Scouting report: The Lane Avenue Rusty Bucket (the one I visit) is the closest thing to a standard sports bar in my Final Five, and frankly, I wasn’t a fan of this local mini-chain with the corrosive name when it opened. Then I tried their (almost anti) “sliders” and became a convert. See, I learned those four-bite burgers were emblematic of what the Bucket does best — whip up the expected (read cliche) pub staples, but make ’em fresh, from scratch and with vastly improved ingredients.
Setting the screen: Scattered among this convivial establishment’s Buckeye and Blue Jackets paraphernalia are 18 TVs positioned strategically so you can scan several from every seat. Bonus: There’s a heated, year-round outdoor patio equipped with flatscreens and a firepit — the latter good for staring into when your team is stinking it up.
Kiss off the glass: About a dozen good brews suitable to any mood are on tap, led by the outstanding Founders Porter, Bell’s Two Hearted Ale and Anchor Steam. Bonus: The Bucket makes a mean Bloody Mary for noonish tipoffs.
Slam dunks: “Bucket Bites,” ($8.25) those crave-tastic slidery snacks, are a quartet of fresh, handmade mini-burgers crisped up diner-style, dressed with sauteed onions and melted (real) cheese, and caressed by puffy, toasted potato rolls. Nachos ($13), upgraded with beef short rib meat, melted cheese (no stadium goo), and warm, just-fried chips also overachieve, as do the best Chicken Fingers you’ll ever eat ($9) — sliced fresh daily and fried with crackly fish-and-chip-style beer batter (like the burgers, they’re served with good and garlicky skin-on fries).