Full Court (Im)Press: Restaurant Group Crushing It in Tough Times

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capitalcityguy

Well-Known Member
Jun 14, 2007
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Des Moines
I thought this was an interesting story by Andy Fales on the Full Court Press guys...e.g....Royal Mile, Fong's. El Bait Shop, etc. etc.etc. They have definitely made their mark on the metro DSM restaurant/bar scene.

I can remember when they opened the Royal Mile at the time when 4th St just off of Court Avenue was a sleepy, sketchy downtown street. It was definitely a risk.

At that time, the majority of people would got out west to hit bars for the weekend (e.g....86th St in Clive). These guys played a big part in turning the tide to people gravitating towards spending entertainment dollars downtown. .

Here is link to his story (with video):

https://whotv.com/news/special-repo...des-moines-most-popular-bars-and-restaurants/
 

cyclonpediaJoe

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Jun 27, 2012
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I believe that was right around the time Johnnys remodeled too. Downtown was a rough place for a long time. When Bait Shop and High Life came around, they became destinations. The last real rough bar I can remember down there was the building before it was Barcadium. They do a nice job having events and each bar/restaurant feels like it's own individual place.
 

NorthCyd

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Aug 22, 2011
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Bruno has talked several times on KXNO about how touch and go it was when the Royal Mile first opened up. Some pretty funny stories he's told about the early days.
 
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dmclone

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I've been all over the world and have visited 100's of breweries/bars. I've never seen anything like what they've done anywhere. Some of their creations have been duds, which is to be expected but overall they kill it. I've been to places like Torst, Blind Tiger Ale House, Burnhearts, Hamilton's Tavern, Happy Gnome (Closed), Hopleaf, Toronado, Tiger! Tiger!, Aces and Ales, etc. and while all them are great, I still think the El Bait Shop/High Life is my favorite of the group. Then you forget about the hidden gems they have like the Red Monk, which is mind blowing.
 
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capitalcityguy

Well-Known Member
Jun 14, 2007
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Des Moines
Bruno has talked several times on KXNO about how touch and go it was when the Royal Mile first opened up. Some pretty funny stories he's told about the early days.
Yeah....I heard that too. I think he said a few months after opening their revenues dropped by half or something. I do remember at first they tried to be authentic to British Pubs and only served food upstairs. I"m guessing once they relented on that and allowed food services in the entire place, things turned around from there.
 

capitalcityguy

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Jun 14, 2007
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I still think the El Bait Shop/High Life is my favorite of the group. Then you forget about the hidden gems they have like the Red Monk, which is mind blowing.
I think the Royal Mile will always be my favorite. Just so well done. Love the atmosphere.

I think that is why Skol was disappointing to me. Everything about the decor seemed half assed whereas the Mile it seemed like they worked to get every nook and cranny perfect.

Looking at their lineup, here is how I'd probably rank them:

1) Royal Mile
2) Red Monk
3) Fong's (downtown)
4) Hessan Haus
5) Truman's
6) Iowa Tap Room
7) High LIfe
8) El Bait Shop
9) Buzzard Billys


Never been to The Library but guessing I"d enjoy it as I like the smaller venues in general. Love that they have more taps than actual places to sit.

Fong's on Forest Ave (Drake) is more just quick slices I believe (haven't been their either) and haven't been to the Prairie Trail location (Ankeny) either.

Am I missing any?
 
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Halincandenza

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Oct 24, 2018
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I think the Royal Mile will always be my favorite. Just so well done. Love the atmosphere.

I think that is why Skol was disappointing to me. Everything about the decor seemed half assed whereas the Mile it seemed like they worked to get every nook and cranny perfect.
Mile has always been my favorite. Started going there not long after it opened.
 
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capitalcityguy

Well-Known Member
Jun 14, 2007
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Des Moines
I believe that was right around the time Johnnys remodeled too. Downtown was a rough place for a long time. When Bait Shop and High Life came around, they became destinations. The last real rough bar I can remember down there was the building before it was Barcadium. They do a nice job having events and each bar/restaurant feels like it's own individual place.
Actually, I don't think that occurred until maybe 5 or 6 yrs later.

They were truly pioneers in the wilderness.

Back then Baldwin (who is now heavily invested in downtown establishments) was making a killing with Drink and other bars out in Clive, these guys were bucking the trend well before it was the thing to do.
 

dmclone

Well-Known Member
Oct 20, 2006
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I think the Royal Mile will always be my favorite. Just so well done. Love the atmosphere.

I think that is why Skol was disappointing to me. Everything about the decor seemed half assed whereas the Mile it seemed like they worked to get every nook and cranny perfect.

Looking at their lineup, here is how I'd probably rank them:

1) Royal Mile
2) Red Monk
3) Fong's (downtown)
4) Hessan Haus
5) Truman's
6) Iowa Tap Room
7) High LIfe
8) El Bait Shop
9) Buzzard Billys (Really like Buzzard Billy's when it was in the basement)


Never been to The Library but guessing I"d enjoy it as I like the smaller venues in general. Love that they have more taps than actual places to sit.

Fong's on Forest Ave (Drake) is more just quick slices I believe (haven't been their either) and haven't been to the Prairie Trail location (Ankeny) either.

Am I missing any?
My list would be

1)El Bait Shop
2) Red Monk
3)Iowa Tap Room
4)Fong's (downtown)
5)Royal Mile
6)High Life
7)Hessan Haus
8)Library
Big drop off
9)Trumans
10)Fongs Ankeny (great happy hour)
11)The Chicken
12)Buzzard Billy's
 

capitalcityguy

Well-Known Member
Jun 14, 2007
8,326
2,106
113
Des Moines
My list would be

1)El Bait Shop
2) Red Monk
3)Iowa Tap Room
4)Fong's (downtown)
5)Royal Mile
6)High Life
7)Hessan Haus
8)Library
Big drop off
9)Trumans
10)Fongs Ankeny (great happy hour)
11)The Chicken
12)Buzzard Billy's
I forgot about The Chicken! I like that because it is on the Great Western Bike Trail. Not sure I'd ever have reason to drive to it though. Good place.
 

Halincandenza

Well-Known Member
Oct 24, 2018
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My list would be

1)El Bait Shop
2) Red Monk
3)Iowa Tap Room
4)Fong's (downtown)
5)Royal Mile
6)High Life
7)Hessan Haus
8)Library
Big drop off
9)Trumans
10)Fongs Ankeny (great happy hour)
11)The Chicken
12)Buzzard Billy's
I don't think I have been to Buzzard Billy's since it moved.... that was a long time ago.
 

NorthCyd

Well-Known Member
Aug 22, 2011
8,416
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113
I think the Royal Mile will always be my favorite. Just so well done. Love the atmosphere.

I think that is why Skol was disappointing to me. Everything about the decor seemed half assed whereas the Mile it seemed like they worked to get every nook and cranny perfect.

Looking at their lineup, here is how I'd probably rank them:

1) Royal Mile
2) Red Monk
3) Fong's (downtown)
4) Hessan Haus
5) Truman's
6) Iowa Tap Room
7) High LIfe
8) El Bait Shop
9) Buzzard Billys


Never been to The Library but guessing I"d enjoy it as I like the smaller venues in general. Love that they have more taps than actual places to sit.

Fong's on Forest Ave (Drake) is more just quick slices I believe (haven't been their either) and haven't been to the Prairie Trail location (Ankeny) either.

Am I missing any?
I don't think they own it anymore but I'm pretty sure they opened Mullets.
 

capitalcityguy

Well-Known Member
Jun 14, 2007
8,326
2,106
113
Des Moines
I don't think they own it anymore but I'm pretty sure they opened Mullets.
Yes, they sold Mullets. Not sure of the reasoning. I do remember when they opened it it was in partnership with a few long term employees. Maybe the employees eventual bought them out?
 

Cybyassociation

Well-Known Member
Mar 5, 2008
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Former FCP employee here, still kinda in the bullpen for when they need me, but for the most part I've hung up my bartender's towel.

My 7+ years working for FCP were some of the best employment years of my life. Each establishment truly has its own culture and identity. The friendships I made, the connections I made in the industry...they're immeasurable. I wish Andy would have covered that side of FCP as well, how well they take care of their employees. I'd say most service industry jobs require you to have a pretty close knit group to maintain success, but the fact that FCP has maintained that success for so long and over a diverse collection of establishments makes it even more impressive.

Also, management and ownership at FCP are relentless workers. They're passionate about what they're doing and they're not just in it for money. They truly care about Des Moines and they really care about making downtown better.

Obviously, I don't know everything about the ins and the outs of all of FCP's establishments, but if anyone has questions about el Bait Shop, let me know!

Here are some of the most common questions I'd get when behind the bar:

Do you serve Bud Light?
Yup. It's the most popular beer on the Bait Shop wall. Keeping the price of BL higher than most other establishments allows Bait to keep the costs down on their other beers.

Have you tried every beer on the wall!?
No, but during my time there, I probably could have told you about each beer on the wall. Beers rotate sometimes multiple times a week, so it would be pretty difficult to try all of the beers on the wall at a particular moment.

Certainly those beers sit for awhile, right? There's no way you go through enough beer to keep it all fresh!
Most of the kegs behind the wall are 1/6 barrels which is right around 60 pints, or right around 90 10oz glasses. Depending on the time of year, they can go through 50+ kegs a week. The beer lines are cleaned regularly, so you're always getting what you should be tasting. If you've ever been to a bar that doesn't usually serve craft beer, but they've got it on draft and it tastes different, it's probably because they've either got dirty lines or the beer's been hanging out in that line for awhile.

How can you find a beer on the wall with so many different beers!?
Most of the wall is grouped by brewery, however, some of the wall is organized by popularity. More popular beers are closer to the server station. Once you get used to the system, it's pretty easy to figure things out. I haven't been behind the bar in about 8 months, but I bet if I got back there tonight, I could have it down within the hour.

What's the best beer on the wall!?
The best beer is the one in front of you. It irked me when people asked me what my favorite beer was. There are so many different styles of beer, everyone has different tastes, everyone has different palates. Being said though, if a customer gave me an idea of what type of beer they usually enjoy, I could find them something either comparable, or something new I thought they'd enjoy.
 

capitalcityguy

Well-Known Member
Jun 14, 2007
8,326
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Des Moines
on a tangent - one group not "crushing it" is Granite City Brewery. It appears their Clive location is now closed. (a bit odd as Famous Dave's just bought this small chain). Used to be quite the hopping spot not that many yrs back.
 
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capitalcityguy

Well-Known Member
Jun 14, 2007
8,326
2,106
113
Des Moines
Do you serve Bud Light?
Yup. It's the most popular beer on the Bait Shop wall. Keeping the price of BL higher than most other establishments allows Bait to keep the costs down on their other beers.
Thanks for your rundown on FCP. That was very interesting.

That said, this revelation is jaw dropping to me. I do like craft beers, but I"m also not a beer snob and will drink BL IF there are no other choices. It blows my mind that people would be so conservative and unadventurous that they'd see that beer selection on the wall and choose BL. It seems almost like it would be embarrassing to order it here.
 

dawgpound

Billy the Barnstormer
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Jun 18, 2011
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on a tangent - one group not "crushing it" is Granite City Brewery. It appears their Clive location is now closed. (a bit odd as Famous Dave's just bought this small chain). Used to be quite the hopping spot not than many yrs back.
Did a quick google search and looks like a few of these closed in the midwest. I personally was never a fan of that place but kind of surprised it closed
 

cyclonespiker33

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Did a quick google search and looks like a few of these closed in the midwest. I personally was never a fan of that place but kind of surprised it closed
I believe Granite City declared bankruptcy a few months ago, so it's not surprising the Clive location is closing.
 
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CYdTracked

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Mar 23, 2006
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on a tangent - one group not "crushing it" is Granite City Brewery. It appears their Clive location is now closed. (a bit odd as Famous Dave's just bought this small chain). Used to be quite the hopping spot not that many yrs back.
Granite City filed for bankruptcy in December. Famous Dave's just purchased them in February but Famous Dave's isn't exactly in the best financial standing either and appears to have some operational issues going on as well. I noticed the Famous Dave's on Merle Hay is sitting empty and just did a Google search on that and apparently it closed back in 2017 so that tells you how often I've been in that area I guess