Short North Columbus

Columbus, Ohio

Finding a dive bar gem in a high-end spot like the Short North is challenging but worth the hunt.
Beck Tavern - Columbus Dive Bar - Interior
In many ways, Columbus’ Short North district is the city’s nightlife gem, a long and increasingly interwoven string of upscale bars and restaurants lining one of Columbus’ most attractive stretches of urban living. But with notoriety comes redevelopment, the Short North gradually overtaken by upscale chains, high-dollar restaurants and mixology-focused cocktail spots.

But of course, there are gems to be found here, many of them predating the area’s surge in popularity, resisting renovation in favor of the type of authenticity that serves as a needed counterpoint to some of the high-grade pretention found nearby. This bar crawl serves as a suggested alternative view of the Short North, a string of businesses and bars that fly just under the tapas restaurant/martini bar radar.

Crawl Map

All Stops

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The Stops

1. Char Bar

439 N High St, Columbus, OH 43215
Google Map
(614) 225-9439

Starting a bar crawl at Columbus’ most haunted dive bar may be a risky proposition, but the city’s strongest Long Islands will no doubt suppress any associated anxiety. Opened in 1847 as a funeral parlor, Char Bar looks its age, a vintage tin roof capping red carpet and ancient walls. It so happens that the building was constructed atop Columbus’ Old North Graveyard and though bodies were exhumed and relocated in the 1880s, not every body was found.

Workers over the years have reported a black, hooded spectre found in the basement where the bar’s bathrooms and a totally-not-creepy-at-all defunct piano can be found. The basement also serves as what was once street level in Columbus before time and progress piled on top of each other. The Long Islands here are no joke and are logically either the cause of or remedy to dive bar ghost sightings.

2. Sacred Palm

457 N High St, Columbus, OH 43215
Google Map
(614) 869-0249
Web Site Link

Shaking off the ghost of Char Bar, Sacred Palm is the password-required speakeasy that exists in what looks to be a large beer cooler in the Mikey’s Late Night Slice basement just north of Char Bar. While the concept is basement speakeasy, the drink selection leans toward tiki drinks, an intriguing pair to the thin, floppy-style pizza served overhead. Sacred Palm is only open select hours a bit later in the evening, so be sure to time your visit appropriately. The small space can become crowded quickly, a wait sometimes forming for the privilege of passing refrigerated condiments to get inside.

3. Big Fun

672 N High St, Columbus, OH 43215
Google Map
(614) 228-8697
Web Site Link

Big Fun Columbus provides a break in the drinking action, a perfect time to marvel at the sometimes eye-popping prices for toys you no doubt played with and discarded as a child. Part toy museum and full-time retail temptation, Big Fun stocks vintage action figures, dolls, games and everything between, every possible fandom represented here. Star Wars, GI Joe, Simpsons, Transformers and everything in between can be found in the densely-packed, hole-in-the-wall retail space.

4. Short North Tavern

674 N High St, Columbus, OH 43215
Google Map
(614) 221-2432

From here, the Short North can quickly transition into expensive, upscale drinking and dining options, making original Short North tenant Short North Tavern a welcome spot. The first business to use the term ‘Short North’ in its name, the Columbus dive bar opened in 1981 at a time when its stretch of downtown Columbus was considerably rougher. The area’s art heritage aided Short North Tavern’s early growth, a component still seen today in the rotating set of local art displayed on the bar’s main wall. Built-in wooden booths provide the bar’s best seating options, though they fill up quickly on weekend evenings.

5. Mike's Grill

724 N High St, Columbus, OH 43215
Google Map
(614) 291-9441

To put it clearly, Mike’s Grill is as divey as it gets in the Short North, a dive bar that has refused renovation of any major degree in favor of a bare bones, no-frills experience in a part of town that today specializes in considerably more pretentious offerings. Not often can a 40-ounce King Cobra be found at most dive bars, but at Mike’s Grill it is but one of multiple 40-ounce selections on offer. Happy hour at this cash-only Columbus institution is aggressive, selling $2 domestics a few doors down from some of the trendiest restaurants in Columbus.

6. Press Grill

741 N High St, Columbus, OH 43215
Google Map
(614) 298-1014
Web Site Link

Press Grill is another Short North original, the long, narrow diner a largely unchanged experience as redevelopment has engulfed its immediate surroundings. Crucially for the area, the Press Grill kitchen stays open until 1 AM, the kind of good food lifeline that can save a night (or a bar crawl). A full bar is available as well, of course, but the signature offerings here are all culinary, from the meatloaf sandwich to the Thursday night special, a full Thanksgiving dinner complete with turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes. For those looking for a little bar crawl fuel, the loaded cottage fries are highly recommended.

7. Half Baked

765 N High St, Columbus, OH 43215
Google Map
(614) 670-4020
Web Site Link

The Short North benefits from alternative experiences to break up the high-end restaurants that have swarmed the area, Half Baked one such beneficial recent addition. Half Baked combines graffiti, skater culture and a brewery fueled by unusual flavor combination, all of it crammed into a small High Street location. Though beer varieties rotate, past drink options have included a Snickers-themed stout and something called Fight Milk, a “boozy white hot cocoa.” Local art can be seen throughout the space, Half Baked routinely donating a portion of the bar’s proceeds to local arts charities.

8. Local Bar

913 N High St, Columbus, OH 43201
Google Map
(614) 824-2728

Behind one of the few parking lots in the Short North that runs along High Street, Local Bar can sometimes be overlooked nestled in the corner of a small strip mall. In keeping with the theme of this bar crawl, Local Bar pre-exists some of the trendier gentrification that has taken place in the Short North, the hipster-friendly spot long a sticker-covered, art-covered destination. The beer selection here is extensive, the surroundings eclectic and the vibe a few degrees more laid back than the Short North standard.

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Old North Columbus

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