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Poncho’s Friendly Confines is a keeper

11/1/2023

Take a drive to Waukee and you will find a sea of new construction with tower cranes, steel structures and the latest, greatest car wash popping up in this bustling suburb.

Along the everchanging Hickman Road is a small bar in a strip mall, a former home to several establishments over the decades.

This newest venture is a keeper. Poncho’s Friendly Confines, located at 292 Hickman Road, was established by Poncho himself five years ago.

The joint is a clean, average-size bar. The décor includes a variety of Chicago Cubs memorabilia, Major League Baseball pennants and other sports references. It’s not necessarily a sports bar, as the TV was off when live music played.

On a Thursday evening, the place was packed. Live music by Jesse and The Medicine Men provided classic country music, complete with Jesse’s deep baritone.

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Tables were pushed together so dancers could do the two-step or march out a few line dances. Jesse plays most Thursdays until the end of 2023. Other music is occasionally offered.

After giving the order, the bartender reached for the bottle opener in her back pocket. You won’t see craft cocktails being poured into stainless steel shakers. Instead, you’ll get a basic, stiff drink. Think Jack and Coke, vodka cranberry, a beer bottle or draft, or a Fireball shooter. All at reasonable prices.

The house vodka, Blue Ox, is distilled right here in Iowa and was available for about $4. The glasses are unique. Remember when you moved into your first apartment, and all you owned was a set of mismatched glasses? It’s kind of like that, with drinks served in a red cup or a golfclub rocks glass.

Happy hour from Monday through Friday, 5-7 p.m., gets you 50 cents off every drink. Or hit a weekday special for $1 off on Rumday Mondays, Tequila Tuesdays, Whiskey Wednesdays, Thirsty Thursday (beer) and Freaky Fridays on vodka drinks. Funday Sundays net you $5 well bloody marys or mimosas. A dart tournament takes place on Saturdays.

Food freebies include popcorn and hot dogs with the fixins, which begs the question —  how long does it take to cook a dog on a roller? 

There’s no other food except a couple bagged snacks. Patrons can bring in their own grub or hop over to one of the two pizza places on the strip.

Step up to the home plate on the floor — so you know exactly where to stand to get your drink at the bar. If it’s nice weather, have a seat out on the patio.

Poncho, a bearded man with a small stature, was quietly in the background, sweeping up popcorn crumbs, stocking beer bottles and putting weenies on the roller. Poncho said it was his dream since he was 15 years old to own a bar. After working 37 years at Adams Door, he finally retired, opening his bar five years ago. And, yes, Poncho lives up to his friendly name; he might even tell you a joke.

Experts say, to get out of your comfort zone and shake things up, try someplace different. Poncho’s in Waukee fits the bill. ♦

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