The cattle-skull sign in front of Buckeye Bar & Grill glows like a giant lampshade in the night air. On any given evening, patrons sport leather boots, oversized belt buckles and even 10-gallon hats.
"I think we're the only real country bar in the city," said owner Bryan Balemian.
Three years ago the young owner took the reins of the bar, formerly known as NYOH's, and just last spring he finished a long process of renovating and reinventing the space. "This was probably one of the biggest hole-in-the-wall dumps you've ever seen," he said.
The long, dark and tidy bar now teeters somewhere between a nightclub and a neighborhood joint. Tall tables scattered around the stage area provide ample room for people to hang out, and there are also two pool tables and a tin-roofed second bar nearby.
The main bar near the entrance regularly houses an eclectic crew of loungers happy to hear Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift or an occasional AC/DC song. At night, more adventurous types hit the bar's roomy wooden stage for line dancing. And if you're not hip to the twang, Buckeye Bar offers free dancing lessons Friday evenings.
Synchronized boogieing is big on weekends and Tuesday and Thursday College Nights, when the bar charges a small cover but lets in everyone 18 and up. Twentysomethings are always drawn in by ludicrously cheap all-day specials, like Thursday's $1 bombs (yes, any bomb - even Jager), Friday's $1 PBR and Busch Light cans, or Sunday's $4 import pitchers.
Buckeye Bar serves a fairly nice selection of pub grub bolstered by greeny salads, varied subs and Papa Joe's pizzas. Highlights include Firecracker Shrimp and meaty wings (either are $7.75 for 12), and the Southwest Burger ($7.25) - a half-pound of Angus topped with guacamole, tortilla chips and a Mex-Ranch dressing. The bar features daily food specials and, surprisingly, serves up eats both in-house and for delivery until 3 a.m.
The bar's long happy hour is a prime time for enjoying thrifty finger food, like the cheese-stuffed, fried jalapenos dubbed Rattlesnake Bites ($2.40). If you're looking to jump-start the evening, try a couple of the bar's 200-plus bombs.
"We came up with some, but [customers] invent them, too - if it's good, we'll put it on the list," Balemian said.
4 p.m.-3 a.m. daily
4-9 p.m. Monday-Friday: half-priced drinks, drafts, appetizers and salads
Buckeye Bar & Grill
2871 Olentangy River Rd., Campus