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Belly Up To...

A comfy fit, Cooper’s on 5th is all heart


Owner Ryan Cooper serves up a pumpkin spice martini from the bar that his uncle Bob custom-built from copper and wood.

Owner Ryan Cooper serves up a pumpkin spice martini from the bar that his uncle Bob custom-built from copper and wood.

Every bar has its thing. Whether it’s a memorable bartender, a drink that can make you forget the unforgettable or an atmosphere that feels like home, every hole in the wall is so much more if you peer inside for a look.

At Cooper’s on 5th, the bartender is memorable, no doubt. He’s Ryan Cooper, the owner, the bartender, the waiter, the janitor — “everything you can possibly think of,” he laughed. Though he helped shape a classic, comfort-food menu, he’s not the chef, however. That title goes to Randy Hagen, with more than 30 years in the biz.

As for the drink that could make you forget? Pick your poison. They’re all dangerously delicious.

“We offer drink specials every night, and we have the largest beer selection (53 different bottles), the largest wine selection (20 different flavors by the glass or the bottle) and the largest martini selection in the area,” Cooper said.

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That’s impressive considering Cooper’s is also the smallest bar/restaurant in Valley Junction. But, it’s like the old saying goes, big things come in small packages. You can count the tables and booths on your two hands, and the bar offers only a few stools for folks to belly up. But that’s what Cooper likes about the place.

“We looked at a couple of bigger places that were available, like Jimmy’s (on 8th Street) and the building where Jethro’s is out in Waukee, but I couldn’t help but feel like they were just too big for what I was looking for,” Cooper said. “Smaller restaurants and bars are coming back. Not that bigger places are bad, but smaller places are more intimate and easier to manage.”

After almost 17 years as a local bartender, Cooper admits he didn’t want to get in over his head when taking his career to the next level.                

“That way things don’t fall through the cracks,” he said. “I don’t just want one or two things to be good. I want everything to be good — food, drinks and atmosphere — a complete package. That’s the reason I like to have a small place. Everything is the way it’s supposed to be.”                

Cooper strives to provide a comfortable, laid-back atmosphere for guests in his establishment, and it seems he’s met that goal with ease in the two years since he opened. Even on the weekends, when it’s a packed house, Cooper said things are good, easy-going, comfy. Just like home.                

Part of the credit belongs to Bob Cooper who designed a custom-made wood and copper bar, a classy back bar and was an integral key to the room’s design, décor and overall ambiance. His hand-carvings go almost unnoticed to patrons who belly up to the bar, as their knees are met by a hidden man and a woman carved into the pillars of the bar beneath them.                

“I’m very lucky to have him for an uncle,” Cooper smiled. “Word of mouth has been a monster for us in getting the word out that we’re here. People come in just to see it. It really has its own presence.” CV

Cooper’s on 5th
227 5th St.
West Des Moines
(515) 255-9895
Hours: Tues.-Sat. 4-11 p.m.; Sat., Sun. 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Happy Hour: Tues.-Fri. 4-6 p.m.; Tues.-Thurs. 9 p.m. to close
Capacity: 50

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