On Dec. 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked, thousands of American soldiers were killed, the American navy was debilitated, and for all intents and purposes, it was the day the United States entered World War II. Every student learns about that infamous date in school.
What’s less likely is that the public knows that on that same day a cozy east side tavern located at East 30th and State streets opened to the public as well. Its name has changed — now known as Toad’s Tavern — but according to bartender Aaron Forney, the well-worn bar top is the same one the establishment was equipped with when it opened.
Forney is friendly, easy to talk to and offers a lot of knowledge about the tavern — even the secret to its success.
“It’s mainly the regulars that come here,” he says. “It’s a neighborhood bar, pretty tame. People know each other. Good people.”
Forney says he has worked there for three years and specifically enjoys the pub’s unique approach to happy hour.
“We have an eight-hour-long ‘happy hour,’ ” he laughs, revealing that it actually runs from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. every weekday.
Forney says the drinks are cheap, and there’s a special almost every night of the week except Friday and Saturday. On Sundays, happy hour is all day.
On this night — a Tuesday — it’s about 9 p.m., and the weather is nasty and cold. The bar is somewhat quiet.
“The thing about this bar is that you never know if it’ll be busy or dead,” Forney admits.
Tonight there are a dozen people or so scattered about the place, mostly sitting in pairs, engrossed in conversation, and, according to Forney, somewhat representative of the usual crowd.
There are two women laughing and eating a pizza. Forney says the bar serves frozen pizzas but no other food except for the free popcorn tucked back in the corner.
There are two men standing at the end of the bar watching basketball and engrossed in conversation.
When asked if there are more Iowa or Iowa State fans in the bar, Forney laughs and points to the Hawkeye sign hanging on the wall behind him. Just then, from somewhere in the back and for no apparent reason, a female voice calls out in the darkness:
“Iowa State sucks.”
The comment gets the two guys shooting pool in back to laugh before continuing their game.
Pool leagues are held at Toad’s every Monday through Thursday night.
There are other people there, too, drinking pitchers, talking and watching TV. One of them heads toward the back.
“There’s an enclosed smoking patio out there,” says Forney. “You can take your drink outside with you.”
The bar isn’t related to the ‘90s country dance place named “Toad Holler,” nor is it related to “Super Toad, says Forney, who has obviously been asked that question a number of times.
There are fun diversions at the bar, including a dart board, video games, a video bowling machine and even board games.
“People mostly play Jenga and Connect Four,” Forney says. “But they don’t get used much.”
The bar top does; it’s been used a lot in its 75 years — and looks as though it’s good for another 75 more. CV
3002 State Ave. • 515-264-TOAD (8623)
Hours: Monday – Saturday 10 a.m. – 2 a.m.; Sunday 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Happy Hour: Monday – Friday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.