Gary Shyu admits he knew little about tending a bar and traversing a kitchen when he co-opened his Grove City restaurant and bar. But after running Hole in One Lounge and the adjoining China Bell restaurant for 20 years, he's grown comfortably into the shoes.
"There are not many places [where] you can sit at the bar and order Chinese food," the owner said.
On a recent afternoon, Shyu sauntered between tables chatting, and invariably laughing, with customers. Moving about, he greeted several patrons by name with a smile he couldn't seem to contain.
Shyu's restaurant and bar easily blurs into the barrage of fast food joints clustered around the nearby I-71 exit on Stringtown Road. Naturally, Hole in One Lounge's first-time visitors may be surprised to find a long granite bar surrounded by glass, flat-screen TVs and soft yellow lights.
Passersby and regulars occupy tall burnt-orange chairs inside the small bar. Lounge seating, carpeted floors and bare sandy walls lend Hole in One the feel of a hotel bar, much like the large banquet room nearby.
Whisky drinkers will be pleased to discover the selection of single-malt scotches, notably Glenlivet offerings like the 18 Year Old ($10.50) and the coveted XXV ($68).
Other patrons look forward to Hole in One's daily drink specials, like $3 margaritas on Wednesdays or $4 select martinis on Fridays. The bar's taps include Redhook Long Hammer IPA ($4), Blue Moon ($3.75) and Bud Light ($2), and the prices drop a quarter or so for happy hour.
Traditional Chinese fare is available at the bar or restaurant. China Bell's afternoon lunch specials bring in a crowd with discounted entrees, like greatest hits Generals Tso's ($7) or Wor Sue Gai ($6.45), paired with soup and an egg roll.
Homemade sauces, fresh greens and choice ingredients, like all-white-meat chicken, separate China Bell from the pack, Shyu said. The restaurant's lengthy menu has evolved over the years and includes several specialty dishes, like the China Bell Beef Noodles ($12) with pan-seared sirloin served over lo mein noodles, mushrooms and onions - it's kind of like a spicy Chinese beef stroganoff.
If tasting is simply not enough, Shyu offers monthly cooking classes at the on-site studio kitchen; the proceeds go to a local senior center. "I loved to eat so I wanted to learn how to cook - so can others," he said.
Hole in One Lounge
1947 Stringtown Rd., Grove City
11 a.m.-12 p.m. Sunday-Thursday
11 a.m.-1:30 a.m. Friday
12 p.m.-1:30 a.m. Saturday
5-7 p.m. Monday-Friday: $1 off pitchers, discounts on all drinks