Ask for the Chitshow. It’s a drink. Don’t worry.
A few blocks from The Ohio State University’s main campus, Oldfield’s North Fourth Tavern is many ways a craft beer bar crossed with a classic campus dive. A corner plot in a perpetually evolving neighborhood made up of chiefly off-campus student housing, Oldfield’s boasts a deep beer and liquor menu sourced entirely from the state of Ohio. And though one might expect a little snobbery with a high end, local-only craft beer selection, there is no snobbery to be found in Oldfield’s single room dive bar footprint.
Owner Dan Starek purchased what was then Oldfield’s Bar on Fourth in 2012 after working as a bartender in Columbus for over a decade. The Oldfield’s location on Fourth was not the first iteration of the bar, another Oldfield’s operating as Oldfield’s on High in what is now The Spacebar. Starek’s purchase, which came with no insignificant amount of risk, was not to replicate the campus dive bar experience offered by the previous iteration of the bar but rather offer something a bit different, something unique to the campus area. Starek has since expanded, opening Leo’s on the Alley just off Ohio State’s south campus student housing district.
Within Oldfield’s, Starek chose to not only embrace craft beer in contrast to fellow Ohio State dive bars offering beat the clock domestic beer specials, but rather go one step further and exclusively offer in-state products, the bar’s beer and liquor selections all coming from within the state of Ohio. That level of specialization offers something compelling, all of the benefits of sampling craft and local beer brewed only a few miles way without any of the snobbery and high prices that might come with more upscale bar options in more expensive neighborhoods.
Though numbers fluctuate, it is reasonable to expect about 100 different bottled beer varieties, 20 draft selections and a number of local liquor options when visiting Oldfield’s North Fourth Tavern. Over 125 different breweries have seen their products sold at Oldfield’s since Starek took over, the bar outlasting a number of breweries and even buying up the last bits of inventory on occasion to enable local small businesses to go out with a bang. A large chalkboard inside Oldfield’s North Fourth Tavern works in tandem with an extensive paper beer list to describe the multitude of local beverage options.
The nature of Oldfield’s part of town has changed over the years, some redevelopment slowly encroaching on the building, but it still feels removed from the hive of activity that 50,000 students can create just a couple of blocks to the west. Oldfield’s North Fourth Tavern is more a student-friendly local bar than it is a true campus dive, a distinction that brings with it a bit solitude when compared to some of the frenzied bars nearby, particularly during Ohio State games. Oldfield’s is part of the action without being consumed by it, a very useful advantage.
Visually, Oldfield’s North Fourth Tavern embodies the classic corner neighborhood pub, a simple black awning under a blazing, modern green sign. The space has seen renovation over the years and those improvements are evident inside and out, the exterior walls redone and the interior feeling fresh but not sanitized. The vintage Oldfield’s sign can be seen along the side of the building, a throwback to previous Oldfield’s incarnations. What was once a small parking lot in the rear of the building has been transformed to a spacious back patio ringed with horizontal wood-plank fencing, all of it under string lights.
Inside, Oldfield’s North Fourth Tavern occupies a single room, the layout wrapped around the entrance that juts into the room, creating a small alcove in the front window with relaxed couch seating. Wood paneling runs throughout the space but does so in bands of color, natural wood grain giving way to green paint capped with a white band around the top of the wall, creating a fresh look to timeless dive bar wood. The craft focus of the bar is on display in the form of beer taps displayed along the top of the building paying homage to the countless craft beers at one time on tap here.
A long bar under mason jar lights runs the length of the space opposite a number of high-top tables. The screen game is legit here, a number of televisions not only visible throughout the space but labeled during busy game days so everyone can gather around a specific game of interest. An older looking illuminated sign sits behind the bar with the “classic” version of the Oldfield’s logo and the fresh stamped tin ceiling ties everything together.
Oldfield’s North Fourth Tavern offers the best of multiple worlds in an unexpected, slightly off-campus location, bring together craft beer, student-friendly pricing and a neighborhood vibe. Just a handful of blocks removed from Ohio State proper, Oldfield’s can feel like a world away and that can be a big benefit among many campus-area drinking options, creating a differentiated and compelling reason to visit.