Quinton's Bar and Deli reopens as two bars, including new speakeasy Alleged Lee's
After almost 10 months of renovations, Quinton's Bar and Deli in Des Moines' East Village has opened its doors to customers once again. But the decade-old sports bar doesn't look like it did in 2020; in fact, half of it isn't even Quinton's anymore.
Owner Brian Rorris decided to split the space at the end of 2020, when managing a 5,000-plus-square-foot restaurant didn’t make sense in a COVID-19-changed dining landscape.
Now, the eastern half of Quinton's has been transformed into Alleged Lee's, a Prohibition-style speakeasy opening in early October. Quinton's reopened on Sept. 16.
The conjoined spaces offer two different experiences, though they have a shared kitchen and bathrooms.
The revamped Quinton's
Updates to Quinton’s include a roof replacement, all-new furniture, a 10-foot television screen, new bathrooms and a new bar.
"We did an actual copper-top (bar), which kind of plays well with the fact that we have our own Quinton's copper beer and we make our own ginger beer for Moscow Mules," Rorris said.
Both Quinton’s and Alleged Lee’s are furnished with garage doors that will allow the spaces to function like open-air patios during warm weather, and each has its own entrance.
Quinton’s maintains its sports bar appearance and features new art of famous musicians, commissioned from artist Jake Jones of TJ Studios in Gypsum, Colorado, alongside murals done by Big Grove Brewery and Exile Brewing.
Alleged Lee's speakeasy style
On the Alleged Lee's side, Rorris captured the Prohibition theme with custom-made booths and wallpaper, dim lighting and artwork that tells the story of that era in Des Moines, and the years before and just after.
A photograph from 1889 shows 10 constables of the Des Moines Searchers and Advance Guard of the Fighting Prohibition Army alongside a pet bloodhound. The infamous 1930s “Thou Shalt Not” photo from Life magazine hang by the bar, showing a woman defying all the rules of the 1930s Hays Production Code meant to ensure wholesomeness in motion pictures. In another shot, a 22-year-old Ronald Reagan beams in front of a WHO Iowa microphone.
But the pièce de résistance is a 1890 Triple-Arch Brunswick backbar that takes up nearly the entire eastern wall. After a year of hunting for an era-appropriate piece, Rorris bought the hand-etched wooden backbar from a seller in Atlanta who said it originally came from Pittsburgh. According to the seller, there are only 10 backbars like it left in the United States.
Quinton’s updates its specials; Alleged Lee’s plans to serve Prohibition cocktails
Both the drink and food menus at Quinton’s are getting a refresh, and the daily specials are all new. Highlights include Happy Hour All Day Thursdays, featuring half-priced drinks and $1 off appetizers, and Parking Ticket Tuesdays — a chance for customers to get 20% off their bill when they show a parking ticket they’ve received in the past 30 days.
Almost every area of the sports bar’s menu has at least one new item to choose from, but all the classic favorites, like the spuds, remain. The Chislic appetizer, a half-pound serving of marinated, cubed and fried beef tenderloin served with horseradish aioli, goes for $11.99. Quinton's has added vegetarian burgers (the Veggie Melt for $10.99 and the Vegano for $13.99) and a number of lamb options, including sliders ($12.99) and a burger with house-made tzatziki (13.99).
Heartier house specialties include the Iowa Po’ Boy, a ciabatta roll stuffed with slow-roasted pulled pork (10.99), and the Smokin’ Mac and Cheese ($12.99), a spicier take on the childhood classic.
After Alleged Lee’s opens, Rorris anticipates adding a shareables menu to complement the extensive liquor and cocktail menu. But in the beginning, the goal is to serve Prohibition-era cocktails — such as the Old Fashioned, Mary Pickford and Corpse Reviver —as well as whiskey flights.
“We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel here,” Rorris said. “Everyone always kind of, you know, wants to come up with the next best thing and it’s like, maybe realize some of the awesome stuff we already have.”
Alleged Lee's joins several neighboring bars specializing in different liquors, like COA Cantina, which has an expansive tequila menu, and Bellhop, which spotlights rum cocktails. Rorris hopes the addition of a whiskey and bourbon bar creates opportunities for customers to experience several bar styles in one night out.
In addition to the renovations to Quinton’s in Des Moines location, a second Cedar Rapids location opened July 15, bringing the total to four in Iowa, including one in and Iowa City. Rorris said the Des Moines caters to a vastly different clientele than the college crowd in Iowa City, and he’s looking forward to inviting customers back in.
“We’re excited to get back open,” he said. “It’s always been one of our favorite markets, and it’s just a fun place to be.”
Quinton's, 506 E. Grand Ave., is open daily from 11 a.m. - 2 a.m., with the kitchen closing at 10 p.m. Alleged Lee's, 510 E. Grand Ave., will be open 4 p.m. - 2 a.m. Monday-Thursday and 2 p.m. - 2 a.m. Friday-Sunday.