Dive In: Lisska Bar & Grill

Written by on February 12, 2014 in Bars, Dive Bars - 2 Comments

Dive In” is Laura’s ongoing exploration of Columbus’ best dive bars.

Lisska Bar and Grill“If assholes could fly, this place would be an airport!” This cartoon hangs among many others which make up presumably a collection from the last 30 or so years as you walk into the Lisska Bar & Grill on the far east side of Columbus, which is probably the truest neighborhood dive bar I’ve ever had the chance to visit in this city.

This charming relic of a bar sits far east on 5th Avenue with a gorgeous neon sign that’s been calling my name since we moved to Columbus. As we’ve recently started a snowstorm tradition of diving, it only made sense to finally check out this amazing neon sign and the bar that goes with it amid the most recent snowpocageddon.

Lisska Bar & Grill reminds me of the neighborhood dive bars that call Ukranian Village of Chicago home, except before Ukranian Village was overrun by curious hipsters. (Guilty as charged, and sorry for interrupting the post-work vibe on a Tuesday night, Lisska regulars.) While I haven’t been able to glean much information online about this frozen-in-time bar’s past, I’m assuming the statement that it’s been family-owned since 1936 is true–and likely decorated almost the same way, including some of the barflies.

The windows are all glass blocks so you can’t really see inside or out, and I’m sure that’s very much the intention as standard “We’ll lie to your wife about being here for xx dollars” signs hang on the ancient backbar. As we entered we were greeted by as many lottery ticket options as we were by mismatched barstools–no wait, definitely more lottery options–as well as a casual but friendly bartender. We were clearly outsiders to this tight-knit crowd, but we were given friendly, quick service in the middle of this group’s perhaps monthlong continued conversation.

My husband opted for the bottle of Budweiser, which was served in the dive bar standard of a small tulip glass, and I went for the Black Velvet Diet Coke that seemed fitting in a bar with mint green walls brightly lit by fluorescent lighting. The liquor options included Cutty Sark, J&B and the other booze I remember spying in my grandpas’ liquor cabinets as a kid. The place is cash only, but unless you’re really going for it a twenty should more than cover your visit.

A pool table that sits in the corner of the bar next to a line of old diner booths is covered with a sheet to serve as a very large table stand. During our stay at Lisska the television loudly detailed the upcoming white death, which I enjoyed as someone who grew up in a farm town where The Weather Channel was as prominent as ESPN in bars. Most conversation surrounded the annoying weather, money issues, job troubles and family headaches, but the attitude was upbeat as the group of longtime friends casually jabbed at each others’ misfortunes.

The bar features a kitchen next to the dusty bottles of aspirin and sticks of Juicy Fruit, and during our visit they were serving bean soup, vegetable soup, polish sausage, cheeseburgers and a number of other favorites that a family in a nearby booth was enjoying. The food seemed to be very affordable and is supposed to be delicious. Plenty of quick food options are offered as well such as potato chips and Slim Jims for those who want a quick salty snack to go with their whiskey neats.

During our two-drink stay at Lisska the pay phone at the front of the bar was largely occupied by the same gentleman making multiple calls that involved a heated discussion regarding what I assumed to be preparation for the weather. This conversation as well as the friendly ones with the six or so fellas at the bar offered a nice background to the buzz of the Milwaukee’s Best and Salem neon lights.

The floral curtains were probably added to give the bar a feminine touch at some point in the last 80 years, and I doubt much else has changed since the bar opened. A big banner hangs on the wall declaring Lisska’s as the Official Home of the Aquinas High School Class of 1964, and it’s not only a clear supporter of the local community but definitely a part of the religious education history of Columbus.

As the bartender removed can tabs from pop cans to save them for the Ronald McDonald House and the discussion at the bar turned to who needed to be drove home the last few nights, it was clear that the group truly loved hanging out with each other as well as living in and being supportive of their community. They took care of each other, and the group at Lisska’s is representative of a proud community. The stretch of 5th Avenue that goes well beyond the Short North is home to a mix of residences, forgotten houses, interesting bars and and the occasional industrial areas. It’s a scenic drive, and it shows once again the great diversity that is Columbus.

As we were getting ready to close up shop on our less than $10 tab, a man at a nearby stool exclaimed that, “I love me when I drink, but everyone else hates me!” The bartender and the friends at the bar all assured him they all loved him regardless of whiskey, and it’s clear that these guys and the bartender see each other pretty frequently.

While our stay at the Lisska was short, I’d like to go back with friends to enjoy this tight-knit community surrounded by a charming setting preserved from the last century. I’d say that if assholes could fly, their hangar is definitely not at the Lisska Bar & Grill.

Explore more Columbus dive bars

About the Author

Laura is a Copywriter/WordPress Developer/Social Media Helper/Enthusiast of Slashes who lives in Grandview with her husband, Doug. She’s a huge champion of Columbus, bars and especially Columbus bars.

2 Comments on "Dive In: Lisska Bar & Grill"

  1. Charles Kubota January 27, 2018 at 9:11 PM · Reply

    I used to drive by the Lisska to pick up my girlfriend. Always wondered what it was like in side- moved from Columbus before I could find out

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