5 O'Clock Somewhere: Ruckmoor Lounge
The first thing you'll notice turning into the parking lot of the Ruckmoor Lounge is a giant coat of arms: golden crown on top, big "R" center stage and rearing, wild-eyed bulls on either side.
Flash comes at a premium at this watering hole just outside the Crosswoods development. Character? Well, that's an entirely different story.
Inside you'll find seating made from weathered kegs, Tudor-style windows, brick-lined fireplace, a long bar and a good deal of wood paneling. Except for the TVs and the Golden Tee, the space looks like a remote hunting lodge used by Henry VIII.
There are two patios, two pool tables and four walls adorned with pictures dating back to the early days, when longtime owner Bob Rucker first bought the Pearly Gates Motel and built a cocktail spot to accommodate traveling motorists.
Once you've got a beer in hand - cans for $2.25, domestic drafts for $1.75 - you won't need photos for a history lesson.
A good share of the bar's past lives and breathes in colorful regulars who pass months, years, decades within the bar's low-lit, unassuming confines. More seasoned vets talk a bit rough, but they'll play half of George Harrison's solo catalog, take your keys if you've had too much to drink and leave smiling.
Last Thursday, I wasn't there 15 minutes before I made friends.
"Everybody who comes in here, they're usually looking for directions," said Greg Wiler, a familiar face since 1997. "They sit. We buy them a drink. They say, 'Now this is a friendly place.' "
He and cohorts enjoy buckets of beer, Jell-O shots and other daily Ruckmoor drink specials, and their enthusiasm is contagious. Wisconsin native Brian Nichols, who frequents Columbus for contract work, caught it bad.
"This is the best bar I've ever been in my life," Nichols said, a wedge of cheese bouncing feverishly atop his Packers cap. "I could stay at any hotel in town. I stay at the Days Inn because it's close to the Ruckmoor."
They say the clientele changes more quickly than the weather - some nights CEOs, some nights grizzled locals - and everyone's welcome to sit down and hear a story or two soundtracked by a constant stream of classic rock and vintage country.
I won't spoil too many of the tales, but rumor has it there used to be a bird behind the bar. And a monkey.
7496 N. High St., Worthington
Hours: 5:30 a.m.-2:30 a.m. Monday-Saturday, 1 p.m.-2:30 a.m. Sunday
Happy hour: 4-8 p.m. Monday-Friday: five domestic cans for $9, $6 pitchers of Budweiser and Bud Light, $2.75 well drinks
In short: Worthington's most storied watering hole