Johnnie’s Glenn Avenue Grill

Columbus, Ohio

Johnnie's Tavern - Columbus Dive Bar - Exterior

In Short

Nestled among ranches and converted apartments on a sometimes dimly lit side street, Johnny’s may just be the perfect dive bar and represents one of the simple pleasures of visiting or living in Columbus. Soak it in and sample a kitchen cheeseball while you’re there.

Field Rating

10

out of 10

You walk through the kitchen to get to the bathroom. It’s perfect.

Field Note

Walking into Johnnie’s is like walking into your grandpa’s garage mixed with your aunt’s living room mixed with a $2 can of Schlitz. Calling Johnnie’s the perfect dive bar may yet be an understatement. Officially named Glenn Avenue Grill (check the neon out front) but affectionately referred to as Johnnie’s, this squat, white-when-it-rains house turned bar is a rarity in Columbus and even the Midwest. Johnnie’s is a neighborhood bar eaten by the neighborhood around it.

Johnnie’s location can’t even aspire to be the corner bar in a cozy part of town. It’s halfway down a side street in a weird corridor of Columbus bordered by a pristine near-suburb named Grandview and a slightly less suburban-feeling 5th Avenue that features perhaps the world’s least desirable Burger King and Columbus’ most desirable karaoke spot (Mickey’s).

The décor matches your mind’s eye right now. There are vintage Ohio State posters, semi-functional Budweiser Clydesdale lamps, a clip board full of bagged nuts and the ultimate sign of a great dive, a cash-only policy.

It sees your basic, faded local sports team pennant and one-up’s you with a set of indescribable bowling trophies stashed in what used to be either a display case or an elaborate set of steps for a cat to perch atop nothing.

But this is Johnnie’s. This is the king. It sees your basic, faded local sports team pennant and one-up’s you with a set of indescribable bowling trophies stashed in what used to be either a display case or an elaborate set of steps for a cat to perch atop nothing.

Your favorite dive has nuts behind the bar? Johnny’s features a walk-through kitchen with bowls haphazardly strewn about aging tables with a couple of tubs of cheese balls and pretzels nearby for sampling. And the best part about these cheese balls? Gentleman needing a trip to the restroom must walk through the kitchen to get there, providing a couple of shots at the communal cheese ball menagerie.

Beyond the kitchen lies an area too loosely connected to the rest of the layout to refer to it as a room, but rather a space that may or may not have a working lightbulb in its general vicinity. The porch, once a hot box for cigarette smoke spiked by the ambiance of chicken wire is now just a porch, though the chicken coop décor remains intact.

And of course there’s a pinball table with convenient auditory proximity to the woman’s bathroom where no doubt around 2 AM something is happening that’s best not heard.

And of course there’s a pinball table with convenient auditory proximity to the woman’s bathroom where no doubt around 2 AM something is happening that’s best not heard. There’s a pool table nearby with quite a few angles that make more ‘traditional’ pool cue flight patterns a little challenging. And all of it is encased in what looks to be a regular house, on a regular street, in what was once a pretty ordinary part of town.

The drinks are cheap. The beer is cold. The bargain selection is extensive and the installation of a beer fridge in the kitchen (displacing some precious cheese ball real estate) was cause for high controversy as it extended the collection a little too close to hipster-town. And it’s beautiful. Red paneled tables, chairs with black cushions that have seen a thing or two, sports shrines, Black Label at the bar, 6 chairs at the bar and a stoutly dedicated crowd.

Johnnie’s is home to a rotating band of regulars that have been visiting the bar, overserving themselves, soaking it up with a few cheeseballs and stumbling out into a darkened neighborhood for decades. There’s tale that the grandfathered nature of the location may expire when the owner does, no transferals, no continuances, and if that’s true, Johnnie’s is an immediate must-visit. The Maldives may be sinking but if there’s a spot for dive bars somewhere in your soul, Johnnie’s may just be your Midwestern Maldives to visit before it sinks back into the neighborhood that created it.

Photos

The Basics

1491 Glenn Ave
Columbus, OH 43212

Classification:
Neighborhood Bar

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