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3 bar trivia spots for weeknight fun

Mike Thomas

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“Man, you guys suck!” The trivia host said as he came by our table table to retrieve his brightly colored buzzer. He wasn’t wrong. My friend/trivia partner and I probably should have had less to drink. We probably should have been playing closer attention to the questions, or stopped second-guessing ourselves into wrong answers. Now, the contest was over, and our chances at a $10 bar tab were utterly dashed. Of the six or so teams competing, we came in dead last.

In recent years, bar trivia has emerged as a popular pastime for bar patrons to put their knowledge to the test in a quiz show format, complete with dynamic and entertaining hosts. In these contests, teams which typically consist of a handful of friends, vye against each other for meager prizes—usually a small amount knocked off of the winning team’s bar bill. As my luckless friend and I quickly learned, it’s a form of entertainment where only the fast and the nerdy survive. 

Photos by Rebecca Tien

Like karaoke, bar trivia offers participants a chance do something at their local watering hole besides pound drinks. Bars are eager for something to draw customers on the slower nights of the week, and contestants get the chance to put their pop culture knowledge to work. But what kind of person goes to a bar on a weeknight to mentally dominate drunk strangers?

“In my opinion, there’s trivia people, and then there’s not,” explains John Egbert, who hosts several trivia nights each week for the company Excess Trivia (it was Egbert who chided my friend and I that evening when we completely bombed). “I have a lot of people sign up just to try it, and quickly realize it’s not for them.” 

By day, Egbert is a working artist—he recently designed beer labels for Columbus’ Elevator Brewing. By night, he leads bar patrons through rounds of buzzer-style (think Jeopardy) and multiple-choice rounds of trivia in his role as host.

“When I started this I wasn’t a trivia guy. I did not have fun playing Trivial Pursuit; I didn’t watch Jeopardy,” Egbert says of his beginnings in what has become a full-time pursuit. He only fell in love with trivia after tiring of his onetime role of karaoke host. 

“I felt like with karaoke, one of the downsides was dealing with really busy nights and everybody wanting to sing—and not wanting to wait to sing,” Egbert explains. “With trivia, everybody gets to play at the same time. Everybody gets to be the star.”

If public recognition is a motivator for their audience, you have to wonder what would inspire Egbert and his fellow hosts to choose this unique vocation.

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Jason “Squirrel” Davis runs his own trivia company, currently hosting three nights each week at local bars. He is perhaps best known for his first and longest running show at The Gateway Film Center. By day, he works in the accounts payable department at Capital University.  

For Davis, it’s the chance to stretch his legs as an entertainer in a way not afforded to him in his day job that keeps him coming back. “As a host, it’s the performance aspect,” Davis explains. “I like to think I’m funny. My style is more of a fun game. For the teams, it’s more about fun than the challenge.”

To Mike Durst, who like Egbert is among the dozen or so hosts employed by Excess Trivia, it’s the social dimension that makes the work appealing. 

“It’s pretty much my entire social life. My social circle has basically turned into people I know through trivia,” says Durst. “It’s nice, I get to go to work and know that I’ll see friends of mine and have a couple of beers and see what’s going on in their lives the past week.”

Davis’ sentiments are shared by Egbert, who also appreciates the opportunities for socialization that trivia affords to host and player alike. “I’m pretty selfish about it. I look at it like, it’s my night too, so I want to have a good time while I’m doing it,” he explains. “I always tell people, if you’re a real try-hard, overly-competitive type, my night might not be for you. I run a fun game, and it’s a reason for you and your friends to get together at a bar.”

With the prevalence of fan culture today, it’s likely that the brains of most people are overflowing with a wealth of trivial knowledge on at least one topic: sports stats, Breaking Bad, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter—whatever your bag may be—bar trivia offers a small form of redemption for countless of hours spent in idle media consumption. 

The next time you’re hard up for something to do on a weeknight, spare the neighborhood bar your 10,000th karaoke rendition of Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” and give trivia a try. You might even make some new friends along the way.

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Food & Drink

Too Good to Eat: Hubbard Grille’s Short Rib and Shrimp shareable

@findyourfork

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If looks could krill, you would be on the floor. Literally.

Hubbard Grille's Short Rib and Shrimp shareable dish will knock you right out of your seat because it will hit you hard and fast with flavor and more.

Photo by Angela Lee of @findyourfork

Imagine this: the most tender and delicious pulled beef short rib layered on a bed of the creamiest and cheesiest white cheddar grits with tomato jus. Top the bite-sized goodness off with a perfectly tender and seasoned prawn, add some color and texture with delicately placed microgreens and take that first bite.

With that first bite, you’ve just experienced one of the most delicious flavor profiles that the Columbus food scene has to offer. Second bite and your taste buds are just begging, pleading, and crying for more. Third bite and you are already shamelessly scraping off every last drop, speck, and flavor from the dish with your spoon.

You might actually even pick up the dish with your own two hands and unashamedly lick the plate clean. You might also start bargaining with your fellow table mates to negotiate the remaining pieces on the plate.

No judgement here. We have all done it at one point. You gotta do what you gotta do, am I right?

Hubbard Grille is located at 793 N. High St. in the Short North. To learn more + view the menu, visit hubbardgrille.com.

@findyourfork your average noodle connoisseur, taco devourer, and mimosa lover. When she's not busy snapping pictures of her latest yummy foodie adventures, you'll find her at your local coffee shop casually relaxing with a pastry in hand and a latte in the other.

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Food & Drink

Beloved burger joint opening in Hilliard next week

614now Staff

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Swensons Drive-In is expanding their central Ohio footprint in just a few days. The Hilliard stand will open at 4810 Cemetery Rd. on Monday, September 23.

Hilliard will be the third stand in Columbus with a locations in Dublin and Polaris.

The Akron-based burger chain prepares their burgers, including the signature Galley Boy, using premium cuts of beef ground fresh daily and made to order. The buttered and toasted buns only add to the juiciness of the meat.

https://twitter.com/SwensonsDriveIn/status/1175043808268099585

Apart from the greasy goodness that is Swensons food, one of the other reasons to patronize the stand is its car-side service. From the comfort of your pajama pants, Swensons Curb Servers will be at your window, eager to take your order and sprint, literally sprint, it back to the kitchen for preparation. Just be sure to not drop a single Potato Teezer between your seat because we all know that is the land of no return.

Visit www.swensonsdriveins.com for more information.

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Food & Drink

Review: Matt & Tony’s dishes out classic comfort food in downtown

Regina Fox

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I've gotten to try a lot of interesting cuisine with this job, but it's rare that I get the opportunity to sample a mother's spaghetti recipe outside of my childhood home. This is the type of experience that Matt & Tony's Wood Fired Kitchen, which recently opened inside the former CBC Restaurant space, offers its guests.

At Matt & Tony's, you don't have to sneak off to the bathroom to Google what a menu item is so you don't look ignorant in front of your date, and that's what makes it so great.

The menu bodes familiar comforts like fried chicken, fish & chips, veal parmesan, and burgers. There's no proprietary flare or fancy sauce smears around your plate—it's all just damn good food.

I sampled Madeline's Spaghetti & Meatballs, which is straight from the cookbook of co-owner Matt Rootes' mother. The sauce was sweet and plentiful while the meatballs were hearty and succulent. I didn't want to gorge myself on the first entree, but I couldn't seem to stop twirling those perfectly-boiled noodles around my fork...

Next up was a Wood Grilled Steak with mashed potatoes and broccoli. I heard once that butter wasn't a carb, so I spread it on thick and cut myself a piece with a crispy fat edge—juicy, tender, and lean. I didn't eat all 12 oz., but I very easily could have.

The Fork N' Knife BBQ Ribs at Matt & Tony's are straight out of a BBQ fairy tale. This healthy helping of slow-cooked, fall-off-the-bone meat is smothered in sauce and almost impossible to put down. You may not be excusing yourself to Google what you just nervously and unknowingly ordered, but you'll probably require a bathroom mirror to make sure you've wiped all the sauce off your mug after devouring these racks.

Feeling like Thanksgiving? Have a little alternative celebration for yourself with Matt & Tony's Half Roasted Chicken with crushed herbs and lemon butter. Slip into a food coma with the sides of potatoes and seasonal vegetable. Dream a little dream of country gravy (which can be found drowning the fried chicken dinner entree).

Rootes says he and his partner Tony Wildman chose to open Matt & Tony's to give the people of downtown an option for high-quality steaks and seafood at a reasonable price without all the "frou-frou." I, for one, think that's exactly what downtown needs.

While so many other restaurants are reaching for globally-inspired dishes made with ingredients you can pronounce, Matt & Tony's is executing classic comfort dishes you grew up on in a warm, inviting atmosphere—it's like a little slice of home on Short St.

Matt & Tony's is located at 525 Short Street and is open 11am- 10pm Sunday through Thursday and 11am- 11pm Friday and Saturday. Visit mattandtonys.com for more information.

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