Hey Hey Bar & Grill

Columbus, Ohio

Johnnie's Tavern - Columbus Dive Bar - Exterior

In Short

The Hey Hey straddles the line between dive bar and respectable tavern while straddling the downtown Columbus neighborhoods of German Village & Merion Village, featuring an evolving, but charming interior and some of the world’s finest sauerkraut balls (go spicy).

Field Rating

6

out of 10

Go before it gets too nice to be divey.

Field Note

Back behind the bar lives a small kitchen, a kitchen with menus hand written, photo copied and slipped into plastic binder sleeves to be distributed across approximately six small booths in the front and a cavernous, sometimes-concert-area in the back. The house specialty is sauerkraut balls, but you probably already knew that because the sign out front features a rotating marquee I’ve never seen rotate that reads ‘Sauerkraut Balls.’

The Hey Hey is a dive bar in transition, a favorite haunt straddling two urban neighborhoods south of Columbus’ downtown, German Village & Merion Village (the latter being the less affluent cousin of the former). And transition can be a difficult thing for those of us who love dive bars and appreciate their well-worn bars and bathroom walls. Improving the space and fixing those little irregularities probably gains new customers and a new sense of pride, but sacrifices some of the story worn on the walls.

Progress has come to the Hey Hey, but the dive bar soul lives just under that surface.

Over time, the Hey Hey has renovated bits and pieces. The rear room that features a decent-sized stage used to hold randomly strewn about tables and long forgotten chairs. Today that room looks…normal, an extension of the main bar and home to the occasional show. The beer selection has increasingly diversified into craft & unique options, though the regular standbys feature prominently in a cooler up front. Progress has come to the Hey Hey, but the dive bar soul lives just under that surface.

The building is a brick rectangle in a profoundly brick-laden part of town, just on the outskirts of the more posh parts of German Village and maybe about a block east of where someone who doesn’t know where they’re going might turn off. The exposed brick inside has been exposed long enough to predate any conscious decision, and a healthy, lengthy bar welcomes drinkers who stumble in simple side door, preferred to the more ornamental front door.

Fear not, a taxidermy fox, hippopotamus statue and a framed bomber jacket add some intrigue, and the sprawling backyard includes a horseshoe pit and a handful of mismatched patio furniture.

Potted plants frame the front window and rotating art pieces dot the walls, another sign of the Hey Hey’s steady march toward respectability. Fear not, a taxidermy fox, hippopotamus statue and a framed bomber jacket add some intrigue, and the sprawling backyard includes a horseshoe pit and a handful of mismatched patio furniture.

To be honest, the Hey Hey might be a little too nice to be part of this catalog of the world’s darkest, dingiest drinking holes. Time has, in this case, been kind to the Hey Hey, and it remains a beautiful place to grab a beer and a sauerkraut ball just a few steps off the beaten path.

Photos

The Basics

361 E Whittier St
Columbus, OH 43206

Classification:
Neighborhood Bar

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