“Are you getting crazy tonight? Are YOU getting CRAZY tonight?” asks the grinning 20-something-year-old man with the knit Cavs cap and healthy level of intoxication wandering around The Main Bar at roughly 8:52pm on a Friday night.
“Well, I suppose we might,” I answer, happy and willing to enter this world of wonderful that the bartender assures us the young man has been in for the past several hours.
The Main Bar always stuck out to me because of the odd gremlin/ewok creatures painted on its exterior adjacent to the world’s largest Subway ad. Sitting on Main Street just off of High in a rather unassuming building, I’d imagine that plenty of people have wondered the mysteries that lie inside–and I’d encourage each and every one of you to stop in.
We entered The Main Bar on a Friday evening and were welcomed by a jovial crowd consisting of a wide range of folks. The bartender greeted us immediately and served us what seemed to be the bar’s most popular combination, a bottle of Budweiser and a shot of whiskey. Our shots of Old Grandad were ginormous, and we were happy to belly up to the bar on the comfy barstools amid the crowd. The four televisions were showing various sports, and the back door frequently swung open as smokers wandered in and out from the outdoor patio, which also features a television and piped in (or out?) music from the bar.
The Main Bar immediately reminded me of a friendly dive bar from back in my Chicago days, except cleaner and perhaps a slightly bit more upscale. The walls are covered with various Ohio sports paraphernalia including antique Reds’ cans featuring the faces of Ken Griffey and Johnny Bench, among others. A random Syracuse flag sticks out among the Browns, Bengals and OSU as it’s apparently an Orangemen bar. Silly bar signs which I’d assume warned of loose women and promised free beer tomorrow are peppered among the sports flags and liquor signs, and a great mix of rare covers played on the jukebox as the crowd happily boozed up.
The bartender happily served the full bar, which was about 30 people since it’s a small space, as she wielded her tongs to remove food from the toaster oven and microwave that sat underneath the bar and served as the kitchen. The bar offers a list of about seven offerings for food, and while they don’t have a kitchen and it’s up to the bartender to make everything, it seemed as if the frozen buffalo wings and microwaved brats were a hit all night.
The bar itself is long, and behind the bar seems to offer more space than behind the barstools. Six-foot-tall framed photos of Marilyn Monroe and James Dean surround the Touchtunes jukebox, and all of the patrons seemed to know each other–or at least were fast friends, which seems to be the case of all who walk into The Main Bar. The bartender mentioned that they’ve gained a fair amount of business since the Casino opened, and since there’s a seven mile distance between the two, that seemed to suggest that the whole city truly is benefiting from the Casino’s opening.
Notebook paper taped to the bottom of the television announced the upcoming chili cook-off and OSU/Michigan events, and our grinning Cavs fan friend wandered happily all night while muttering that it was “time for me to get the hell out of here” with obviously no intention of leaving anytime soon. We admitted to the bartender that it was our first visit, and she was proud to show off the bar and clientele to us. My two vodka sodas were poured in a pint glass for a very fair price, and as someone who loves as much soda with her vodka as possible, I very much appreciated the super tall drinks given to me without even requesting them as such.
The Main Bar was lit partially by dim bar lights and mostly with bright neon booze signs, and the jukebox went strong all night long. The mix of buffalo sauce from the wings and the strong smell of whiskey pervaded the bar in the most wonderful way possible. Diet Rite filled the cooler next to the impressive stack of hotdog and hamburger buns. And while I was more impressed with the friendly and fun atmosphere, the beer selection stood out in what one would assume to be a macro haven. With only four taps, Main Bar makes decent use of them–Bell’s Oberon, Great Lakes Burning River and Red Hook Longhammer IPA made up three of the taps with the fourth offering Yuengling. Silly vodka fans can be excited by what looks to be a full lineup of Three Olives ridiculousness, and silly wine fans should be pumped by the tiny Sutter Home bottles of wine. (I’m partial to this sort of thing because it reminds me of flying, which I enjoy more than my budget allows.)
Since the bar is downtown, meters aren’t a concern on a Friday or Saturday evening, and sometimes, it’s the little things that make me head over heels for a bar. If you’re not into the bar food list, which looked and smelled delicious, a Hall of Fame of dive bar potato chips lined a good chunk of the bar mirror.
For everything that I can say about the service, the atmosphere and the affordable (and stiff!) drinks, I will say that probably the best part during our stay at Main Bar was the clear sense of community. People greeted each other with high fives and genuine interest each time the door opened. Each time someone left, they were told, “Drive safe, and we’ll see you tomorrow!” It’s clear that The Main Bar has a great loyal clientele, and everyone is very open to adding to that group. And not that we were surprised, but as we walked out our new friend was smiling even wider, coercing folks to “get crazy” and mumbling about his need to head home. It’s not a surprise that it’s rough to leave the friendly confines of The Main Bar–it’s a true tiny gem of a bar brimming with personality and great booze.
The Main Bar is located at 16 West Main Street.