Once upon a time, the Old Lincoln Highway was just about the best, safest way to get from the East Coast to the West Coast with as little fuss as possible. From 1913 to 1952, one could drive from New York City to San Francisco at top speeds, like 50 mph. This future scenic byway had notorious stretches that were deadly narrow and full of tight corners.

It’s a place not all like the darkest scene from “The Great Gatsby.” The landmarks along the highway point to more pleasant memories, and many of those landmarks are still living, operational businesses — the kind that have served multiple generations. One such business is The Mile Away Hall & Tavern just north of Council Bluffs.

The Mile Away Hall is an old roadhouse and dance hall. Memories linger here like happy ghosts. The term Mile Away refers to the stretch of Old Lincoln Highway where the hall sits. It’s about a mile from Council Bluffs. Another popular theory is that The Mile Away marks the beginning of a straight, milelong length of highway where breakneck speeds could be reached by amateur auto racers.

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I would not count myself as a frequent customer of the Mile Away over the decades, but perhaps most people in the Council Bluffs area have been to at least one wedding reception, bar mitzvah, private show, wake or reunion in The Mile Away’s oldest and most prominent feature, its rental hall. The hall has been overhauled more than a few times over the years and is a pretty modern space today, suitable for a couple of hundred people. The outdoor patio is an attached deck suitable for lounging in its own right. The hall is available on Saturdays for $400.

The Tavern was added around 2002 to help preserve the hall when rentals weren’t covering the bills. The bar has become a feature in its own right, with your basic domestic taps and a good assortment of bottles and cans, including Guinness, Angry Orchard, Leinenkugel’s, Boulevard, Dos Equis, Rebel IPA, Corona, Blue Moon and a few hard sodas.

During my visit, I had a Not Your Father’s Mountain Ale, a delicious not-entirely-unlike Mountain Dew drink. The tavern is kid-friendly as well, and the kitchen serves up all your bar-favorite burgers, sandwiches, pizza, wings and other appetizers.


A sand volleyball court at The Mile Away Hall & Tavern.

If you’re not like me, you enjoy vigorous physical activity outside when the sun is shining. Since most people do like the sun, there are two sand volleyball courts out back. They are large, well-lit and well-maintained. There’s even a high-perched referee chair to make sure those league calls are as objective as possible. There’s a window to the indoor bar in the back of the upstairs hall. League nights are Wednesdays and Fridays. Sign up in person or on the website.

Happy hour, from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, features $1 off bottles, cans and mixed drinks.

Hope to see you there.

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