Restaurant Review: Ringside Cafe

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

The basement at Ringside, aka the Rathskeller, has a fascinating history. During Prohibition, back when the teensy Downtown watering hole was more of a speakeasy, the "candle-lit cellar became a Bohemian den for college undergrads and other members of the flapper generation," according to Dispatch archives. Fun!

But I suggest you reminisce about that history from the comforts of the equally historic upstairs dining room. Even if there's a wait for tables, and even if your dining partner suggests the basement is a pretty cool place to eat.

(Let's just say there's not much you can do to add ambiance to a windowless basement in a 100-year-old building.)

The epitome of a hidden gem, Ringside's tucked away in Pearl Alley between Broad and Gay streets. It's an architectural oddity that sits cockeyed, so if you're coming from the north you might not notice it till you're already walking past.

But hand-written signs beckon helpfully from Broad and Gay, luring in a steady crowd of Downtown workers around lunchtime and for after-work happy hours.

Inside, a massive oak bar and cool old stained-glass windows are some of the relics that've been around since the eatery's early days.

Oscar De La Hoya burger, $7.95

Ringside got its name from well-known local wrestling promoter Al Haft, who owned the place for a time. The menu has always been fighting-themed, including a hefty selection of burgers named after boxing greats.

If you haven't had a burger here in a while, you're in for a surprise. Ever since Ringside came under new ownership, the new chef has been revamping the restaurant's best-known offerings. Menu mainstays like the Smokin' Joe BBQ Bacon Burger have gotten even more delicious, and a few new creations are citywide standouts.

Like all the burgers here, my Oscar de la Hoya was made with a half-pound patty of Angus chuck cooked perfectly to order (in my case, a nice and juicy medium). Melted on top was a substantial slice of provolone cheese, and roasted red pepper strips provided some color.

You don't see roasted red peppers as an option for burger toppings very often, which is a shame. The sweet and smoky flavors marry perfectly with grilled beef. A creamy roasted garlic aioli spread thickly on a Kaiser roll bun added a nice, pungent punch.

Burgers come with a pickle spear and a pile of dark and thick kettle chips that I found quite tasty. Some similarly deep-brown house-cut fries are good, too, but not worth the upgraded price.

Oscar de la Hoya: $7.95

Tax & Tip: $1.83

Total: $9.78

Ringside Cafe

19 N. Pearl St., Downtown