The Hall at the Foundry in Valley Junction is unlike anything else in Iowa.
In fact, you might be hard pressed to find anything else like it in one of our 49 other states, too.
Valley Junction's (the "historic" part of West Des Moines) history tracks closely with the expansion of railroads and railways in our state. For years, I have driven on Railroad Avenue between the building now known as the The Foundry and the business district of historic Valley Junction and have always wondered what this large building was used for. I knew it was an historic building with a long history in the rail industry, but then about 15 months ago... I read a story in the Des Moines Register that got me very excited about it's future.
Local developers were planning to renovate and re-purpose this historic building into three big elements collectively as The Foundry: a beer hall, a distillery, and a non-profit commissary kitchen that could be used to help homeless youths as well as food trucks.
Fast forward a number of months from the initial announcement, and not only is The Hall at The Foundry open for business but it has become a very popular addition to the entertainment, beer, and culinary scene in the Des Moines metro. The Des Moines Register ran another story when it opened.
Since this place is only about 10 minutes from where I live, I've visited several times already. It's a place where you can visit for many different reasons: attend an event, bring a date, host a professional meeting, or watch the game with friends. To date, I've met there for a professional meeting, met there with friends, enjoyed food there once with my brother, took in a Pecha Kucha night of presentations, and even stopped by a holiday vendor market.
The Foundry is obviously a building of significant size. There is still work being done on it. While the beer hall is done, there is still work being done on the distillery as well as the kitchen part of the business. Additionally, other outside elements, like a patio, are still in the works. There is ample parking to accommodate the increasing amount of traffic.
There were several food trucks (not in use at the time) outside the end of the facility that will be used as the kitchen.
Inside The Hall at the Foundry, most everything has a tie back to it's railroad history. You are greeted by some absolutely fascinating murals, whose symbols teach you a lot about "life" and "communication" on the rails.
Once inside, you see why this place is truly unique and certainly different from anything else that might be in the state. There is a bar area where you can sit but otherwise, it is one long table after another with bench seating.
You can order food to go along with your beverages from any number of rotating food trucks. Instead of ordering directly from the food truck's window, you order from ipad kiosks and then your food is cooked to order. On this particular evening, there was only one food truck, Curbin' Cuisine, providing food.
Below, several women are waiting in line to put in their order on one of a couple of ipads. Further down, you can see a larger crowd of people eager to order.
Here's an example of how the ipads display the menu.
Once you have placed your order, your name goes up on the big screens above the bar. You can see which meals are being cooked which are ready for pick-up.
Once the food is ready, you go pick it up from a counter area near where you ordered it.
On this particular evening, my brother ordered a wrap with some french fries and I ordered some chicken. Mine was delicious and I recall my brother enjoyed his as well.
They have servers who will come around and get your drink menu or you can order at the bar. The bar menu is continually changing and they put all the various options on the big screens above the bar. Literally, I think there were over 60 different beer options on the menu on the particular night I was there.
This is definitely designed to be a place to "hang out" and there was a stack of table games as well as some other pub games, such as this life-size version of Connect 4.
There is some other more casual seating as well, though most of the seating is the long tables with benches.
There are a couple of other unique elements to the space that are notable. Near the bar, you can look through a glass window in the floor that shows you some of the historic bricks and rails.
There's also an orange shipping container behind the bar, which is where all of the kegs are kept. They put in literally dozens of taps into the container.
I do not think I can do justice to the magnitude of this place nor give you a real encompassing version of the history or future of this place. I would highly encourage you to visit their "story" page on the website to learn more. Obviously, also visit their Facebook page to stay up to date on upcoming events. I noticed they have an old fashioned hymn sing scheduled for sometime in July. That seems like it could be fun.
I look forward to future visits to the Foundry, especially once they get the other facets of the place up and running. It is a great addition to the Des Moines culinary and entertainment scene. Next time you are in the capital city, add this place to your list of possible visits.