Friendly Stop Bar & Grill

Cincinnati, Ohio

Friendly Stop - Cincinnati Dive Bar - Exterior

Field Rating


out of 10

Burgers, Potato Rags and an avalanche of license plates.

The Basics

985 Congress Ave
Cincinnati, OH 45246


In Short

Inhabiting a structure first constructed in the 1840s, Friendly Stop Bar & Grill can trace its roots as a tavern in northern Cincinnati suburb Glendale back to 1907. The subsequent decades have seen a stint as speakeasy, a fire in 1992 and even a bit of baseball history as Sandy Koufax is said to have signed his first professional contract within the license plate-covered walls of the Friendly Stop.

Field Note

About 20 minutes from downtown Cincinnati, Glendale is one of the many near-suburbs that surround the city packed with local food & drink options. Referred to as the “Cheers” of Glendale by more than one review, Friendly Stop Bar & Grill is Glendale’s dive bar institution, a cross between homestyle diner and locals-heavy watering hole that traces its roots back to the 1840s.

Originally constructed as a home, the space was converted in 1907 to serve as both barbershop and tavern before the business of selling alcohol commanded the full space sometime during the 1920s. Once Prohibition hit, Friendly Stop Bar & Grill functioned as a speakeasy, resuming life as a tavern post-Prohibition. According to the Friendly Stop web site, pitcher Sandy Koufax signed his first professional contract on the premises and Cincinnati Reds Hall of Famer Ival Goodman once tended the Friendly Stop bar.

The Friendly Stop operated without food until 1980, when new owners Larry & Cindy Youse purchased the business, in part to clean up the neighborhood.

The Friendly Stop operated without food until 1980, when new owners Larry & Cindy Youse purchased the business, in part to clean up the neighborhood to benefit their now defunct restaurant across the street, the Grand Finale. Part of the cleanup included adding a food menu to the Cincinnati dive bar, focusing on homestyle favorites that still today make up a good portion of the Friendly Stop offering. After a fire in 1992, the Youse family restored the Friendly Stop before eventually selling in 2005 to Adam Gilreath, a manager of the Cincinnati bar for 11 years.

Ownership today rests with Joe & Elise Mills, who purchased the bar from Gilreath in 2016, returning to their roots after Joe and Elise took turns of duty at the Grand Finale across the street, including a 37-year stint for Joe that included 9 years as Grand Finale co-owner. Each ownership change has brought a bit of change to the Friendly Stop structure, but nothing disruptive that would otherwise obscure the obvious historic appeal of the space.

The Glendale dive bar sits unencumbered on an otherwise sparse stretch of Glendale road, giving Friendly Stop a commanding presence. Above the door sits the name of the bar in a trademark script font that has long topped the structure. The space inside Friendly Stop isn’t exactly spacious, tables and chairs packed in to accommodate as many patrons as possible. A bar sits in the center of the main room, dividing Friendly Stop into a lower level that hosts the bulk of available seating and an upper level that packs in a few more chairs.

The dive bar decoration of choice here is no doubt the license plate, every state and province no doubt represented.

As one would expect for a spot first erected in the 1840s, Friendly Stop looks its age, the beautiful wood bar bookended by downright regal, wooden columns. The dive bar decoration of choice here is no doubt the license plate, every state and province no doubt represented among the countless plates that line the walls of the Friendly Stop. Historical photos, news clippings and vintage beer signs can be found nestled among line after line of license plates. Illuminated and perched above the main seating area is an original painting of the Friendly Stop, one of a handful of handcrafted homages to the Glendale dive bar that can be found inside.

The Friendly Stop menu is well-stocked with typical bar food options and a host of homestyle staples like open-faced sandwiches and comically-stacked cold cut options. Included in a number of “Best Burger in Cincinnati” lists, Friendly Stop has a well-earned reputation for one of the area’s best burger options, including a unique roasted garlic burger double-stacked with garlic cloves. First-timers would be wise to sample an order of Potato Rags, deep-friend potato peelings that walk a unique line between fry and potato skin.

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