with Afros and bell bottom-clad people playing pool. Possibly the only thing hindering High Life from its true era is a smoky haze and ashtrays on every table — although most patrons are likely thankful for that.

Though it might be geared to older generations, High Life is typically packed with people of all ages for three reasons: low prices, great food and it’s just a cool place to hang out. For the older crowd, it’s a blast from the past and maybe even a reminder of the places they used to frequent back in the day. For the younger crowd, the Lounge is a first experience of another decade. And for both young and old, it has two separate bacon-wrapped appetizers.

Aside from all the deep-fried goodies found on the menu, High Life does something a little different from most places by offering many home style dishes as well, including deviled eggs, chicken pot pie and beef stroganoff. It’s almost as comfortable and relaxed as stepping downstairs to your basement with a plate of Mom’s cooking.

Another characteristic that makes High Life unique is its connected neighbor in el Bait Shop, which shares the same menu but offers up a strikingly different experience.

Whereas High Life is great for sitting down to converse over a long drink, el Bait Shop is more of a party thanks to its extensive beer menu (100 taps and counting). Nevertheless, the two are like brothers — each has its own separate friends but there’s always a time when those groups intersect. In the same way, High Life has its loyal customers and el Bait Shop has its faithful following. But the entryway connecting both is never permanently closed, and a trip to one bar will likely lead you into the adjoining one.

But unlike some brothers, these two establishments never seem to have a fight — hence the shared menu — and it’s a convenient setup for downtown bar-goers.

High Life Lounge presents an experience unmatched by other restaurants in the area. If you haven’t been there yet, put it at the top of your to-do list. After a pint and an order of bacon-wrapped tator tots, you’ll wonder why High Life hasn’t always been at the top of your list. CV

200 S.W. Second St., Des Moines
11 a.m. – 2 a.m., daily

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