For a guy who sports red Chuck Taylor’s on the daily, Bar 145 founder Jeremy Fitzgerald is serious about two things: gourmet food and good bourbon.
When the first Bar 145 location opened in Toledo more than two years ago, Fitzgerald decided great live music and artfully made pub food shouldn’t be mutually exclusive. By combining the party atmosphere of his native Put-In-Bay with a white-china dining experience to bring a unique night out for Columbus residents.
“We aren’t a burger bar. We are a 21st Century gastropub,” Fitzgerald said. “We like to think our ‘red chucks, white china,’ culture-clash philosophy shows we are cool and hip, but we take our food seriously.”
And Fitzgerald means “seriously.” All the buns used at Bar 145 are made fresh daily, and the cheese and vegetables are locally sourced.
“The freezer is solely for ice cream,” he said. “Everything else is fresh.”
Even though Fitzgerald doesn’t see Bar 145 as a burger joint, he certainly loaded up the burger menu with some heavy-hitters. In addition to a “build your own burger” checklist placed at every table (which apparently has more than 200,000 possible combinations), the Apple Pie Burger (topped with spiced apples and cream cheese) and Monte Cristo Burger (topped with blackberry jam and served on French toast) are bound to make an impression on burger enthusiasts. But foodies shouldn’t fear, because the menu definitely offers dishes for the more mature palate in the form of foie gras infused meatballs, truffle fries served with organic gouda gravy and roasted bone marrow.
“People seem really surprised by how good the food is. They don’t expect a place with live music to have that level of dining,” he said. “My favorite item on the menu is the [fried confit] duck wings. I usually just tell people I’m ordering wings, and once they taste them I tell them it’s duck. They always love it.”
Fitzgerald takes the bourbon seriously as well. More than 30 kinds of the spirit are offered in addition to a full bar, clearly putting the emphasis on the booze over the food both in the name and in practice.
The sprawling 5,400-square-foot space features a bar that stretches out to a patio area (separated by doors that open in the summer), a stage and professional sound system, and a mezzanine with a separate bar and seating.
“The bar is aligned perfectly with the stage, so you can watch the band perform even when you’re outside in the summer. I hate when patios feel isolated from the rest of the action. This way, patrons can be served by the same bartender whether they are inside or out,” Fitzgerald said. “People want a wide open area.”
The entire space is Fitzgerald’s personal vision, from the décor to the uniforms.
“I picked out every square inch of this place. I love having creative control,” he said. “In fact, when I said the uniform should consist of red Chucks, jeans and a Bar 145 shirt, a friend told me I was making the employees dress just like me. I guess I sort of did.”
Fitzgerald plans to bring in nationally known cover bands and other live acts to channel the Put-In-Bay party atmosphere he loves in a city that has always been on his radar.
“I have a lot of friends here and I knew I wanted to open a location in Grandview. I wanted to bring that party energy,” he said. “Once people find out about us, they will want to be here.”
So far, the response from the community has been positive, but opening in Columbus wasn’t without hiccups.
“Opening was hard because this time of year everybody is on vacation. We literally had to have two separate orientations,” Fitzgerald said. “Opening a place is always difficult, but I knew I wanted to create something different. We are still trying to figure it out, but so far it’s been pretty good. I mean, we’ve been slammed every weekend.”