Old North Columbus

Columbus, Ohio

Old North Columbus is easy to overlook with upscale options both north and south, but the dives are potent in this "in between."
Beck Tavern - Columbus Dive Bar - Interior
In Columbus, the Short North district may command the bulk of the city’s nightlife attention, but the Old North gives the renovated downtown area a lowkey run for its money. The area’s orientation just north of Ohio State’s main campus and just south of near-suburb Clintonville makes for an interesting mix of businesses, not-yet-demolished historical buildings and maybe not coincidentally some of the best food in the city.

This particular bar crawl presents a few food options (my prayers are with you if you indulge in barbecue, pizza and an O’Reilly’s Pub Pepper Burger all in one trip) to add a little flexibility to your proceedings. But the sheer variety of entertainment here, from browsing an independent record store to an N64-fueled game of Goldeneye with drink in hand makes for a hard evening to top.

The Stops

1. Records Per Minute

2579 N High St, Columbus, OH 43202
Google Map
(614) 732-0597

There are worse ways to start a bar crawl than a record store appetizer, in this case one of Columbus’ leading independent record stores operating out of a building that once served as one of the grocery stores that launched the Kroger’s grocery store empire. The exposed brick and original archway inside make combing through the ample record inventory all the more interesting, owner Jack Stover always happy to throw a request or two on the turntable that powers the ambient music inside. On occasion, the rolling bins of vinyl in the center of the room are pushed to the side in order to make way for live music on the small stage in the rear of the space.

2. Dirty Dungarees

2586 N High St, Columbus, OH 43202
Google Map
(614) 263-6363

Is Dirty Dungarees the finest drinking establishment in Columbus? No. But it may the finest laundromat-dive bar combination in the city. And this is no ordinary laundromat slash bar, if that’s a thing, Dirty Dungarees offering vintage arcade games and the occasional live music show to create a true one-of-a-kind, hybrid spot to grab a drink. This is a one-drink, say-we-did-it stop before further exploring Columbus’ Old North neighborhood.

3. Old North Arcade

2591 N High St, Columbus, OH 43202
Google Map
Web Site Link

The barcade concept is now a staple format across America, but Old North Arcade rises above its competitors in Columbus, an embarrassment of retro arcade riches distributed across three, history-soaked rooms. Up front, video game consoles are hooked up to mounted televisions, allowing for the recreation of the basement Mario Kart arguments of your childhood. Unique drink offerings, an extensive beer list and a half-off (yes, half-off) happy hour push Old North Arcade above the fray as barcades go.

4. Ledo's Tavern

2608 N High St, Columbus, OH 43202
Google Map
(614) 263-1009
Web Site Link

Columbus’ Old North neighborhood sits just north of a swath of housing catering to Ohio State’s student population, making Ledo’s Tavern a very student-heavy dive bar during most evenings. A handful of renovations over the years have smoothed out a rough edge or two, but the large space still wears its original charm across a three-room footprint. The center of gravity is always the extensive row of dart boards along the bar’s secondary space, darts available to borrow at the bar.

5. Ray Ray's Hog Pit

2619 N High St, Columbus, OH 43202
Google Map
(614) 753-1191
Web Site Link

Ray Ray’s Hog Pit produces the finest barbeque in Columbus across a handful of locations (including one in the parking lot of popular brewery Land Grant), a story that all started at this original location out of a food truck parked behind bar Ace of Cups. Each Ray Ray’s location features a slightly tweaked menu, so plan ahead, but consider visiting on a Sunday when a special grass-fed variety of Ray Ray’s signature brisket is offered. Alcohol is available inside Ace of Cups and picnic tables on the Ace of Cups patio are open for seating.

6. Hounddog's Pizza

2657 N High St, Columbus, OH 43202
Google Map
(614) 261-4686
Web Site Link

An alternative selection to gorging on barbeque at Ray Ray’s, Hounddog’s makes a case for best pizza joint in Columbus, a very college campus-style bar and restaurant. The interior is split into what was once Hounddog’s proper and a neighboring bar, now all one business making for ample space to grab a drink and wait on a pie. The wood paneled interior and built-in booths provide the best experience on the “original” side of Hounddog’s. Be sure to order a Smokin’ Joe’s-style crust no matter the pizza selection, the garlic-soaked crust treatment one of the great food experiences in the city.

7. O'Reilly's Pub

2822 N High St, Columbus, OH 43202
Google Map
(614) 262-6343

A few blocks north, O’Reilly’s Pub provides the perfect atmosphere to end a bar crawl, friendly confines, a divey vibe and a late night menu covering every possible base. The sunken bar and accompanying padded, rolling chairs serve as the best seating option here, though built-in booths in the rear of the space make for good people watching as well. Be sure to seek out the analog jukebox served by CD’s curated by O’Reilly’s Pub workers over the years. The signature offering here is the Pepper Burger, a pepper-crusted patty topped with cheese.

Related Bar Crawls To Explore

Short North

Short North sans pretension.

Ohio State Campus

College without the crippling debt.

German Village

Beer amongst the brick-laid streets.