105 N. Grant Ave.
Columbus, OH 43215
Downtown Columbus is changing, and really, really fast these days. The Long Street corridor northeast in downtown – which until now has felt like an industrial no-mans’s land between the colleges to the west and the central business district to the east – is rising in a quick way as new apartment and condominium developments spring up along this route. In a decade it’s going to be a full-fledged neighborhood of its own, young people wandering among restaurants and coffee shops and nightlife.
Change is hard. And it often means leaving things behind. The Grass Skirt, which has been a hidden favorite for seven years, closes this weekend as its owner prepares for newer things. What’s being left behind is undoubtedly a Columbus experience like few others.
Tiki bars are kind of a long-lived trope in middle America, and the concept of course benefits from the familiar pleasantry of tiki heads, luau colors and bright volcanoes, fish and the like. The food is that hybrid of old-fashioned Thai and vaguely Polynesian. Then there’s a massive mix of rums and spirits to make a few different drinks. Some of the best:
- The Spicy Peanut Pasta is a stir of wheat noodles with a mixture of red peppers, onions, carrots, egg, chopped peanuts, fresh cilantro. The heat isn’t too bad – you’ll bite into a dried pepper now and then – but top it with some jerk chicken and you’re golden.
- The Red Curry Rice Noodles are similar but with a different sauce, this time topped with broccoli, red peppers, onions, carrots, house-made coconut curry sauce and again some jerk chicken for good measure.
- A signature, the Tikiphile Mai Tai has Rums from Jamaica and Martinique are the base of this cocktail which also adds in Curaçao, lime and house orgeat for simplicity. You know what you’re getting into.
Meanwhile the Caramelized Pineapple Coffee Grog features house-infused pineapple coffee rum, lime, pineapple juice, Angostura bitters.
The place really benefits from that easygoing kind of feel – of course it’s a small bar with a small patio so it tended to get crowded, and then the cracks would show up. The bar’s known for a bit of a wait, especially during busy hours. And there’s something to be said for the constantly reinvented cocktail scene in this town, the bar holds its own well in that regard but there’s always more competition.
Columbus is a city in transition, and so some things are going to come and go. The comfortable little unique bars like this one have dried up in some places, downtown especially, for things more cosmopolitan. But the experience just can’t be repeated.