A brandless district comes into its own.

For years, there wasn't enough life in the short strip of Downtown centered at Fourth and Main to bother giving it a name. Many times, people simply referred to the streets. It's also been called the Red Brick District, though that hardly stuck, and it never quite found its brand. But that lack of a title hasn't stopped a once-quiet area from thriving recently.

Tina and Randy Corbin opened Little Palace in 2009 and El Camino Inn in 2012. Tina remembers when it wasn't an area people frequented. “We had to work really hard those first few years,” she says.

Things improved steadily after 2013, when 16-Bit Bar + Arcade opened down the street, bringing a new energy to the district. “They were the first one,” Tina says. “They brought an element to that neighborhood that was really unique.”

Now, with a variety of popular spots cropping up, the backwards L bordered by Third and Rich streets has developed as if it were a miniature version of a city-planned neighborhood, with apartments and condos nearby that help support the businesses. But there was no plan from the city. Columbus assistant director of development Cynthia Rickman calls the area “primarily organic and private sector-driven,” adding that it has become “definitely an asset to Downtown.” As the city tries to connect various Downtown neighborhoods, Rickman says she hopes its momentum can spread to nearby areas.

“Folks are looking for places to eat and shop,” she says, “so I think it will have that sort of natural progression.”

With a little help from the powers that be, Tina Corbin thinks the “cool little niche area” can extend its vibrancy around town. “We just need some trash cans, some beautifications,” she says. “Something to say, ‘Hey, we're a friendly little block here.' ”

1. El Camino Inn

238 S. Fourth St., elcaminoinn.co

A trendy spot next to Little Palace, El Camino is an affordable, no-frills bar offering Mexican food, beer and tequila.

2. Little Palace

240 S. Fourth St., littlepalacerestaurant.com

Little Palace is a local favorite, a 1960s-themed diner and bar with a wide variety of menu options.

3. Red Velvet Café

246 S. Fourth St., redvelvetcbus.com

Amid a plethora of nightlife-oriented businesses, Red Velvet shines during the day with coffee, tea, specialty cupcakes and Filipino-inspired sandwiches.

4. Dirty Frank's Hot Dog Palace

248 S. Fourth St., dirtyfrankscolumbus.com

Dirty Frank's owns the Downtown market on creative hot dog flavors, with 40 versions and

60 toppings.

5. 16-Bit Bar + Arcade

254 S. Fourth St., 16-bitbar.com

The grown-up arcade helped spark a new wave of interest in the area.

6. Hadley's Bar + Kitchen

260 S. Fourth St., hadleysbar.com

One of the area's newest establishments, Hadley's opened in 2016 and has drawn guests to a popular brunch with bottomless mimosas.

7. Mikey's Late Night Slice

268 S. Fourth St., latenightslice.com

The Fourth Street location of Mikey's, which opened in 2015, is the only full-service restaurant in the mini Mikey's empire.

8. Hawk Galleries

153 E. Main St., hawkgalleries.com

Hawk Galleries hosts a variety of installations and adds an artsy flair to the area.

9. The Walrus Kitchen & Public House

143 E. Main St., thewalruscolumbus.com

The Walrus is one of the district's larger places and provides a bar, rec room and live music space.

10. Sidebar Columbus

122 E. Main St., sidebarcolumbus.com

Sidebar brings a combination of Mediterranean and South American inspiration to its small plates, featured during the popular Tapas Tuesday.

11. Pecan Penny's

113 E. Main St., pecanpennys.com

A new venture from the owners of The Walrus, Pecan Penny's is a forthcoming barbecue restaurant.

Want to get Columbus Monthly in your inbox? Sign up for our e-newsletter.