St. James Tavern

Columbus, Ohio

Johnnie's Tavern - Columbus Dive Bar - Exterior

In Short

Along Columbus’ rapidly developing North 4th Street, St. James Tavern honors the power and beauty of a kitchen window and keeps an impressive commitment to wood paneling, making for a warming dive bar experience in a building that looks only slightly abandoned.

Field Rating

7

out of 10

Might be open. Might not be. Hard to tell.

Field Note

There’s something about a short, squat little building with a beer sign in the window that can really inspire a desire to drink. St. James Tavern does just that, a dive bar built into what looks to be the husk of a decades-old house, one of the first indicators of a great dive.

Unique is the presence of an honest to goodness window, not just the narrow rectangles more typical to a classic dive. A couple of windows frame the front door, with a classic kitchen window providing excellent viewing from the bar itself, presumably to watch a pie slowly cooling. Mercifully, the pool room windows were covered long ago, removing the pesky inconvenience a sense of time can sometimes be.

St. James Tavern remains the dive bar it has always been, a two-room schoolhouse dedicated to alcohol education.

North 4th Street in Columbus is another in a long line of neighborhoods within the city that has seen population growth translate into the slow crawl of new development. New breweries, coffee shops and other hipster tropes have popped up in near vicinity, but St. James Tavern remains the dive bar it has always been, a two-room schoolhouse dedicated to alcohol education.

Outside, at a passing glance, the space might feel like a boarded-up, hollowed-out used-to-be-something structure, again, a positive sign. Only the glow of the beer signs in the window provides some reassurance that beer can be found within, glowing beacons along a wall that features a false door and the boarded up ex-windows of the pool bar, making for an exterior as nondescript as possible.

The senses are assaulted upon entry with relentless wood paneling that covers every inch of the space.

The senses are assaulted upon entry with relentless wood paneling that covers every inch of the space, smooth slats for the ceiling and knotted panels along the walls that provide a dose of personality. The front room features a bar to the right and some accompanying stools and a wide opening in the opposite wall empties out into the pool room, a space long enough for two tables and wide enough for only slightly awkward shots amidst the drinking.

St. James is not complicated and so this review is not complicated. The exterior feels like an abandoned storefront. The wood paneling is as comforting as it is prolific. The window is completely insane for a bar so clearly built for timeless day drinking. It’s a classic dive bar in a part of town still holding on to the kind of environment that can keep such a place alive.

Photos

The Basics

1057 N 4th St
Columbus, OH 43201

Classification:
Neighborhood Bar

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