Bar profile: Caribbean Jerks
Exactly four days after a glorious week on the Caribbean Sea, I found myself driving through an awful freezing rain to a bar in the Polaris area called Caribbean Jerks.
Seemed like a cruel consolation prize.
Yet a trip that started by cursing a God-forsaken state with neither sunshine nor snorkeling ended with a good time in a fun, island-themed haunt. It's amazing what a cold drink from a tiki bar can do.
Clearly a big fan of island fun, owner Mindy Durbin has tried to capture the tropical vibe and release it here in Central Ohio. That's a rather tough job, yet she's succeeded in many ways.
Walking in, the medium-sized space is sunny and inviting, with a longish bar decorated by tufts of grass and wooden, voodoo-looking faces. On walls and around tables is a collection of other island-themed fare: rugged fishing nets, starfish, colorful signs on wooden planks and Corona merch.
Most decor is familiar, but the bar gets props for shying away from island cliches like putting umbrellas in everything and forcing staff to wear grass skirts. I didn't hear "Cheeseburger in Paradise" once.
Last Thursday night, the bar was filled with casual drinkers, an extended family cheering Butler University's advance to the Elite Eight and comedians awaiting a weekly stand-up contest. (The Last Jerk Standing series runs weekly through April 21.)
Caribbean Idol karaoke happens every Wednesday, and weekends are often peppered with live entertainment. There's also a foosball table and some electronic dart boards to liven up an off-night.
You won't find much traditional Jamaican fare on the menu - just a good smattering of burgers, sandwiches, appetizers and pizzas. The Beachside Nachos ($8 with chicken, $9 with steak) is a giant plate of corn chips with tons of meat, cheese, beans, salsa, jalapenos and sour cream.
It may not be the Caribbean, but Jerk's is a pretty good place to go when you can't escape the cold.
One of Caribbean Jerks' biggest annual parties kicks off on Cinco de Mayo, when staff hauls 40 tons of sand into the bar. From Wednesday to Saturday, you'll find live entertainment, prizes, radio broadcasts and a good dose of gettin' down. By then, you might even be able to go outside and enjoy the bar's small front patio.
1262 E. Powell Rd., Lewis Center
Hours: 3 p.m.-2:30 a.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-2:30 a.m. Friday-Saturday, 12 p.m.-2:30 a.m. Sunday
Happy hour: 3-7 p.m. Monday-Friday: $2 domestic bottles and $1.75 domestic drafts
In short: A tropical vibe on the city's North Side