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Columbus Food Scene- Bar Hopping

Let’s say you’re itching to get out of town. You only want the best of the best. Sunbathing. Gambling. Paparazzi. But all the flights to Vegas are booked.

Why not consider Columbus, Ohio? Sure there aren’t many paparazzi lurking in the bushes. There’s not a whole lot of beach front for tanning. And as far as gambling goes, well I think the two closest options are Missouri and Cleveland!

But Columbus has a thriving food community and that includes cocktailing. Dive Bars. Craft Beers. Local Spirits. I’m here to suggest bar hopping!

Columbus is a great town for bar hopping. It’s a college town so there are lot of libraries (I mean bars). But it’s also a sophisticated city with quite a culinary reputation. In other words there’s the high-brow and the low-brow. That’s all that’s really required for a great night of bar hopping. Well that and a designated driver. But Columbus is also a town where most everything is centrally located. So cabs are a great option. So is walking. Isn’t this vacation starting to sound better and better?

Well, I’ve recently returned from a vacation in Columbus, Ohio as the guest of Experience Columbus. Guess what? Whenever they weren’t looking I snuck out and went to quite a few bars. Here’s what I think about bar hopping in Columbus.

Barrel 44 Columbus OhioBarrel 44 Whiskey Bar- This great little bar at the furthest reach of the Short North area has made it its mission to prove to the world that whiskey is good and whiskey is good with food. Their bar menu easily proves this point with a collection of small plates, flatbreads, pastas, sandwiches and salads. Which were all designed to highlight a whiskey selection that can reach 100 choices on any given day. There’s a line of boiler makers, tap beer and a full bar to boot. 1120 N High St

Betty's Columbus OhioBetty’s Fine Food & Spirits- Cheeky in a good way. Campy in a fun way. The vintage girlie pin-ups might have lured me in. But the beer menu made me pull up a stool and sit down. Ommegang. Hoof Hearted. Tommy Knocker. Serious craft beer you don’t see everywhere. But from my perch at the bar I could see that a lot of folks came in for the food. It’s a “neighborhood hot spot serving up heaping helpings of Ohio comfort food with extra sides of sass.” 680 N High St

CantinaCantina- Loud. Packed. Young. I suspected I might be having a flashback to college as soon as I entered this bar. It seems to be the spot for the under 30s to meet and mingle. Powerfully potent 32 ounce margaritas in flavors never before seen in Mexico sent me and my half of the over 35 crowd running for the door. But I still had to include this place because it’s obviously a HOT SPOT! The cops park right out front, just to make sure things stay relatively sane. 491 N Park St

Char Bar Columbus OhioChar Bar- This is where we ran off to. It’s a dive bar, a serious dive bar. It’s a good one too. The kind of place that’s been there forever. The kind of place locals protected when neighborhood gentrification threatened. But it still stands and I’m glad. From the basement that’s very likely haunted, to the stiff drinks and the drunks who drink them. This bar has everything I look for and more. Because they also pour great local spirits like WatershedMiddle West. 439 N High St

Curio @ HarvestCurio @ Harvest Pizzeria- It might surprise you, but my favorite bar in Columbus is attached to a pizza place. Which would be less surprising if you also knew that Harvest Pizzeria is A Hot Damn Good Pizza Place. So it’s appropriate it should play co-host to the most creative of cocktail scenes. Quality spirits, unusual bitters and housemade ingredients. These cocktails, whose names will make you smile, come from Travis Owens. He’ll be sharing 3 of his recipes here soon. 495 S 4th St

Double Happiness Columbus OhioDouble Happiness- This energy filled space is geared to the hipsters among us. DJs and late night events make it an easy place to get your groove on. But I was impressed with the Japanese street food menu from fRESHSTREET’s Kenny Kim & Misako Ohba. On my last trip they wowed me with takoyaki (savory balls filled with octopus). But now they’ve branched out with Yakitori, served late nights here at Double Happiness in the Brewery District. 483 S Front St

Hubbard Grille Columbus OhioHubbard Grille- Built in the old Winder’s Chevrolet dealership, this place is really more restaurant than bar. But it has such a friendly vibe I had to include it in my bar hop. It’s the perfect place to meet friends at the bar on one of those evenings when you don’t really know what you want to do. It’s centrally located in the popular Short North section. So whether you stay for dinner or head off on adventure, it’s a great place to start the evening. 793 N High St

Local Bar Columbus OhioLocal Bar- One look at this place and I knew I’d like it. Not because of it’s architecture. Not because of it’s location. It’s situated in what I would call a strip mall. One of the less attractive buildings in an area filled with nicely restored brick storefronts. But its sign beckoned me. Huge, glaring and tacky in a way you just know spells fun.Youngsters, oldsters, work-a-day professionals and professional drinkers mingle happily. The clincher for me: Monday night hermit crab races. 913 N High St

Mouton Columbus OhioMouton- If I owned a bar. This is the bar I’d own. It’s hip, but it’s not pretentious. Everything is of the highest quality, but its not expensive. Craft beer, artisan bread, cured meats and vintage cocktails. It’s not every cocktail menu in the world that includes a classic Aviation. Fewer still who know its properly made with Crème de Violette. But what did you expect? Any bar I owned would certainly know the difference. Oh, wait I don’t own it. 954 N High St

Tip Top ColumbusTip Top- This comes from the same good folks who brought us Betty’s. It’s located downtown and like it’s Short North girlfriend the emphasis seems to be on quality craft beer. Well mostly. There is that first item on the menu, Pabst Blue Ribbon. Let me go on the record here. PBR does not belong on a menu with Brooklyn Summer Ale. I know it’s supposed to be ironic. But it’s not. It’s just plain undrinkable. Phew. I feel better.But don’t let that stop you from dropping by this friendly pub. Say hi for me! 73 E Gay St

GREG