We don’t love dive bars because they have old booths with stuffing coming out of them, or because our shoes stick to their floors.
We love our dive bars because they are dependable and unchanging.
We love our dives because theydon’t get any worse or better.
The best dives don’t judge, they just serve.
This is the vibe cultivated and embraced by Mikey Sorboro and his team in their first foray into bar business at Oddfellows, now open adjacent to the original Late Nite Slice shack in the Short North.
The old road sign marquee inside the “ultra” dive bar belies the attitude: “Finally, a shitty place to drink in the Short North.”
But, this place is anything but shitty.
Like a drunkard’s moon, the sign overlooks hand-stitched leather seats, expansive outward opening windows, a 1940s Beerador cooler that looks like it could freeze Joan Rivers, and dramatic black and white Parisian style wallpaper.
From the moment you walk in, the ambiance conveys painstaking attention to detail and a desire to have those details act as conversation starters.
Case in point: Sorboro and business partner Bryce Ungerott purchased an astonishing Brunswick back bar from 1908 at Wooden Nickel Antiques in Cincinnati.
“It had the original delivery date and location, which was an old saloon in Oklahoma City called The Turf Exchange, delivered May 19, 1908,” Sorboro said. “It’s perfect.”
And it is perfect, especially because there was literally a “turf exchange” as this piece of art and history has traveled in time to live in the original Independent Order of the Odd Fellows building.
“‘Odd fellows were a group of ‘common men’ who came together for the betterment of their social situations,” Sorboro said. (“Betterment” is old-timey for “let’s get drunk,” and “social situations” isgentleman speak for “FML”).
There are pleasantly odd touches everywhere, like Moses the Moosehead, or the unexplained class photo of a young Asian man, but the decor isn’t “common,” by any means. And neither is the food and drink.
In fact, I’ve been having romantic dreams about the Negroni Slushy they serve up, its ruby redness spinning around and around hypnotically. And I hate frozen alcohol. Blenders are what gave daiquiris a bad name in the first place…not to mention frozen drinks are often watered down by all the ice. That’s not the case with Oddfellows’ Negroni. Campari, sweet vermouth, and gin all come through loud and clear in one harmonious ice dance.
By loud and clear, I mean it’s frickin’ strong, and like all the other cocktails, it’s only $7 – a three- to five-dollar savings from what you usually pay for a specialty drink around town. With such a savings, it’s a good thing you can’t drink it fast on account of the ice-y booze blast to your brain.
Another cocktail that wants to be serious but refuses to wipe that stupid smirk off its face is Oddfellows’ take on a Manhattan. Just when you think, I’m a grown up. I ordered a Manhattan. Only grown ups order such a swanky drink, that’s when the chocolate bitters comes through, saying, Not so fast! Now, order me a PB&J, little tike.
Which you can do at this bar! They have peanut butter and jelly sushi.I mean…
It’s not actually sushi; that would be odd. It’s a roll-up made to look like sushi, and it’s adorable, again putting a juvenile touch on an adult item that often takes itself too seriously.
It’s this sense of humor that drives Mikey’s company and branding, that self-deprecating horsing around that makes everything approachable and feel like home without compromising quality. Their pizza empire, with its tongue-in-cheek pay/eat/leave ethos, works in a similar fashion.
Take the bar’s side-by-side sinks outside the bathrooms. Is this Sorboro’s purposeful touch of “shittiness,” or a fun spin on a construction challenge?
“We put so much time and effort into making both the men’s and woman’s bathrooms an elegant and magical place to whiz, why mess them up with sinks,” Sorboro explained.
See what I mean? The guy wants whizzing to be magical and elegant. Again, juvenile and lovely all at the same time.
With so many beautiful and unique pieces to ponder, people might wonder where the “dive” is in this dive bar. Especially those who believe places only become dives after years of wear and tear.
“If this bar opened 30 years ago,” Sorboro said, “or 30 years from now…I don’t think it could get any worse!”
Oddfellows Liquor Bar
1038 N High St.