A gem among the Polaris chains

“You love it or you hate it.”

This sentiment is heard time and time again from entrepreneurs, managers and bartenders when describing life in the restaurant industry. And sometimes you love it enough to endure less than ideal working conditions.

“When I was coming up, I had a lot of lousy jobs,” said Pat Daly, owner of Atlas Tavern, which opened last spring in Polaris. “I didn't get treated well. I never had weekends off. I never got paid time off.”

Daly vowed he would provide a better environment for his own employees when he opened his first business, Wings Over Massachusetts. But as the company expanded, adding franchises all over the country, some of those core values were difficult to maintain.

“You're suddenly beholden to franchisees and investors,” Daly said. “Your life's all about [profit and loss] and distribution.”

And some of the focus on hospitality is lost, he added.

So Daly stepped away from the Wings Over chain (he still owns the Columbus locations) and opened Atlas Tavern with a renewed commitment to employees and customers.

“I did well [in my career],” he said. “I want to give back to people.”

Daly's care and passion extend to the aesthetic of the bar. He put in a lower ceiling with lights built in wood planks to facilitate a warm environment. He added fun details like a wall of newspapers from all over the world, and belt-like straps to booths to resemble messenger bags.

General manager Marco Piazza created the drink menu, which also features a list of rotating drafts. “Cocktail wise, we have switched quite a bit,” Piazza said. “The more complicated a cocktail gets, the more people don't seem to like it.”

They focus on simple, high-quality, house-made ingredients, but leave room for creative concoctions. One standout is the Honey Bear cocktail, made from bourbon and pressed Honeycrisp apples and served in a bear glass.

Beefy chili makes multiple appearances among the bar fare. You can order it atop nachos (offered from small to “stupidly large”), or in a three-way, an addition suggested by Piazza, a Cincinnati native.

Daly and Piazza are intentional about serving the Polaris suburb.

“You could pick this up and put it in the Short North or Old Towne East or Clintonville or Franklinton, and I think it would do really well,” Piazza said. “I think people want that up here instead of [taking] Uber rides that are $30 … down to the Short North.”

“You have to follow the families out [to the suburbs] for your city to truly be vibrant,” Daly said. “You have to have more than one neighborhood where cool things are.”