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Setting the “Standard”

What do a brisk beer garden, an open-concept kitchen and an abandoned music hall have in common? Not much at a glance, but they are all part of the innovative expansion of Corso Ventures—marked most recently with the opening of Standard Hall, the third concept from the folks behind The Pint House and Forno Kitchen [...]
J.R. McMillan

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What do a brisk beer garden, an open-concept kitchen and an abandoned music hall have in common? Not much at a glance, but they are all part of the innovative expansion of Corso Ventures—marked most recently with the opening of Standard Hall, the third concept from the folks behind The Pint House and Forno Kitchen + Bar. Opening three distinct locations in as many years in the Short North, a neighborhood with no shortage of fine ideas that fade away, is a tall order. Those that stick strike the right balance between dinner destination and neighborhood haunt. “I personally live just a couple blocks away in Italian Village, and have been walking or biking down East Third avenue for about eight years, every single day, to either hang out or go to work,” explained Reed Woogerd, director of operations.

“Almost every time I’ve come down East Third avenue, I’ve turned left. Now that we’ve begun this development process, it feels great to turn right, to be going somewhere new and exciting for this part of the neighborhood.” The Short North nostalgic already know the location well. For a decade, Little Brother’s filled the live music void left by Stache’s. The loss of both still brings a bitter tear to the faithful. A shorter stint as Liquid Café and Lounge fit the neighborhood well as an upscale lesbian nightclub. But this too soon passed.  The space has been empty of all but regrets ever since. But Woogerd doesn’t stir easily when it comes to expectations, or a cursed location. “When we opened up Pint House in 2013, we received a lot of criticism—people who thought we were just night club guys who would bring the wrong crowd to the neighborhood,” he confessed.

“When we were opening Forno, skeptics claimed the building was cursed. In reality, it had only been a restaurant one other time. This is a tough business, not all restaurants are successful; not all small businesses stay open forever.” It’s a little eerie to see a former music hall and nightclub during daylight hours. But it also reveals the details of the space that otherwise go unnoticed—the new, industrial metalwork contrasting the rich, red hues of the original exposed brick, or the preserved central skylight that beams down on the lush, living herb wall behind the bar. The worn and weathered wooden floorboards give the whole joint an instant credibility, as though Standard Hall has always been there.

“I see our venues as much more than an average restaurant or bar. We like to build places that provide both residents and visitors to the Short North a great experience of what this neighborhood has to offer,” he said. “Opening Standard Hall—in a building that has so much history and is dear to the hearts of longtime residents of the Short North—we wanted to make sure we did it justice. We’ve learned people take the redevelopment and growth of the Short North seriously. And as residents of the neighborhood, we are sensitive to what the people here actually want and need.”

“The beauty of the restaurant business is that it revolves around the basic human need for social interaction, the catalyst of which is something that we can all agree on that we love—food and drinks,” he explained. “So, if we don’t try to reinvent the wheel, and if we stay immersed in our community and continue to grow with the team of restaurant professionals we’ve been building, then we get concepts that feel genuine and original without taking the general public out of their comfort zone.”

Expansion isn’t exclusively an external process. Ideally it really does starts from the ground up. Woogerd recalled his own rise within the organization, and how it was actually a former restaurant employer who suggested he and Chris Corso, the company’s founder, would be a great fit.

That pay-it-forward philosophy hasn’t been forgotten, nor have the staff who are opening Standard Hall. The general manager, Kyle Westerburg, and assistant manager, Nate Taylor, both started as bartenders at Forno. In fact, the management teams at all three locations are a collection of former servers and support staff. The kitchen side is likewise deep with promotions from within. The company’s executive chefs include a former line cook and a pantry cook. Standard Hall’s own executive chef, Daniel Kamel, started as a sous chef at Forno.

This commitment to cultivating and promoting excellence creates a customer experience typically found only at restaurants and bars that have had enough time for the staff to settle in. Standard Hall has that from the day they open the doors.

“When you look at our menu, you will recognize a lot of things. We have offerings that you are used to seeing at other restaurants and bars,” he noted. “We have a mojito on our cocktail menu, a lot of places do. But we are growing our mint on a living wall behind the bar and plucking it fresh for each cocktail. We are serving our Philly cheesesteak on an Amoroso roll that we ship from Philadelphia. The idea here really is to set the standard.”

Asked if three concepts was the goal, or just the beginning, Woogerd remained open to possibilities.

“I guess you could say that our growth is synonymous with the growth of Columbus. When the right opportunities arise, and when we feel our team is ready, we will continue to grow,” he replied. “I think the thing that we are already doing, that can’t be recreated, is that we live in the community and have been invested in the community for a long time. Generally you don’t see out-of-town developers coming in until some local guys have had some success. We want to continue to show that Columbus is a viable market.”

Columbus has often taken its inspiration from elsewhere, with a steady influx of transplants and immigrants fueling the food and drink scene. But now, it’s starting to come into its own—a metropolitan and cosmopolitan mix as diverse and distinct as any dining destination.

“I’d taken trips to Austin and Nashville and seen that relationship between space and the community,” he said. “We wanted that same feel, so someone walking down the street in the Short North could see and sense the energy inside and get drawn in. You’re attracted to it.”

“Columbus is a growing foodie town. People who live here love going out to restaurants, and people in the Short North will sometimes hit five or six different places on any given night,” he explained. “It’s up to us to provide a little different flavor for each concept. The challenge is providing an experience for people who travel to bigger cities like Chicago, New York, to go to restaurants. We want them to come to our venues and feel like they’re having that kind of experience.”

To experience Standard Hall, check them out at 1100 N High St., or at standardhall.com.

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Local Haunts

The Columbus spirit scene is legendary, and not just for the intriguing elixirs your corner bartender conjures. No, there’s a less celebrated set of spirits you don’t always hear about from those behind the taps and bar tops, and they do much more than go bump in the night. Anyone who has ever worked a [...]
J.R. McMillan

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The Columbus spirit scene is legendary, and not just for the intriguing elixirs your corner bartender conjures. No, there’s a less celebrated set of spirits you don’t always hear about from those behind the taps and bar tops, and they do much more than go bump in the night.

Anyone who has ever worked a closing shift alone has probably been a little freaked out at least once. Silence invites suspicion, and empty restaurants and bars only amplify it. Whether it’s the creaky floor in the kitchen or fear of the guy you cut off earlier lurking in the parking lot, our imaginations easily get the better of us.

But sometimes, maybe, it’s something more.

Cue Bucky Cutright, preeminent authority on local haunts, the places where we eat, drink, and frequent everyday with strange histories and supernatural happenings seldom spoken.

“I was a bit gloomy in my adolescence, and the stories coworkers would relate about mysterious noises emanating from empty banquet rooms or unexplained shadows and figures encountered in darkened hallways really stuck with me,” Cutright recalled, having worked in restaurants and bars himself since his teens. “After that, it wasn’t too far of a line between being fascinated with the experiences people were telling me about and connecting them with the historical record.”

That macabre convergence of history and mystery, coupled with Cutright’s passion and penchant for storytelling, were the inspiration for Columbus Ghost Tours. From seasonal Spirit Strolls and the more family-friendly Creepy Columbus, by far the most popular is Booze & Boos, a bus tour of our otherworldly underbelly.

“Before I knew it, I was plotting a narrative and a corresponding course through the downtown area, while honing my knowledge of the city’s dark past,” he explained. “Initial tours were just meant for friends. Everywhere we went, people would ask for business cards and want to know how they could sign up. It’s more like the business chose me than the other way around.”

Cutright’s costumed stagecraft and curatorial credibility aren’t ancillary. He confessed he had his own brush with the unexplained about a decade ago in the basement of a certain Short North establishment where employees have reported more ominous encounters, like the sensation of being shoved or having their hair pulled.

“I was sitting in this room after bar close with a friend and we were discussing the building’s hauntings. As we were talking, the fluorescent lights in the corner of the office began to flicker. This, in itself, wasn’t anything out of the ordinary,” he explained. “It was when the flickering began to be accompanied by the sound of something clacking its nails and scratching down the wall that things became unnerving. We were both sitting within a few feet of this sound and could see that the corner was clear of anything that could make such a noise.”

The basement walls were solid stone so the sound wasn’t coming from the other side. But with abandoned drains and old pipes connecting several buildings in the area, Cutright rationalized the sound away as perhaps a rodent that must have become trapped. He even wrote a note for the owner, hoping to help free the poor creature stuck inside—until a closer look revealed otherwise.

“I inspected the corner and discovered it wasn’t a drainage pipe at all, but a support beam that was sealed off at both ends,” he said. “There was no squirrel or mouse in the pipe. The sound of claws scratching down the wall was coming from something else. When I realized this, all my hair stood on end as an eerie sensation overtook me and I quickly fled the basement.”

Cutright isn’t alone in his unease, and the bartenders at Char Bar—often the first stop on the tour—have stories that could scare you sober.

Built near a graveyard that was relocated to Green Lawn Cemetery, unmarked graves and decomposed bodies still turn up periodically amid perpetual Short North construction. Char Bar’s basement seems to be the center of unrest, once a funeral parlor that was on the first floor, later buried below street level when the road was raised to cross over the railroad tracks of the old Union Station. Rumor has it even Lincoln’s remains were there briefly. Following weeks of travel by train after his assassination to let a grieving nation bid farewell, even “Honest Abe” needed a little touch up.

“It was Christmas Eve and I was the only one closing up. I grabbed the padlock out of the cabinet for the back door and the remote for the TV and put them on the end of the bar like I do every night,” explained Zack Price. “Earlier in the evening, a few people asked me about the strange experiences some customers have had in the basement.”

Price gets those questions a lot, but was always a polite skeptic—before that night. While checking the bathrooms downstairs he felt a rush of air as he passed the dilapidated antique piano, like someone breathing into his ear. He chalked it up as only in his head, but when he got to the top of the stairs, the lock and the remote were gone.

“I know I put them on the bar. But after checking to make sure no one else was there, I found the lock back in the cabinet, and the remote on the counter,” he said. “I locked up fast and got out of there.”

Bartender Erin McIntyre’s experience was directly with the piano, which some say they still hear playing upstairs, even when no one is in the basement.

“As I was coming out of the restroom, the piano made a huge noise and seemed to move away from the wall a little,” she recalled. “I ran up the stairs and after a few minutes talked myself into going back down, even though I was alone. I’d only seen it move out of the corner of my eye, so I dismissed it and didn’t tell anyone.”

The next night, two terrified patrons, in separate incidents, also came running up the stairs swearing they too had seen the piano move away from the wall. The bartender on duty credited the spirits—not “the spirits”—until McIntyre arrived and shared her similar tale from the previous evening.

“There were three of us, who didn’t know each other, and we all saw the same thing,” McIntyre said emphatically. “At this point, the piano was a few feet away from the wall, and it took five people to move it back. That’s not anyone’s imagination.” 

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Sunlight Savings Time

The magazine you’re holding right now is likely sparkling under the warm rays of the sun. Cool. It snowed the day I finished this. Which is why we know you’ll appreciate the annual Groundhog Day-like tradition of Columbus, Ohio, where the first 70-degree spring day (not immediately followed my snow/sleet/sludge) means nine more months of [...]
Aaron Wetli

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The magazine you’re holding right now is likely sparkling under the warm rays of the sun.

Cool. It snowed the day I finished this.

Which is why we know you’ll appreciate the annual Groundhog Day-like tradition of Columbus, Ohio, where the first 70-degree spring day (not immediately followed my snow/sleet/sludge) means nine more months of flip-flops.

Oh, and patios. Man, do we love a good—or even okay—outdoor seating/drinking area—almost as much as we love smashing food and booze on the cheap.

So, why not a definitive guide to central Ohio summer patio happy hours? After all, the sun isn’t the only thing that improves your daily mood.

Pass the sunscreen, craft drafts (High Lifes) and flatbreads, and let’s get started.

Lindey’s • 169 E Beck St.

All Hail The King. A German Village institution since 1981, Lindey’s is consistently rated amongst Columbus’s best restaurants and patios. Sophisticated without being snooty, Lindey’s Patio has greenery and umbrellas, giving it a patio ambiance that is unique to Central Ohio. Happy hour runs 4:30–6:30 p.m. weekdays, at the bar and bar area, and features half off select beers, wines and martinis. Small plate specials include potato croquettes, a house burger, potstickers and calamari. All above board quality. WAY above.

Who to take: Go big and take your parents out for their anniversary or your significant other after you become engaged. Start at the patio bar and stay for dinner, where you would be well served by ordering the House Specialty Pork Chop. You can thank me later. Or give me your leftovers. Whatever.

Cazuela’s • 2321 N High St.

This campus institution, located directly off High Street, is known for its large patio, margaritas and an all-around great environment. Running EVERY day from 2-6 p.m. and again from 10-11 p.m., Cazuela’s happy hour includes half-off appetizers, such as bean dip, ceviche, fries and quesadillas and discounted jumbo margaritas ($5.99 lime, $6.99 flavored) and $1 off draft beers.

Who to take: This inexpensive happy hour is a great place for students to take parents as Cazuela’s margaritas will almost certainly lessen the blow when you inform them that you’re dropping out of the Fisher College of Business to pursue that interpretative dance degree. It’s your life and life is short. Go dance!

Grandview Café • 1455 W Third Ave.

The only two-tiered patio on the list, Grandview Café offers first and second floor views in the heart of Grandview Heights. The café recently received a much-needed facelift and the entire restaurant is better for it. Active Monday through Friday from 2-6, this happy hour offers $2 off any $6 beer, $1 off any $4 beer and half-off local and select spirits as well as $2 wine pours. Pizzas are $10 as well—as long as you’re at the bar.

Who to take: Grandview Café is a great place for an informal first date. Low-key and laid back, the patios present a stress-free location to get to know each other. If things go well, stay for dinner and walk to Jeni’s for some after dinner ice cream. If things don’t go well, at least you didn’t drop a lot of cash on that Tinder weirdo.

Hofbrauhaus • 800 Goodale Blvd.

Located in the Grandview Yard, this Cincinnati import is famous for its huge patio and German-style beer hall. Happy hour runs from 3-6 p.m. weekdays with $3 half liters and glasses of wine. Food options include discounted appetizers highlighted by $5 pulled pork sliders and chicken tenders, as well as $4 French fries and gravy.

Who to take: Take a crew of your closest friends as Hofbrauhaus is the perfect location for getting the gang back together. Whether it be a college reunion or the start to that epic Friday night bachelor or bachelorette party, get the party going with those half liters and German poutine!

Union Café • 782 N High St.

Located in the heart of the Short North, Union is welcoming and friendly to persons from all walks of life. A patio with ample shade that is prime for people watching, Union’s happy hour runs from 3-7 p.m. weekdays and includes $2 draft and domestics, $3 wells and rotating daily drink specials. Also, you can’t go wrong with $5 small plates of mac and cheese, cheese curds and biscuit and chicken swliders.

Who to take: Take that out-of-town uncle or aunt who still thinks ‘diversity’ is a swear word. The friendly staff and contemporary backdrop will hopefully broaden their horizons, especially on Thursdays when Union offers for a $4 Long Island pint. Who isn’t more open-minded after three of those? You should also order a Big Meat pizza off the dinner menu to help sober up your uncle.

Olde Towne Tavern • 889 Oak St.

Located on Oak Street in Olde Town East, Olde Towne Tavern sports one of the best happy hours on the Near (or far) East Side. The Tavern has an intimate and charming patio at the back of the building with happy hour running 4-7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Half-off drafts, $3 wells and $1 off glasses of wine and sangria with $1.25 pretzels and $5 veggie nacho appetizer specials make this patio happy hour tough to beat.

Who to take: We all get busy, whether it be with family, work or other commitments. Tell your significant other that they are in charge of the kids and house tonight (for a damn change!) and get reacquainted with that long-lost friend over a refreshing $15 pitcher of sangria and hot and fluffy pretzels. That friend could call you and get the ball rolling, but we know they won’t. They never have taken the initiative and then get all passive-aggressive about hanging out. It’s up to you to make this happy hour happen and at $15, you can order that second sangria pitcher. 

Milestone 229 • 229 Civic Center Dr.

The crown jewel of the Scioto Mile offers a great view and environment—just make sure you get to the outdoor bar for the happy hour specials. Running from 4-6 p.m. weekdays, it includes $4 beers, $5 craft cocktails and $6 pizzas, mac and cheese and hummus, and the best views in the city.

Who to take: Two words: date night. Come for happy hour, stay for dinner and then go on a walk down the Scioto Mile or maybe to Columbus Commons for a Friday night show. Milestone 229 is a great start to a romantic evening, if that is your kink. Weirdo.

Cosecha Cocina • 987 N Fourth St.

Located in Italian Village, Cosecha has a spacious patio that fills up quickly. From 4-6 p.m. Monday through Friday, you can get $2 drafts of Pacifico and Negro Modelo, $5 red and white wines as well as $5 specialty margaritas and Old Fashioneds or a $10 Boilermaker for two. Did I mention the $3 tacos?

Who to take: Did you finally snag that promotion at work and get your own team? Show your underlings that you’re a generous and benevolent overlord and take the team to happy hour. This event will be budget friendly, you get to look like a big shot, and there are usually plenty of dogs to pet on the animal-friendly patio.

Juniper • 580 N Fourth St.

Juniper has perhaps the best view of Columbus’s skyline. Resting atop the Smith Bros. Hardware building, Juniper is open to the public Tuesday through Friday, with a happy hour that runs from 5-6:30 p.m. Drink specials abound, including $3 off wine glasses, $5 crafts, $5 wells, a $6 daily craft cocktail and even $3 Bud Lights. However, there are no food specials. To quote Springfield bartender Moe Szyslak, “The ambiance doesn’t pay for itself.”

Who to take: Take your out-of-town, snobby friends who don’t like football and think Columbus only has cows and sows. Your friends will return to their coastal lives regaling their friends with stories about their adventure in and above the heartland.

RAM Restaurant & Brewery • 906 N High St.

A second-story rooftop patio in the Short North. Need we say more? $3.75 flagship beers, wines and wells complement higher scale bar food specials from 3-6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Food specials include $6.50 wings and nachos and $5.95 flatbread and burgers. The RAM is the Short North’s version of a sports bar and has many televisions available to view on the patio.

Who to take: Get your buddies together and order those food specials and stay to watch the game. Hopefully we will all be rooting for the Blue Jackets and Cavs in June. Even if LeBron is leaving for Houston.

Michael’s Goody Boy • 1144 N High St.

An oasis of “keeping it real” in an area that becomes trendier on a daily basis, Michael’s Goody Boy is a throwback diner with a spacious Short North patio. Happy hour is Monday through Friday from 3-7 p.m. and has $1.75 domestic beers, 2 domestic drafts and $3 craft drafts, as well as sandwiches, burgers, wings and pizzas, all for around $5. Also, Michael’s may have the most underrated patio breakfast in the city.

Who to take: Michael’s is the perfect start to an evening in the Short North. Late dinner reservations at Forno or The Rossi? Stop here first, get a cheap draft and enjoy the people watching.

The Eagle • 790 N High St.

Another Short North patio. Another great happy hour. Another chance to people watch and soak up some rays. From 3-6 p.m. Monday through Friday, The Eagle offers $4 snacks like pickled vegetables, house-made bacon, corn nuts and a sausage and kale dip. For drinks, The Eagle offers half-off house cocktails and beers. The real star? That $2 18 oz. High Life draft chalice.

Who to take: Take your fellow Champagne of Beer enthusiast. You know who I’m talking about…that calm, cool and collected customer who might be bald and who definitely insisted (much to his wife’s chagrin) on serving High Life at their wedding. Ok. It’s me. Take me. I call shotgun.

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Bars

FAQ: Pants

There’s plenty of colorful personalities in the Columbus food and drink scene. And we’re setting out to capture them—one dish/drink at a time. This month, it’s the illustrious/mysterious veteran bartender we only know by one curious pluralization. He can probably beat you in trivia. He makes some of the best cocktails in the city, and [...]
614now

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There’s plenty of colorful personalities in the Columbus food and drink scene.

And we’re setting out to capture them—one dish/drink at a time.

This month, it’s the illustrious/mysterious veteran bartender we only know by one curious pluralization.

He can probably beat you in trivia. He makes some of the best cocktails in the city, and wears a fedora better than anyone. Not only is he a master mixologist, he is one of the reasons why the atmosphere at the Kindred Brewing (505 Morrison Rd, Gahanna) taproom is so damn inviting. The man, the myth, the legend: Pants.

The obvious question: Why does everyone call you Pants? Everyone calls me Pants for the same reason people call each other anything—that’s how I usually introduce myself. In other circles I’m known as John, Jack, Sergio, Chris, and The Mayor. Someone called me Paul at a party, but they had mistaken me for someone else.

Special talents or hobbies? As far as hobbies, there’s not a lot I’m not interested in. Except not ending sentences with prepositions. And the somewhat-antiquated prohibition on double-negatives. And the temperate-use of hyphens. So maybe grammar-in-general. But everything else I’m pretty into.

Best beer you’ve ever had: It was just called Pilsner. It’s comparable to Miller Lite but of the Ecuadorian persuasion. I drank it one night down there and ended up making out with one of the prettiest girls I have ever met ... sometimes context is everything.

Favorite Ohio beer: Whatever homebrew friends drop off. I love the joie-de-vivre and creativity homebrewers bring to the table. Anything done for passion as opposed to profit seems to taste better. Enthusiasm definitely has its own flavor profile and you can’t beat the price.

People might also know you from…. Bars, bingo halls, brothels, bocce courts, basement shows, back alleys and the occasional bush... Any place that begins with ‘B’, really.

What’s your perfect vacation? I would have to say Columbus from May to August. The weather is warm, I can sit on my porch, and everyone else is away on vacation.

What truly makes you love your job? What’s not to love? I get my mornings free and spend my evenings helping people have a good time.

Who would you want to have a beer with, living and deceased? The person alive who I’d most like to have a beer with is the one who is buying the next round. I don’t like drinking with dead people. They’re poor conversationalists and they smell weird.

Pull up a chair at Kindred Wednesday-Saturday, and let Pants pour you a pint. For more, visit kindredbeer.com.

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