The Standard Martini Bar recently opened in the Court Avenue District in a large location between the Kamodo Klub and Mickey’s Irish Pub on 3rd Street just north of Court Avenue. It is obvious that the owners are looking for an alternative to the usual cheap beer and vodka bars that line Court Avenue. Everything from the upscale decor to the blues and jazz bands that regularly play suggests that this is a departure. The contemporary and sophisticated decor is mostly new from the best-forgotten establishment that preceded The Standard, with indirect lighting, industrial-style lamps, dark polished wood and stacked stone columns and accents. The stage is large enough for a four or even five-piece band to set up and I’m told that even larger groups have played. While jazz and light Blues are played during the early evening, some louder music arrives as the night wears on. The demographic is mostly young professionals with some older types looking for both good music and drinks.
The drinks. The Standard offers a large variety of martinis and cocktails ranging from fruit-based drinks to classics like the sidecar, old fashioned, Manhattan, Sazerac, and some cream-based drinks. Because we visited not long after opening, the mix recipe changed as the bartenders changed — we got one Nesquik Dirty Sunday that was substantially different than one ordered a few minutes earlier, missing the graham-cracker rim and chocolate-treated glass. But this is to be expected when a place first opens. The Americana had its share of minor drink issues when it first opened, though a lack of wait staff was definitely not one of its issues. The manager for The Standard appeared to be all over the crowd making sure that everything was running smoothly, so I think that they will eventually get things ironed out. I’m told that he ran the bar at 801 Grand, so I’d expect nothing less. The place was slightly understaffed the night we visited, though that is perhaps because the crowd was larger than anticipated. I have no idea how large the crowds will be while everyone cashes in their Living Social coupons over the next few months. The number of coupon buyers was up to around 550 coupons when I last checked.
There is a wide variety of different flavored vodkas on the shelf and one or two of each of the usual required spirits. Some of the favorites asked for by our group were not available, but there were also some unusual offerings as well. The Standard seemed to have a large variety of special ingredients for cocktails and martinis, so I think they should be able to make just about anything that could be ordered even it they don’t have your favorite vodka or gin. The bar also features a large selection of major label beers, but not really many micro brews other than Peacetree blonde and Red Rambler. On the night we visited, the drinks being ordered were split evenly between beer and hard liquor. One table in particular was definitely working its way through the cocktails and martinis and seemed to be having a blast. I have to hand it to anybody opening up a martini bar in the Court Avenue District. Third Street and the bars on that block have had a long and notorious reputation for unrestricted inebriation. Indeed, when going by a few nights later when it was getting fairly late, a group of young men appeared to be having a contest to see who could shout the loudest and the longest — the typical sort of meaningless alcohol-fueled activity that Court Avenue is famous for. So, if The Standard can keep its chin up and join the ranks of Dos Rios, Court Avenue Brewing, Java Joe’s, Sbrocco, and the Royal Mile, then perhaps there is hope for Court Avenue after all.
We also tried some of the tapas plates that are offered, including the crab cakes and bruschetta. It was very tasty and came to the table fairly quickly.
One final comment. After I make another visit I’ll rework or republish this posting to give my readers an up to date commentary on how The Standard is faring. I really want The Standard to succeed. The downtown area needs classy bars that can serve both the old standards and new drinks. Good luck to The Standard.
The Standard Martini Bar
208 3rd Street
Des Moines, IA 50309