Mike’s Grill

Columbus, Ohio

Johnnie's Tavern - Columbus Dive Bar - Exterior

In Short

Part of the increasingly refined and upscale Short North neighborhood of Columbus, Mike’s Grill provides a needed dose of authenticity, a dive bar serving up jello shots and 40’s to a set of regulars as enduring as the space itself.

Field Rating

6

out of 10

It says Grill, but maybe think carefully about your decisions.

Field Note

The Short North neighborhood of Columbus is home to trendy bars, clubs catering to 20-somethings and unnecessarily expensive restaurants charging $20 for a plate of food and calling it tapas. Mike’s Grill is none of those things. And it’s not even a grill, really, as over years across a number of visits I’ve never once seen food, a kitchen or the threat of either coming from the back area of a bar that’s dirty enough in front to not need a back area.

Mike’s provides one of the last gasps of authenticity to an area that has been transformed over the past decade in a great way, but with transformation often comes the loss of the original heart of a neighborhood. And while that’s not to say that Mike’s is enduring cultural institution to be put on some kind of registry, but it is to say that Mike’s is perhaps the last standing dive bar in a part of town increasingly unlikely to host any such place.

The bar is a cash-only shoebox of a space, with a wooden façade outside that gives way to entirely wooden-clad interior.

The bar is a cash-only shoebox of a space, with a wooden façade outside that gives way to entirely wooden-clad interior. One of the few exceptions to the wooden theme is the penny-clad bar surface, home to a permanent display of a few hundred coins just under the surface. The place has a saloon-style vibe to it, perhaps because of the no-nonsense exterior or the mostly bare interior, though that illusion is shattered a bit by the status of the jello shot as the specialty of the house.

A handful of black hightop tables and accompanying chairs dot the space, but as far as noteworthy physical features, Mike’s doesn’t have many. The area behind the bar features cabinetry reminiscent of perhaps your grandmother’s home kitchen, and a large refrigerator prominently displays the drink selection a few feet away. That drink selection does include a selection of 40’s, if you’re in the mood, though if you purchase your weekly King Cobra at Mike’s, it has to be consumed elsewhere (no Edward 40 Hands allowed inside).

Look up for the welcome appearance of Spuds Mackenzie, the kind of bar light perfectly at home along Mike’s upper mantle.

Look up for the welcome appearance of Spuds Mackenzie, the kind of bar light perfectly at home along Mike’s upper mantle and complementary to the classic display of neon throughout the space. Perhaps surprisingly, a spacious patio unfolds out back, fortified by picnic tables and Christmas lights for a low-key cool and cost-effective vibe in decent weather.

The sum of the parts tells the story of Mike’s precisely, a cash-only dive bar in the middle of an ever upwardly mobile part of town, clad almost entirely in wood and wood paneling, doling out jello shots and 40’s. And it that doesn’t sound like the perfect kind of combination, there’s a chance you’re reading the wrong review.

Photos

The Basics

724 N High St
Columbus, OH 43215

Classification:
Downtown Dive

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