Long before the boutiques, high-end restaurants, and fashionable bars started to pop up in the area known as the Short North, the Short North Tavern served drinks to residents along the derelict strip of High Street just north of downtown Columbus. Under the ownership of John Allen since 1980, the Tavern has witnessed the transformation of its neighborhood into a vibrant destination spot and thriving arts district. It has been the watering hole for those who sparked the rebirth of the area and continues to serve those who are part of the on-going evolution of the Short North. The Tavern has become an institution—a symbol for the area’s redevelopment and cultural renaissance.
Located at 674 North High Street (it originally occupied the space a few doors down where The Happy Greek now resides), the Tavern sits conveniently in the heart of the Short North. In contrast to some of the fancier establishments surrounding it, the Short North Tavern would best be described as a dive bar—and I use this term in the most endearing way. It’s neither fancy nor trendy and its beer list probably won’t appeal to the craft beer set, but it has a down-to-earth charm that has been attracting customers for over 30 years. It has a staunch group of regulars who you’re bound to run into at any given evening during the week—some have been patrons since its inception, while others are more recent habitués.
Even if you’re not a regular, if you’ve been in the Tavern at all, you’re probably familiar with Bucky Cutright (who, in his own right, is a Short North institution). Working at the Tavern for the past eleven years, Bucky has established himself as both bartender extraordinaire and all-around good guy. He’s the creator and namesake of the infamous Bucky Punch, a curiously strong beverage with a fruitiness reminiscent of Hawaiian Punch (though it won’t leave the tell-tale red mustache). And if a Bucky Punch isn’t your style, the Tavern has a full arsenal of liquor, wine, and a draft selection including Yuengling, Guinness, Bass, and Columbus Brewing Company Pale Ale. In addition to his bar tending acumen, Bucky is well versed on the goings-on around Columbus; his insight into local food establishments has led me to some of the best meals I’ve had in town.
Like any good dive bar, the Tavern offers complimentary peanuts to accompany your beverage. There’s also a full-service kitchen, which turns out a solid offering of standard American fare, including pizza, burgers, sandwiches, and appetizers. If you’re feeling a little adventurous, you might try their latest creation: Ghost Chili Pepper Wings (an order consists of two wings). They’re insanely hot, but have a lot of flavor to back up the heat. If you manage to finish one of the insanely spicy wings, you might want to try a Bucky Punch to cool down before moving on to the second.
Over the past three decades, the Short North Tavern has operated as the de facto neighborhood bar for the residents of the Short North. It has seen its share of businesses come and go over the years and watched a new generation of patrons filter into its neighborhood. Through it all, the Tavern has not only managed to survive, it has remained relevant in the ever-changing social landscape of the Short North.
This is a guest post by John Schumacher. John is a graphic designer who loves to eat out. His propensity for exploring new places to eat and drink in Columbus often prevails over his introverted and reclusive nature. You can follow his discoveries at jarsloth.wordpress.com