During the seasons when Columbus basks in warm, sunny weather, (614) explores patios of all breeds. We do research in the field, visiting three in one night each month – a snapshot of these outdoor havens of drink and community. We hope you enjoy it.
Bar 23 584 N High St.
I’m sitting at Bar 23 waiting for Emily, a patio aficionado and my coconspirator on this tour of the Short North, which has undergone the most drastic and complete facelift of any Columbus neighborhood during the past generation.
“Thanks for inviting me on the hottest day of the year,” she says as she sits down at the table. The sun bakes Bar 23’s patio, which overlooks the breadth of humanity strolling through the Cap, a mixture of white collars, dirty shoes, and everything in between, everyone’s faces glistening. The long, spacious veranda faces across High Street toward its classically inspired architectural brethren at Hyde Park and Eleven. The row of cream-colored pillars gives the impression of drinking at an ancient Greek temple, like two monuments from antiquity arose from beneath a Midwestern metropolis.
For martini-lovers, the bar has one of the best happy hours in the city – half-off from 4 – 9 p.m. every day. I sip my Lake Erie Monster Double IPA; Emily asks if I’ll drink that at the next stop. Probably not.
“The inconsistencies here are ridiculous,” she says, kidding about my questionable journalistic technique while also pointing out that Thursday would have been a better, busier evening for our excursion than this one, a Wednesday. I shrug; today’s weather forecast was better.
Over at Eleven a band strikes up – brushstroke drums, tinkling piano, saxophone bluster – and three people from inside Bar 23 join us on the patio to take in the unexpected free concert for the well-heeled patrons lounging across the street. Perfect exit music.
Mike’s Grill 724 N High St.
On the other end of the spectrum, Mike’s Grill, the last remaining soldier of the old guard Short North, a stodgy but welcoming place where the smell of its wild decades lingers in the air. The patio rests behind the building through an unmarked door that could be an exit, a bathroom, a cellar, or a trap.
Once outside, the space extends all the way to the rear door of a home, creating the atmosphere of an open-invitation backyard barbeque without a grill, despite the bar’s name. The red-brown mulch is fresh, but the barbed wire around the top of the fence sends a mixed message.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen gutters on a patio,” Emily says, eyeing the twin metal ducts slanting down from the roof into the ground. Two tables nearby are filled with the usual suspects who historically populate Mike’s – blue collars who have frequented forever and often leave their sleeves at home. Their discussions are free-flowing and more than a little entertaining. “I poured Jack Daniel’s on skinned knees once,” says a guy behind me. “I do that a lot.” One of the group members mentions something about the game “cornhole,” but another hears “porno” and a rollicking back and forth commences.
“Can you imagine if you lived above here?” Emily asks. “The conversations you’d hear all the time?” That alone would be worth rent, even at the post-revival rates it probably garners.
Bakersfield 733 N High St.
Just across the street lies our final destination, Bakersfield, which entered the Short North scene last fall. A server guides us outside and leaves us with menus and two squeeze bottles of salsa. The patio extends along Buttles and offers plenty of room for open-air boozing by eschewing tables and chairs in favor of a large wooden railing with waist-high ledges where drinkers congregate.
It exists at a nexus of the Short North, the shopping, dining, and drinking scenes all converging, framed by Mike’s in one direction and the manicured edges of Goodale Park in the other. The people-watching here is at a premium – passersby include young families pushing brightly colored carriages, hipsters out for a (presumably ironic) stroll, and lost wanderers stumbling past a bus stop. Emily enjoys creating back stories for them all.
The server returns and the $2 PBR is tempting, but instead I opt for a Lone Star while she chooses a margarita in a mason jar. There are about a dozen people drinking and enjoying the breeze when a man walks by and says, “You can feel the temperature dropping.” Sure enough, a swarm of angry gray thunderheads has gathered above, and we move inside just as the sky opens up.
Luckily Bakersfield is accommodating enough to provide shelter, guacamole, and delicious tacos as we watch the deluge flood the Short North, washing over residents new and old, driving visitors back to their respective corners of the city.