Rehab in the best possible way.
Every city has that up and coming part of town somewhere on the growth curve between “never go there at night” and “where all the rich people live now.” Columbus’ Franklinton district has bounced between the ends of the spectrum multiple times over the years, a focus for growth due to its proximity to downtown that simply didn’t take for a number of decades. That has changed now, Franklinton one of the fastest growing areas of the city and Rehab Tavern in many ways embodies its recent renaissance, this time one that has stuck.
Across a bend in the Scioto River from Columbus’ downtown core, Franklinton has always been ripe for development, this most recent wave coinciding at least in part with the 2012 timing of Rehab Tavern’s opening. What was once Three Deuces Bar for nearly 40 years was transformed over the course of that year, the name of the Columbus dive bar a nod to the reclaimed elements throughout the space, including ample wood repurposed from the old Three Deuces space. The bar top, for example, is constructed out of wood from the that previous incarnation, a living monument of reclamation that fits with the neighborhood.
Rehab Tavern’s immediate surroundings have evolved considerably over the years, anchor breweries Land Grant Brewing and BrewDog operating flagship locations nearby. But this is still very much a neighborhood with a rough edge here and there, the redevelopment of the area not yet complete. Rehab Tavern feels a little more authentic to the area than its glossier neighbors, the premise of the space as a reimagining of what existed before a much different aesthetic than the new build breweries nearby. And that makes Rehab Tavern a nice counterpoint to some of the fancier options nearby, including craft cocktail haven Strongwater just a few feet away.
Easily overlooked is Rehab Tavern’s outdoor seating, sneakily the marquee attraction when the Ohio weather cooperates. Out front, a thin patio occupying the slender space between front door and sidewalk offers a prime perch for people watching in the pedestrian-heavy area. A small ledge offers beer resting space and a few tall chairs sprinkle this makeshift patio area. Almost hidden though is the patio to the left of the space, sandwiched between Rehab Tavern and its neighboring building, a pergola corridor of sorts open to the Columbus sky and long enough to house a fair amount of outdoor drinkers.
The Rehab Tavern interior flows around a central bar, the footprint split into two distinct spaces. Crowds generally congregate in the front room where there’s a bit more light, a bit more bartender attention and the bar’s stage area that houses live music on occasion. The beer selection is a bit more expansive than the typical dive bar, though there’s always at least one affordable domestic on the menu as an anchor (PBR for $2.50 on our recent visit). The portal to the small kitchen in back can be seen here as well, a rotating menu usually provided via paper in spots throughout the bar detailing that day’s selections.
The secondary space is a bit more desolate, usually used for overflow seating on busy nights and home to the Columbus dive bar’s pool table. Local artwork can be seen throughout the space, lining the walls and long a hallmark of Rehab Tavern, a showcase for similar work since its opening. The flooring is worth a glance as well, resembling the slats of a bowling alley lane but actually constructed out of reclaimed basketball flooring from Mendon High School in Van Wert, Ohio.
Maybe most importantly, the walls and surfaces within the bar live up to its name, exposed brick peeking out in places in keeping with distressed wood here and some reclaimed metal work there. Rehab Tavern is clean, the wait staff is pleasant and the crowds aren’t usually too intense, making it a perfect refuge from some of the longer waits and more intensely packed environments nearby. In a party of town quickly changing, Rehab Tavern lives right on the edge, a link to the area’s past with a foot in Franklinton’s redeveloped future.