The Thirsty Scholar

Columbus, Ohio

Johnnie's Tavern - Columbus Dive Bar - Exterior

In Short

Along the northern edge of Ohio State University’s campus, The Thirsty Scholar anchors a dive bar, pizza place, gas station trifecta that draws a unique combination of broke college students and people who fondly remember being broke college students.

Field Rating

6

out of 10

Awkward eye contact can be healthy.

Field Note

The bar scene around The Ohio State University isn’t what it once was, with the slow encroaching threat of “redevelopment” hanging over the head of dive bars past and present. North campus has escaped the a bit more unscathed than other areas, with aptly-named classics like Varsity Club, The Library and The Thirsty Scholar still kicking.

On the northern edge of campus, The Thirsty Scholar sits at the transition point between classrooms and off-campus student housing, one third of that classic campus trifecta: dive bar, gas station, pizza place. Though the all-you-can-drink special of years past sadly hasn’t lasted the test of time or shifting campus regulations, The Thirsty Scholar remains perfectly presented, a squat building that blends into the duplexes that surround it with just enough stairs to make late night embarkation tricky.

The bar’s location makes it a perfect spillover for everything from procrastinating students to visiting alumni reliving the glory days.

The bar’s location makes it a perfect spillover for everything from procrastinating students to visiting alumni reliving the glory days and that kind of diversity always makes for an interesting night of drinking. And with that diversity comes aggressive drink pricing, a virtuous cycle that keeps hold of a steady stream of regulars and predictably regular broke college students.

The main room at the top of those surprisingly steep front steps is a thin one, a rectangle with a short bar to one side jammed with an impressively cramped set of taps that neighbors a flat top. A faux bar runs along the opposite wall, something that may come in handy during an Ohio State gameday but feels a little comical for such a small room every other day.

Fond memories are attached to the men’s bathroom in particular, an interesting combination of urinal walls about 4 feet tall.

But the real layer of grime on this dive bar comes from the basement, less of a free-for-all than it once was, but still very much a room that feels every bit of a campus bar basement. Fond memories are attached to the men’s bathroom in particular, an interesting combination of urinal walls about 4 feet tall and a door that has perpetually remained open, broken or missing. Eye contact is unavoidable and as awkward as it sounds.

If that’s not your idea of an exceptional dive bar experience, then you’re probably reading the wrong review, because that’s the kind of thing that makes a dusty college dive objectively better than the corporate chains destined to replace it one day.

There’s a pool table, there’s a TouchTunes, local flags on the wall and friendly bartenders at the helm. It’s a classic campus dive a few feet away from BW3 keeping the flame alive as progress inches closer. And if fighting that good fight comes with a little bit of awkward eye contact in a basement men’s bathroom, then that’s a worthy price to be paid.

Photos

The Basics

2201 Neil Ave
Columbus, OH 43201

Classification:
College Dive

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