Newcomers to Johnnie’s Glenn Avenue Grill might be surprised to find that this classic dive bar offers no food beyond their Slim Jim display and Frito’s tower. But after a few sips of their Coors Banquet Beer, you realize the name to be entirely fitting regardless of the lack of food: Hanging out in Johnnie’s Grill feels an awful lot like hanging out in your crazy drunk aunt’s kitchen. And you don’t want her crazy drunk ass cooking anyway.
Johnnie’s walls are covered in framed sports photos, random mirrored beer signs and the occasional guide to sport fishing. A large portrait of Woody Hayes reminds the crowd that he is an American. Every inch of Johnnie’s is painted some shade of scarlet or gray, and as we entered at 6:50 p.m. on a Friday, the bar was packed in the same manner the K of C would be for a Lent Friday Fish Fry.
The floors of Johnnie’s match those of my Catholic grade school’s cafetorium, and the speckled linoleum really hammers home the crazy drunk aunt vibe. A group of jolly women celebrated a 60th birthday party on one side of Johnnie’s (and repeatedly asked my husband to flirt with them) while a younger group played pool and Silver Strike Bowling on the other half. About a half a dozen televisions showed golf, SportsCenter and occasional game shows, and after an hour the Jukebox kicked in with Fat Bottomed Girls.
Every inch of extra shelving seems to feature liquor bottles shaped as fish, pheasants and various mammals, and the mini-passageway between Johnnie’s two halves feature a trophy case filled with more dusty liquor bottles on one side and huge dusty trophies on the other. (Watch out, they don’t have glass, so casually leaning against the wall turns into falling into trophies pretty easily.) I’m happy to report that No Fear pinball machines exist, and that one is alive and well in a corner at Johnnie’s hungry for your quarters.
Johnnie’s was surprisingly well-decorated for Valentine’s Day with red and pink hearts hung among the Christmas lights that are most likely a year-long feature. The drinks at Johnnie’s are stiff, and the selection of throwback cans is impressive. (As previously mentioned I prefer the Banquet Beer.) Loud laughter drowned out the music, and it was clear that Johnnie’s will welcome anyone with a smile and a buck seventy-five into its cozy community.
Shots were flying by 7:30 p.m. (thankfully not into my mouth) and the crowd kept getting jollier. The birthday requests for flirting got more brazen with less regard for the wives. (Her honest brassiness impressed more than annoyed me.) By 8 Johnnie’s will filled with friends.
The women’s room is basically a 3D, real-live hot pink doily. A window painted over with hot pink paint reminds you that Johnnie’s is still a house, it just happens to be filled with drunks of all ages. A small table covered with a hot pink tablecloth sits next to the toilet, just like your crazy drunk aunt would want. The room even somehow smells like pink silk flowers. A random chair sits in the corner of the hot pink haven in case you need some gab time (I guess?). Short story: Your drunk aunt has terrible taste, and it adds wonderful atmosphere to Johnnie’s.
Every table at Johnnie’s was full from the time we walked into Johnnie’s and we sung our way out, and the red Formica tables with black padded chairs were covered in Miller Lite bottles in a very local VFW way. The Christmas lights throughout the windows and bar offered great warmth to all the nooks and crannies of Johnnie’s, and fast friends offered to buy each other drinks over loud laughter and occasional shouts. Johnnie’s is a great place to spend an evening.
While I’d recommend people watching while at Johnnie’s, it’s not a bad idea to admire the tchotchkes throughout the bar. A fish mounted on the wall is wearing a leprechaun hat with braids. A shelf of swimming pool candy sits among random obesity warnings and posters for Schnapps. Spuds Mackenzie sits proudly over his kingdom.
Johnnie’s Glenn Avenue Grill offers plenty of people watching and silly eye candy in addition to stiff drinks and fun games. All ages mingled together happily, and the bartender was a peach who was happy to keep the crowd drunk. Your crazy drunk aunt has hit a real homerun.
Looking for more dive bars in Columbus?