At one time in the tiny building's 112 years of existence the Ringside Cafe was The Rathskeller (est. 1897). You will notice that its former moniker is still etched on the wall above the entrance as sits nestled in the middle of the block bounded by East Gay, East Broad, North 3rd and North High (near the Rhodes State Officer Tower).
Though Ringside (since 1993) may now be a gathering place for small groups of downtown business people and government employees getting a quick bit to eat, it was once THE hot spot for area politics. You will notice on the side of the 19 N. Pearl Street structure's unique exterior that there are a pair of stained glass windows. One has the image of a donkey, the other an elephant. With city, county and state government inhabiting the downtown area it isn't hard to figure out that those images refer to our two major party system: Democrats and Republicans. Legend has it that before Columbus exploded into the concrete reservoir it is today the restaurant would light a candle, or lantern, and place it behind one of those windows to indicate which group (the Republicans or Democrats) had taken up residence for the evening to eat, drink and squabble over legislation. Apparently bipartisanship was as big of a problem as it is now...go figure.
Inside you will find it politics-free as the motif is that of the boxing nature which the name Ringside Cafe seems indicate. Memorabilia is scattered throughout, including the giant painting of what I believe is Rocky Marciano hammering one of his many opponents above the door just inside. It is as small inside as you would probably imagine when you stroll by, but it has lots of character and exudes history.
The few times I have been there the restaurant/bar had the barkeep also perform the duties of the cook. Being within arms reach of the kitchen, it kind of makes sense during those off business hours. Ringside is known for its burgers that come complete with the names of the boxing's greatest figures. My favor is the "Smokin' Joe" BBQ Bacon Burger. It comes steaming hot and juicy. The one that tops them all is the "Ali" and it will go 12 rounds with anyone thinking they are superior. It is a 3/4 pound Angus beef patty with House Coleslaw, cheddar cheese and a fried onion ring. Each so-called "Heavyweight" comes with House Kettle Chips, a Kosher Pickle Spear and on a Raised Kaiser Bun.
Check out the full menu for yourself: http://ringsidecolumbus.com/RingsideMenu.pdf
The liquid refreshment is more than decent with a few twists, including Bare Knuckle Stout, Shock Top and Goose Island Honkers Ale on tap. Happy Hour takes place Monday through Friday from 4 p.m to 7 p.m.
Check out the drinkage here: http://ringsidecolumbus.com/Beer.pdf
They have even created space downstairs for those who are not keen on rubbing shoulders with their fellow man or woman. The area below can also be used for private parties. For those who are looking to catch a game Ringside offers 28” televisions and a 48” LCD Flat screen to keep you entertained. During a good game the close quarters gives you the feeling of at least being in the crowd at that contest, but without the fight to find your car afterward.
Ringside has offers for those who dare trek through downtown during the busy lunch hour and these can usually be found here: http://ringsidecolumbus.com/2off.pdf. In my opinion the $2.00 off lunch is pretty good deal. It seems to urge those who work in the area to leave their car parked where it is and experience Columbus on foot. For those stuck with the working lunch, to go orders are also available: 614-228-7464 (RING).
This is still a gathering place for a few groups of those who work downtown or are employed by the city, but that does not mean "outsiders" are unwelcome. Ringside caters to everyone who wants a little history and mystic with their outing. Well...to those who can find it anyway.
You can get an idea of what Ringside Cafe has to offer by checking it out online at: http://ringsidecolumbus.com/