5 O'Clock Somewhere: Red Brick Inn
For a long time, the building that houses the Red Brick Inn was a hardware store on one side, a confectionery on the other. It was a Piggly Wiggly grocery store after that, with a giant advertisement, long sandblasted away, covering the brick wall facing Gates Street.
Since 1948, it's been a neighborhood bar. A really good one, in fact: unassuming on the outside, warm and charming inside. It's kitschy but not cluttered, divey but never dingy, worn in all the right ways.
"The bar has a really great history," said owner Dell Pipas, who bought the joint in 2001. "Everything in here is mine, and everything has a story."
Take the striped cotton hat sitting above a wooden bar stained dark and deep. That came from Lee, a conductor who bellied up for a drink nearly every day for three decades before passing several years ago.
It hangs next to colorful bottles shaped like Ohio and historical figures, functional statues pilfered from garages and yards across the country. A hammerhead shark, sent in by one of Pipas' friends, sits as a sentinel.
Iron-piped overhead fans and tall ceilings give the bar the vague feel of a whistle-stop down in Dixieland. Stools upholstered in red leather and the long, clean bar top also speak to a long history of beers shared on muggy summer nights.
To combat the swelter sure to return in August, the bar offers the usual mix of liquor, drafts and bottles. Domestic bottles cost $2.50, with imports starting at $3.50. Pints of Pabst Blue Ribbon run $2.25.
While you still can, sample Columbus Brewing Company's Summer Teeth, a fantastic seasonal variety. The Bavarian-style kellerbier - light and sweet with a hoppy finish - is on tap for $4 a pint.
The kitchen's simple with standard bar munchies like a quarter-pound beef hot dog for $2.75, popcorn shrimp for $4.50 and cheeseburgers starting at $5.50.
You can enjoy this fine fare at one of the tables next to an electronic dartboard and pool table. Or, if you get tired of Lord of the Rings pinball and hand-painted baseball murals inside, check out a beautiful back patio with stone benches and tables, ample shade and picturesque landscaping.
Red Brick Inn
292 E. Gates St., Merion Village
In short: Warm, inviting and great since 1948
Hours: 4 p.m.-12 a.m. Monday, 2:30 p.m.-2:30 a.m. Tuesday-Friday, 7 p.m.-2:30 a.m. Saturday (open an hour before Buckeye football games), 1 p.m.-12 a.m. Sunday
Happy hour: 50 cents off all drinks and free pool until 7:30 p.m. Monday-Friday