Imagine if you could go on a bar crawl far away from the possibly underage partiers on OSU's stretch of High Street or the frat-boy revelers on Park Street.
That's the irresistible allure of Bethel Centre, a run-of-the-mill strip mall home to a few ethnic eateries, a dollar store and three different local sports bars (plus a Buffalo Wild Wings).
I discovered this magical cold-beer oasis late one evening as I drove along Bethel Road, thirsty for a frosty brew. This was a serious and powerful thirst, making my normal haunts farther south a bit too far away.
For a mile or so, I saw nothing but nail salons and paper companies, pet stores and sub shops. Then arose Bethel Centre, and I decided to give it a try.
Turning in, the nose of my car pointed straight to On Tap Pub, a familiar-looking joint that seemed as good a start as any. I was right.
Walking in, I found cozy confines with very cold drafts, daily drink specials and a staff that offered smiles and firm handshakes. Turns out, On Tap's a Packers Backers bar and, as a Browns fan feeling no real animosity toward Green Bay, I nodded in approval.
There's a small patio out back, and everything's as simple as the bar name. I could've easily spent an entire evening here, yet other options beckoned.
My next stop was Halftime Tavern, just a few doors to the right.
Though the frontage looks similar, this place is a completely different animal. Halftime is an enormous cavern that resembles a Chuck E. Cheese for adult sports fans - pool tables, indoor cornhole, electronic jukebox, tons of TVs and Hoop Fever, a basketball-shooting game.
In addition to its fine extracurriculars, the bar serves domestic bottles and drafts at a decent price. You can also enjoy daily specials on shots called Electric Lemonade, Nascar and Buckeye. Small groups of college-aged patrons were happily doing so as they worked their way from one game to another.
On one hand, I appreciated that everything from the barstools to the baseboards had been colored scarlet and gray. On the other, I hated the thought of playing Hoop Fever by myself - "Oh, sweet! New high score!" I decided instead to complete a Bethel Centre trifecta.
The last place I hit without moving my car was Coaches Bar & Grill, the plaza's most upscale. There are brass-lined railings, a subdued color scheme and big screens on two walls - a slightly classier place to finish a game's second half.
Coaches is definitely the place to end a good happy-hour run or a long evening out, as it offers a wide selection of appetizers, sandwiches, dinner platters and salads generally ranging between $7 and $11. It also has one of the most underused bar amenities in town: the humidor.
After dinner, you can grab a decent cigar by Romeo y Julieta, Ashton or Macanudo from a small box on the bar. Then, with a stogie and rocks glass in hand, you're free to saunter onto a large, open-air patio with benches, tables and a secondary bar serving beer and limited liquor.
Yeah, you can bet I'll make it back out to Bethel Centre.