Bar Guide: Six watering holes worth visiting on the South Side

G.A. Benton, Columbus Alive
Red Brick tap and Grill

A lot of history is baked into the bricks and sidewalks that line the old South Side. Yeah, it has a reputation for being rough around the edges, but as some pub-crawling sessions in the Merion Village community recently bore out, the area also enjoys a wild, trends-be-damned good time - and arguably offers the most fun, welcoming and best neighborhood gay bars in greater Columbus. Here's a taste.

Red Brick Tap & Grill

Fun, spiffy and comfy Red Brick offers everything you could want from a great neighborhood sports bar - and more. Housed in a building with a ton of history, it's a dramatically rehabbed, snazzy tavern that takes the "red" in its title seriously. In addition to all the red, there is an amusing superhero motif expressed in an inspired wall of comic book covers, superhero-themed pinball machines and a comic book-style cocktail menu highlighting local hooch. There are also 30 beer taps - about half Ohio-sourced - TVs, two patios (one with a blazing fire pit), bluesy tunes, a pool table and an above-and-beyond menu that showcases house-smoked barbecue, scratch-made pizzas, a kicky weekend brunch and a terrific happy hour.

292 E Gates St., Merion Village


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Southbend Tavern

Talk about a riot! If the Columbus skyline weren't sketched out in lights inside this gloriously downscale, super-friendly party palace, you might think you'd walked onto a set for "Desperately Seeking Susan." I half-expected to see Madonna join the fabulously outfitted, high-energy drag performers who danced acrobatically and sang (or lip synced) like nobody's business. In fine Warholian fashion, there's a show almost every night, and TVs stream shots of customers, because, mon cher, deep down we all know that everyone is a superstar just waiting to happen.

126 E Moler St., Merion Village


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Hey Hey Bar and Grill

Built in 1900, this big, bustling and beloved dive bar - "so nice they named it twice" - has been serving good-timing swillers since long before Prohibition. Firmly endowed with stout brick walls and a wealth of wacky bric-a-brac - such as a 250-pound hunk of limestone with shamrocks and "Hey Hey" carved into it - this convivial watering hole is as classic as classic gets. Along with all that ain't-fakin'-it vintage character, Hey Hey offers seven drafts (including beers from Land-Grant, North High Brewing and Buckeye Lake Brewery), its renowned sauerkraut balls, a dartboard, pool table and live "blues jams" every Wednesday night.

361 E. Whittier, German Village


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Cavan Irish Pub

"Inclusive, affordable, comfortable and unique!" it says on Cavan's website, and that's not a case of false advertising. Since opening in 2009, this "all are welcome" large, dark and handsome gay Irish tavern has offered the South Side a standout dose of cushy gentrification. Lest you think this tasteful and roomy establishment with a big rectangular bar, brick walls, pictures of Irish castles, 12 taps (with some of the usual local brews) plus a heated patio with padded chairs and a "smoking hut" istoo gentrified, show up on Karaoke Friday or Drag Saturday, and a raucous chorus of happy patrons will convince you otherwise.

1409 S High St., South Side


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Tatohead's Public House

"They actually give a shit about the neighborhood," said a visitor to my table when he heard me asking questions about this former Hal & Al's space and its terrific happy hour (Tatohead's 15 draft beers are half-priced from 4-8 p.m.). The testifying guy, a local farmer, pointed out Tatohead's community garden near its backyard-style patio, and he stressed the place's commitment to providing a safe hangout off the beaten path in an inviting, funky dive bar with a hip clientele, full kitchen (try the chorizo burger and guacamole balls), a stage for local bands (which play every Friday night) and amusing, pseudo-classical-Greek-type detailing.

1297 Parsons Ave., South Side


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Boscoe's Bar

When Boscoe's opened about a month ago to crowds of eager party people, it seemed to make a statement: In Merion Village, a glitzy little gay disco could succeed where a former mod pool hall (Bar 7) couldn't. Although not large, wild-but-tidy Boscoe's has all the bells and whistles you'd expect from a flashy establishment, such as roving multicolored lights, under-lit tables, mirrored balls and a curtained stage for drag queens and dancers. Other draws: CBC IPA on tap, a lengthy happy hour (Monday-Friday, 3-8 p.m.) and a lava lamp-type wall projection.

1224 South High St.. Merion Village