Tuesday, September 4, 2012

"Staycation" guest post on Drink Up Columbus

I don't always go on vacation, but when I do, it's generally at a Columbus-area bar. Check out my new guest post on "destination drinking" here.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Guest post on Drink Up Columbus

I have a guest post about the best places to get classic cocktails in Columbus on the blog Drink Up Columbus (no relation) today! Check it out here.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Martini Modern Italian and Sway

Over the last few weeks, I've been doing battle with one of the most agonizing beasts of Columbus city living: house-hunting in the rental market. Just about anyone who's ever been a twenty-something living in Columbus should understand the horrors I've endured trying to find a three-bedroom, single-family, pet-friendly rental home within walking distance to a COTA line, all for under $1500.

Well, on Friday, we finally defeated the beast and signed a lease for a rental home in Woodland Park, a couple blocks from OSU Hospital East. So to those of you still stuck in the jowls of the rental market search, I say: godspeed, and may you always be the first to respond to new Craigslist posts. To myself, Boyfriend, and Boyfriend's best friend/our new roommate who will henceforth be known as Ted Mosby due to the How I Met Your Motheresque nature of our new living arrangement, I say: time for $5 martinis.

We found two $5 martini venues within a stone's an olive pit's throw of each other in the Arena District of downtown Columbus. The first was, rather predictably, Martini, a Cameron Mitchell restaurant for which we were all somewhat under-dressed. We made it there with about five minutes to go before happy hour ended. The selection included, rather predictably, martinis, though I opted for a grapefruit gimlet that was heavy on the grapefruit and light on the gimlet. The happy hour-priced calamari was also somewhat unimpressive. But let's be honest, here. Everything was $5. I can't really lodge any valid complaints. And to be fair to Martini, I've heard really rave reviews about their entrees. Maybe some day when I'm not about to finance a move into a new house, I'll stop by for dinner.

Literally right around the corner and offering $5 martinis til 10pm is Sway, a bar that is either so new or so obscure that it doesn't even have an Urbanspoon page. They evidently pride themselves on nightlife, and while we weren't exactly there at night, it was still surprisingly full of life, especially considering the aforementioned lack of an Urbanspoon page and the fact that it's not even on High Street proper. The $5 martinis are poured right at your table, which I thought was a nice touch. And the appetizer selection is full of interesting choices. We ordered a sort of tuna shish-ka-bob, which was cooked perfectly, by which I mean hardly at all. Raw tuna is the best tuna.

Martini Modern Italian on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 18, 2012

Stonewall Columbus Pride Festival

If you were in town this weekend, it was probably hard not to notice that Saturday was the 31st annual Stonewall Columbus Pride Festival. I was in Columbus for Pride last year, but didn't actually participate beyond being the unsuspecting victim of a few Pride-related downtown traffic jams. This year I decided to see for myself what all the fuss and traffic jams were about, accompanied by my loyal gay sidekick (or LoGS for short).

Logs and I met up downtown before the Pride parade kicked off on Saturday morning. First stop: CVS, to buy SPF 50 sunscreen and ladies' face wipes for him (Logs is kind of a stereotype, don't worry about it) and a fabulous "ladies' floppy hat" for me. Who knew CVS was such a bastion of high fashion?

By the time we were done sunscreen shopping, High Street was one giant traffic jam and a good portion of the downtown roads were closed off to clear the way for the parade. We were supposed to meet a friend in the Short North to watch the parade, but the buses had all been re-routed to god-knows-where and the hike from State and High to the Short North isn't exactly a casual walk in the park when the temperature is pushing 90 degrees. So we did what any rational person would do: we cut through the downtown Sheraton, walked up to the concierge, and asked if our taxi was there yet. The concierge said we must have just missed it and ordered us a replacement...or, really, just a placement, since obviously we weren't hotel guests and hadn't actually ordered a cab in the first place.

The cabbie was a delightful Moroccan man who would periodically burst into Arabic song and kept telling us about how there must be "100,000 of those people" in town this weekend.

The parade was enjoyable, though we ended up towards the end of the route and most the paraders were pretty exhausted by the time they got to us. My "Champion of the Day" award goes to one particular drag queen who walked the entire five-mile-long parade route in what must have been six-inch heels. The Pride theme this year was "allies and equality," and I was genuinely touched by some of the paraders who were thanking the straight allies in the crowd for their support. One older gentleman was blowing kisses and looked like he was on the verge of tears as he pointed to people in the crowd and thanked them. Finally! I feel like it's about time someone recognized the hardships I've overcome as a middle class heterosexual WASP who has never been denied the right to marry, to adopt children, or to serve in the military.

...In all seriousness, though, it was pretty great to see openly gay veterans in uniform marching in a Pride parade.

The Pride festival itself was held in Goodale park, that downtown grassy patch infamously known for its man-made pond that sprung a leak a while back and has been the city's largest mudhole ever since. There were rows of food trucks serving the typical carnie fare; stands for various community, nonprofit, and gay rights groups; and a couple different stages with musical guests like the Columbus Gay Men's Chorus (fun fact: you need be neither gay nor a man to join). You had to buy drink tickets in order to buy drinks, which I thought was something of a regulatory burden, and the drinks were all priced at $5 a piece, which I was a little grumpy about until Logs reminded me it was all going to a good cause (that is, Stonewall Columbus).

The highlights for me were 1) the Obama stand where they were giving away Fla-vor-ice popsicles if you signed up to receive Obama For America emails, which of course I did for the sake of the Fla-vor-ice, though the volunteer working the booth almost wouldn't give me one when she saw I was already wearing a giant "Gary Johnson: Libertarian for President" sticker; and 2) the stand where, for $5, some creative ladies would decorate your hat so it would be appropriately fabulous for Pride. My CVS "ladies' floppy hat" got quite the makeover with feathers and rhinestones, which I'm going to have to somehow peel off if I ever want to wear that hat in a non-Pride setting.

It wasn't until I got home later that night that I realized I still had one drink ticket left. I guess that means I'll have to go again next year?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Beck Tavern

Beck Tavern has got to be the dive-iest, dirtiest, darkest, dankest, most-unheard-of bar in Columbus, and that is exactly why I love it. Well, that and the fact that it is literally about 100 feet from my house.

In general, my #1 complaint about Columbus bars is that every good place is also extremely popular and thus incredibly crowded at exactly all the times that I want to go there. Not so with Beck Tavern, which is not to be confused with its much more popular cousin High Beck. High Beck has outdoor seating and a pool table and, if you read my last post, occasional ubiquitous balloons; Beck Tavern is located off of a street that is barely more than an alleyway, I'm pretty sure most of the light bulbs inside are burned out, and they have a sign on the door that says you're not allowed to enter unless you have a valid Ohio driver's license. Well, I've lived in Ohio for more than a year and haven't yet worked up the courage to make a trip to the BMV and trade in my old Indiana license. Not only has Beck Tavern never given me a problem about their "Ohio Only" discrimination policy, but I've never even been carded.

Beck is the kind of bar where the bartenders wear t-shirts with "The Punisher" logos on them, cheap beer is primarily served in large pitchers, and every surface is just very vaguely sticky. In other words, it's dive bar heaven. My deepest fear is that the hipsters will discover this place, trade out the televised football games for episodes of "Portlandia," replace the dart boards with a vintage '70s futon, and make all the Punisher bartenders wear salmon-colored skinny jeans and grow porn star 'staches. Or in other words: turn it into Bodega.

Beck Tavern on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 11, 2012

High Beck Tavern

Somehow, and I'm not quite sure how, I've never been to High Beck Tavern without something weird happening. I'm not talking zombie-apocalypse-weird or even stranger-proposes-marriage weird, just slightly-off-kilter-weird and probably-worth-mentioning-later-to-friends-weird and definitely-going-on-the-blog-weird.

High Beck is located on the edge of German Village, right at the intersection of--fittingly--High and Beck. I've found that it's a fairly popular happy hour locale, presumably due to its central location, large interior, cheap drinks, and the fact that it has not only an outdoor patio, but also a pool table. Oh, yeah, and they casually give away free food every Monday and Tuesday. That might have something to do with it, too.

The first time I went to High Beck was with a friend of mine who was a member of my sorority in college and had already been living in Columbus for a few years. We were having a sort of "girls' night out" shindig where we tried to relive the college glory days with cheap beer in crowded locations. High Beck did not disappoint. It started out just fine, and then...

Enter weirdness: A man, obviously drunk, apparently at the bar alone, wandering the place and striking up conversation with young, pretty women. Which is pretty commonplace for any bar, but the special High Beck touch was that this particular man was trying to woo women by playing the spoons. But actually. Like, taking two spoons, and slamming them against each other, and trying to play music on them. In case you are unfamiliar with spoon playing, here is a YouTube video to demonstrate what I mean.

As a side note, the man in that video is not the same man who was spoon-playing for me at High Beck. Which means there are multiple men on earth who think eating utensils rank among the sexier musical instruments and that proficiency with spoons will somehow enable them to slay mad biddies. But I digress.

The second time I went to High Beck was with a group from work for a co-worker's farewell party. We walked in the door, and...

Enter weirdness: Balloons. Everywhere. Balloons. I just...I can't even...balloons. So. Many. Balloons. I'm still not entirely sure what they were for. They were for balloons. Meta-balloons, celebrating balloondom. I really do not know, but they were everywhere, like someone was having an "Up"-themed birthday party. And since we were in a bar, that "someone" would have to be an adult, which would be...a little weird.

The evening got even weirder later on, when Boyfriend picked me up from the bar so we could grab sushi for dinner. At the end of the meal when I went to pay for my half of our sushi rolls (yeah, we're all modern like that), I couldn't find my debit card...and realized I left it at High Beck. Forgetting my debit card is a highly uncharacteristic thing for me to do, and I realized it only happened because I ordered one beer, left my tab open, and then sat there for two hours without ever ordering anything else, so I ended up forgetting that I never closed my tab. I went back to collect it after dinner. The balloons were still there.

So that's three weird High Beck-related things in one evening: Ubiquitous balloons. I forget my debit card. I drink only one beer over the course of two hours.

What a world.

High Beck Tavern on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Refectory Restaurant and Bistro

This is how you know Boyfriend desperately wishes he were a 50-year-old rich dude: The Refectory is his favorite restaurant. We've only been there once, since it's a much nicer, fancier, and more expensive restaurant than two twenty-somethings really have the right to eat at regularly. Our one Refectory experience was late last summer, during restaurant week when we could take advantage of the prix fixe menu.

It's probably one of the most beautiful and elegant restaurants I've ever been to, and certainly has the best service. Every time you stand up and leave the table to go to the restroom or to...I don't know, whatever else people do that causes them to stand up and leave the table...one of the waiters picks up your napkin and re-folds it and places it back on the table. We started out with cocktails in the bistro/lounge area and later moved to a booth for dinner. I deviated from the prix fixe menu and ordered the swordfish, because swordfish is one of my very favorite meals but I've sworn to myself to only eat it on a very limited number of occasions in my life, since it's so over-fished. So that's how you know eating at The Refectory was a special occasion: I ate the endangered fish.

Even during restaurant week, it's hard to get a cheap meal at The Refectory. We were, needless to say, the youngest people in the room by about twenty years. Our restaurant companions were mostly older couples and middle-aged businessmen having fancy business dinners. I'll admit to being a little intimidated. It was kind of like being a twelve-year-old trying to crash the grown-up table at Thanksgiving. I mean, I'm pretty sure I was the only one who giggled whenever the waiter folded my napkin.

Nevertheless, it was one of the most delicious meals of my life. And for the non-50-year-old-rich-dudes of the world, if you can't make it during restaurant week, the bistro part of The Refectory now offers a lighter menu that isn't as much of a sticker shock.

The Refectory Restaurant and Bistro on Urbanspoon