At first glance one might notice a few mysterious quirks about Jeff at Bodega in the Short North, like his towering height for instance. Or his subtle mullet laced with spiral curls and often topped with a cap. One of his 13 tattoos might catch your eye. Maybe you will be drawn to Jeff because you like a man in spectacles. Or perhaps his sweetheart smile will lure you up to the bar.
It doesn’t matter what the attraction is between you and this week’s #bartendercrush, because once he opens his mouth all of your preconceived “this bro is uber-hipster” notions will fall away and you’ll discover something more like “this bro is uber-smart and multi-dimensional”. A painter, trumpet player, orchestrator of theatrical band performances, herbalist, and a one-time teacher of sustainable gardening and lifestyle in South America, Jeff is full of knowledge you never knew you wanted to know. And to top it off, he likes pina coladas (and getting caught in the rain).
Jeff happens to be the original #bartendercrush. One snowy night in late 2010, my friend and I were enjoying a cocktail (i.e. slamming dill thrills and PBR) at Bodega when I decided that Jeff was a delight, and hence, I had a crush on the bartender. If you go to Bodega on a weekend night, you’ll have a crush on him as well.
Hell, you probably already do.
Name: Jeff Hobensack
Years behind Bar: 10
Hood: German Village
Band/Book/Beverage: Richard Swift, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles, Tequila
Hobbies: Cycling, painting, avid gardening, partying
Kelly Laine: Where ya from?
Jeff Hobensack: Originally West Minster, Ohio. Been here five years. I came to escape Athens. I was in Athens for school, then I started bartending and playing in bands.
KL: Do you like it here in Columbus?
JH: Yeah, it’s good. It’s easy. You can make good money, the rent’s pretty cheap. And you can travel at any time because of those two things.
KL: Speaking of, you’re going on a trip soon right?
JH: Yeah, tomorrow. L.A. via Omaha. You know, Charlie Daniels? You know that song?
KL: I don’t think I know that song.
JH: It’s called Easy Rider USA. Let’s play it.
[Shoulder-shakin’ Charlie Daniels is playing throughout the bar within minutes. Up top to Jeff for adding a soundtrack to our interview.]
KL: Ok, so if someone from out of town came in and asked you for three things to check out while they were in Columbus, what would you suggest?
JH: Bungee jumping, sky diving… Is this what everyone says? The bike trail, Franklin Park Conservatory, and a show at Bourbon Street on Summit.
KL: Where do you hang out if you aren’t [at Bodega]?
JH: Home. Every Sunday during football season I go to a bar and I watch the Browns lose. Other than that I’ll go to Bourbon Street. I do a lot of art and play music. My roommate has a two-year-old daughter so I’m a part-time uncle. I stay home a lot.
KL: What’s your band’s name?
JH: The Virgin Gary and The Immaculate Erection. We don’t play often because when we do it’s a huge theatrical production. We don’t want to get stagnant and be one of those bands no one goes to see because you “just saw them last week.”
KL: Do you like bartending?
JH: Yeah. Bartending chose me, I didn’t choose bartending. I love to party, I love to drink, I love to flirt with girls. So I just fell into it.
KL: What if you weren’t a bartender?
JH: I would have a life! I’d be doing something with natural resources but there’s no funding for it.
KL: I’m going to assume, because everyone I’ve asked says it, that the negative to bartending is the hours.
JH: No! The con is that it’s a job. If it were a hobby it would be great. The pros are that I never have to wake up before noon, everyone is in a good mood when you serve them, because they are drinking. It’s always a party and I love to party.
KL: Obviously there are a lot of regulars here. Any favorites or particular crazy memories?
JH: I’m my favorite regular. I’m here 4 days a week. I’m a wild man, I love to party.
KL: You say that, but I don’t believe you love to party. You’re a homebody.
JH: My life is like a fucking rock and roll fantasy. My parents never told me that partying was an option as a profession. When I broke out into the world at 18 I found that I could play music, do art, and party all I wanted. I could do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. So when I found that out, I made [bartending] my career.
KL: But I know personally that you’ve had some interesting experiences here. My friend ate cake off your face once. Another had a cartwheel contest with you in the alley then got a stick & poke tattoo by your old roommate a few years back.
JH: You know better than I do. I’m so drunk all the time that I never remember the good times.
KL: What’s your specialty drink? PBR? You’re really good at pouring them.
JH: There are a lot of things I don’t like to make, like Dill Thrills. I make so many. I like to make the Boothby. It’s my signature. Bourbon, Carpano Antico sweet vermouth, orange bitters. It’s just delish.
KL: Would you say Monday is the most popular night here at Bodega? [For those of you who don’t know, Bodega has $1 grilled cheese on Monday nights.]
JH: Yeah, probably Monday. It’s the most consistent. Friday, too. Happy hour until 8:00, everyone gets off work and is ready to party.
KL: The patio is always pretty packed. I noticed you guys got some new tables this summer.
JH: Colin, the owner, he’s just constantly doing things to keep the place nice, which is awesome because I’ve never worked for someone who puts money back into a place.
KL: What’s up with the beer selection?
JH: We get about 50 kegs every Tuesday, matched with 50 that are already on tap.We get whatever is seasonal, whatever no one else has.
[Brief intermission while Jeff teaches me a homeopathic way to pack skin wounds with some weed which will speed the healing process, a weed that can heal poison ivy, and we have a discussion about his ugly yet magnificently comfy shoes. I’ll spare you.]
KL: Did you think I was giving you a love note the other night when I asked you to be a part of #bartendercrush?
JH: I did. I was excited.
KL: Sorry. You’re the original bartender crush, though.
JH: I hope you don’t get a lot of hate mail after this.
Dearest Jeff, consider this your love note.
People of Columbus who like to Drink Up, stop in on a weekend and say hello to Jeff and the rest of the Bodega staff. I recommend the Blueberry Mojito or something hoppy from their extensive beer list. Cheers!