When Xhevair Brakaj and Koli Memushaj were planning their new Short North bar, they wanted to tie it into the community through fresh, local ingredients and locally-inspired artwork. They succeeded, creating a bar that is definitively “Columbus.”
Arch City Tavern opened earlier this month after a year of renovations, in the spot formerly occupied by Havana, though the bar is unrecognizable now. Exposed brick, rich wood furniture and colorful artwork invite you to sit down and have a drink.
Arch City’s cocktail menu was designed by Nicolene Schwartz, who crafted cocktail menus at several popular Columbus spots like Mojoe Lounge and Rigsby’s Kitchen. Of the nine available drinks, mostly with local names and all with fresh ingredients, I tried the Great Southern Margarita, made with tequila, elderflower liqueur, cinnamon, sage and citrus, which combined for a pleasantly sweet and sippable drink. The Nine-Spice Gin and Tonic (Watershed Bourbon Barrel Gin, Roake Nine-Spice Winter Tonic syrup, soda water) and the Kerr Street Mule (Watershed Vodka, Roake Ginger Syrup, lime, nutmeg) are definitely on my list to try next visit.
The 24 taps are almost entirely occupied by craft brews, from Southern Tier, Great Lakes, Left Hand, Oskar Blues and Dogfish Head, plus local brews from CBC, Elevator and Four String. All drafts are half off during happy hour from 4-6pm. Another two dozen or so beers by the bottle includes great offerings like Fat Heads, Tröegs and Rockmill. There are also 10 wines available by the glass ($7-$10) and another 11 by the bottle ($30-$44).
A small but drool-worthy food menu features a handful of appetizers like parmesan truffle fries, french onion soup served in a hollowed sweet onion bowl, and lobster mac ‘n cheese with thick noodles coated in smoked gouda, fresh chives and buttery chunks of lobster. Entrees include a few gourmet-style burgers and pizzas, like the fig pizza topped with lemon-soaked arugula, roasted pine nuts, black mission figs, prosciutto, goat cheese and truffle oil; or the mediterranean pizza with kalmata olives, feta, mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes, baby spinach and garlic spread.
In case you’re not up on your Ohio history, the bar’s name comes from a former nickname for the city of Columbus, “Arch City,” named so after a series of arches that used to line most major streets but were taken down at the turn of the 20th century. Be sure to spend some time exploring the mural of late 19th century Columbus drawn by artist Vasiliev Nini. It’s a massive pencil sketch spanning three walls, depicting a bustling High Street with shops, people and the arches that gave the bar its name. (And no, you can’t erase the pencil. Am I the only one who was wondering?)
Other locally-inspired art from Nini fills the brick wall opposite the beautiful wooden bar outfitted with a few TVs for the sports inclined, giving everyone something to eat, drink and admire at Arch City.
Arch City Tavern opens daily at 4pm and is located at 862 N. High Street.