This past Saturday I made my way down to the Brewery District to visit Double Happiness in hopes of gathering notes for a review. But once I sat down I immediately befriended the gentleman sitting nearby, who happened to be JJ, managing partner at Café Brioso. After several gin and tonics, a couple beers, a sake bomb, and two hours worth of conversation on the ins and outs of the Columbus coffee scene, I forgot why I was even there.
Which just about summarizes most my visits to Double Happiness.
Before things got fuzzy, I remember feeling like I had left Columbus altogether, although not for another city, but via Rod Serling, as if I had just landed in the Twilight Zone. Sci-fi films and 80’s B-side movies rotated on the two TV screens above as a DJ played old school soul in the background. Ostentatious Eastern Asian Décor filled the ceilings and walls and behind the bar was every spirit imaginable. Every OYO product I knew of was on display, alongside Watershed, Brothers Drake Mead and other local spirits. Colorful fruit-flavored Sojus (a Korean spirit typically made with rice) lined the back wall. Staying true to my own personal code of gin in the summer, whisky for the remainder, I drew my attention to the gins. The usual suspects were in attendance, along with less common brands like Death’s Door and Broker’s. I stuck with Broker’s, which was smooth and played nicely with a splash of tonic.
The enthralling, “Did that just happen?” scenes on the TV, the great conversation with JJ, the rapid fire drinks, and the fantastic soul music were just what the Doctor ordered. About an hour in I remembered why I had come, and scribbled down a few of the beers on tap. (Kirin, Hoster’s Gold Top, Brooklyn Brewery Summer Ale, a Mt. Carmel and Columbus Brewing Company selection, among others). The real standouts at Double Happiness, though, are the Moscow Mules. Upon seeing the bartenders serve out several, I remembered a prior conversation with owner, Yalan Papillons, detailing how she had made sure to find exactly the right copper mugs for the Moscow Mules. An attention to detail she had obviously carried over to the entire bar.
After already staying an hour longer than intended, my old roommate saved the day by shoving food in front of me. Not any food, but amazing, meat-on-a-stick, Japanese street food from Fresh Street Yakatori. It won’t take but one Google search to find a litany of positive reviews on the place. If you want to take the plunge you can try dishes like $3 beef tongue (Gyu Tan), $2.50 Pork Intestine (Motsu), $4 Pork Cheek (Tontoro). For the less culinary adventurous you can try choices such as $5 short rib (Gyunbi) or $4 local Ohio skirt steak and be equally as satisfied. If meat isn’t for you, there are several vegetarian and vegan options available as well. Fresh Street Yakatori represents exactly what I want my dining experience to be at any bar: A bit absurd, fairly quick, and mouth-wateringly delicious.
I was in the final stretch of my stay, JJ and I split some fries just before he took off, sake bombs were on the way, and I was in full-on, “Let the night take us where it will,” mode. Which seems to be exactly what happens each time I go to Double Happiness. I arrive with friends only promising a drink or two, and hours later I can’t get myself to leave. The movies on the televisions are eye catching, the patrons approachable, the drinks steady, Yalan typically present and eager to chat (with an uncanny knack of remembering a drink order with a face) and the music usually diverse but always providing a great backdrop to the scene.
Double Happiness generates an environment that just kind of takes over. While surreal at moments, the feeling is still genuine, still visceral. As described by a friend, it’s uncontrived weirdness. The kind you can appreciate not only for being different from the norm but feeling authentic in doing so. You’ve been transported to a dystopian future, its Blade Runner-esque save impending replicant attack, and you want more of it.
photos courtesy stidesheaven