A bright, neon coffee cup sign on a Short North corner summons hotel guests, students, and passersby to a unique new coffee shop-and-restaurant concept. Whether it’s daytime, or night, Poindexter Coffee is ready to serve.
While a majority of the 20+ Graduate Hotels have a Poindexter Coffee inside, the Columbus location has a unique spin on the concept. The café has a storefront location and two faces: a trendy coffee shop by day, a hip pizza and cocktail restaurant by night. Though the menu transitions into the evening, the coffee never stops flowing.
“Not everyone drinks, so someone might want to come in and grab a cup of coffee while their friends get cocktails,” Price said. “So we cater to multiple niches during the same time frame, which is hard in a market like this.”
The Columbus hotel has a prime location in the bustling Short North Arts District, just a short walk from the Greater Columbus Convention Center and close to downtown. It’s a quick drive or bus ride up High Street to the Ohio State University. The proximity to OSU’s campus is key for Poindexter Café as it’s affiliated with the Graduate Hotel collection, which focuses on university-dynamic towns, usually located next to—or on the campus of—the local university. The coffee shop is fundamental to that culture.
But with all the opportunities available in the Short North, the traditional “hotel co ee shop” model wasn’t going to be enough for this opportunity.
“Our property’s a little different because it’s in the Short North, such a safe, walkable area surrounded by restaurants and bars,” explained Christin Price, the Columbus hotel’s Director of Sales. “Where the other Poindexters have only coffee, here in the Short North, we want to make sure we cater to our guests who ask for a glass of wine, as well as the next morning when they want a cup of coffee.”
Poindexter’s coffee is bold and roasty, served in adorably branded ceramic cups. Although it, and the food, are sourced nationally, the Columbus café is able to leverage local-and Ohio-based ties through weekend deliveries from Tupelo Doughnuts as well as cleverly crafted alcoholic beverages that give a nod to local culture.
The full bar includes wine, beer, and local spirits from Watershed, High Bank, and OYO distilleries as well as common brands. One of the best sellers is the Golden Bear, a sort of spiked Palmer, with tea-infused vodka, lemon, and honey bitters. Another favorite is the Buckeye Bullet; whiskey fat-washed with peanut butter, combined with chocolate bitters and vermouth. It’s like the candy—only savory, not sweet.
The menu is unique to the Columbus market. “Where the other Poindexters do the standard breakfast sandwiches, we have Lox [the Lox Bagel Shop] right next door, and that’s what they specialize in,” Price explained. So the Columbus café serves 7-inch breakfast pizzas, along with all-you-can-eat cereal and other items. The evening pizzas are 10- inch, with a thin crust.
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“This is the only one that’s going to have the storefront that we do,” Lofton said. “The other Poindexters are actually in the hotel, catering to hotel guests. We have this beautiful storefront, and our neighbors come in. We’re actually part of the community, and it’s really nice.”
The cafe’s storefront is inviting; the interior is bright and clean, simultaneously retro and modern. A console table stocked with board games sits beneath the letter-board menu. Once the nighttime hits, the atmosphere changes to fit the mood.
“We turn the lights down at night, turn the music up, but it’s still a very chill vibe. People come in and play the [board] games, have a pizza, maybe a cocktail, and also coffee,” said Ashley Lofton, the café’s Food & Beverage Supervisor.
Maybe the most recognizable design feature of any Poindexter is its accent wall covered floor-to-ceiling with assorted pencils, each perfectly sharpened, a nod to the surrounding academic environment. The café complements this with details drawing in not only its university community, but also local culture.
The focal point is the ceiling, covered with bold and whimsical line drawings in the style of James Thurber’s cartoons, paying tribute not only to the university, but also to Columbus as the state capital. Vintage Ohio State-themed glassware on the bar and other decorative items are sourced from local antique shops.
“The whole concept of Graduate, including Poindexter, is to be part of the local community,” Price noted. “We want our guests to engage with the people who actually live in the city. And you’ll see the usuals making friends online, talking with hotel guests, giving recommendations on where to go.”
That commitment to the local culture spills over into free public wi-fi and a community-friendly lobby, where guests and neighbors can gather to study, visit, plan, and work.
“Early morning is definitely mostly hotel guests, checking-in, checking-out, but the rest of the day? It’s our neighbors, coming in to hang out, have some coffee, work, or just check out the place,” Lofton said.
The area is rife with competition as well as opportunity. One Line Coffee is directly across the street. But the competition is friendly.
“They’ve been a great neighbor for us,” Price noted.
Columbus is currently the furthest Graduate Hotel from any other in the collection.
“We’re kind of a test market,” Price explained. “We’re trying something a little different, and it seems to be working.”
Poindexter Coffee is located at Graduate Hotels in the Short North at 750 N High St. For hours and operations, visit graduatehotels.com/ columbus/restaurant/poindexter.