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Happy Hour Squad Review: Bristol Republic charms Short North with southern character

Located at 1124 N. High St., Bristol Republic opened Friday April 12 and offers southern-style food and drinks. Credit: Lily Maslia

Main takeaway

Whether you’re a country person at heart or just someone who likes good drinks and food (I mean, who doesn’t?), Bristol Republic will be your saving grace in welcoming the summer. With an industrial feel and a Nashville atmosphere, Bristol Republic hit the ground running after its official opening as the Short North’s first bourbon and barbecue restaurant — reminiscent of Music City.

The locally owned restaurant provides cocktails served in Mason jars, southern comfort food and live music on the weekends to attract Columbus’ country enthusiasts. As a true southerner from Georgia (Lily) and a wanna-be cowgirl from Maryland (Anna), we teamed up as the self-titled Lantern Happy Hour Squad to see for ourselves if Bristol Republic lived up to its claim of bringing Nashville to Columbus.

Happy hour

It’s safe to say that any fancy cocktail in the Short North is going to be on the pricier side, but Bristol’s happy hour specials make the desirable, photo-worthy cocktails much more reasonable. Cocktails are half-priced during the restaurant’s 4-7 p.m. happy hour, as well as all drafts, whiskey and bourbon single pours, so any of the specialty drinks will be around $4.

Lily: I’m not usually a fruity cocktail person, so I like classic drinks with a kick. I had the Bristol Mule and two Bourbon and Bubbles. The Bristol Mule was made its own, served in a Mason jar as opposed to the classic copper mug. Given the choice between vodka, tequila, bourbon or gin, I chose gin, which made it a true Bristol Mule.

For my next drink, I took our server’s recommendation and chose a bourbon-based drink, though I am by no means a dark liquor person. The Bourbon and Bubbles was far stronger than the mule, but a strong citrus-infused flavor and prosecco made for a perfect combination, so I had to get a second one. Refreshing and exhilarating, the Bourbon and Bubbles is my top recommendation off the cocktail menu.

Anna: Knowing this review needed to be as thorough as possible, I ordered three different cocktails during happy hour. My first selection was the Sheriff Pim’s, which is made with gin, ginger ale, muddled cucumbers, strawberries and mint. The drink had a clear cucumber taste, which made it a refreshing option — not to mention, the fruit served on a toothpick on top of the Mason jar made it extremely Instagram worthy.

My next drink of choice was a Fresh Fruit Spiked Lemonade with flavored vodka and muddled raspberries at the bottom. You can also choose between blueberry and strawberry. My only complaint here is that the raspberries at the bottom would get stuck in my straw, preventing me from getting a solid sip of the delicious beverage.

I went out with a bang on my last happy hour selection, opting for the Bristol Punch, and it indeed had a punch. I stayed on trend with the fresh fruits, but the punch incorporated not only vodka, but rum, Schnapps and Everclear. While it sounds overwhelming, it really did taste like a fruit punch!

Overall, our takeaway of the cocktails is that they are creative, refreshing and full of variety. Now, we just have to go back and grab something on tap.

Food

Attending the first-ever “Taco Tuesday” at Bristol Republic, naturally we had to get the tacos. But this celebration of the traditional Mexican handheld was served with a twist. In addition to our own “walking” tacos, we also shared two sides, which are all $3 during happy hour: creamed corn elote and made-from-scratch tots. While we can’t speak to the true dinner menu (though there appears to be something for everybody), our tacos and sides were a perfect happy hour smorgasboard.

Lily: Before coming to Bristol, I had never had a “walking taco” before. If you don’t already know, a walking taco is a makeshift taco served inside of a chip bag. I’m a messy eater, so this was very Lily-friendly. I ordered the classic taco, which came with chili, queso, cilantro and lime crema inside of a mini Fritos bag. I loved every bite of this Frito-infused taco, with the queso being my favorite part. The Fritos at the bottom of the bag provided a delightful crunch and were extremely satisfying. One taco was just enough for me.

We ordered creamed corn elote, thanks to our server’s recommendation, and I was floored. The creamed corn elote comes in a rectangular skillet bowl and is topped with crushed Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. The creamed corn was a perfect warm and cheesy accessory to the happy hour spread, but the Cheeto topping is what pulled it all together. Like the Fritos in the taco, the Cheetos provided a much-needed crunch to change up the creamy consistency.

To top off our happy hour excursion, we ended with something sweet: the Brookie. The Brookie is a chocolate chip cookie baked inside of a brownie, hence the name, topped with a scoop of Buckeye ice cream and a smoked caramel drizzle. The dessert was a perfect and sweet finish to our wide spread of food and drinks. The Brookie is the kind of dish you have to be strategic with, finding the “perfect bite” — my culinary philosophy that each spoonful should have an even amount of all elements, so every bite is worthwhile.

Anna: I went for the veggie walking taco, which consisted of Fritos, black beans, cilantro and lime crema and queso — which for a cheese enthusiast like myself, was so generously smothered on top of the other ingredients. It was also supposed to come with guacamole, but I unfortunately missed out on that addition to the taco due to a kitchen error. However, choosing to add pulled pork for $1 totally made up for it. Partnering with Smoked on High, a barbecue food truck, Bristol Republic is nailing it with its barbecue.

I got made-from-scratch tots on the side, and these taters truly took me back to Nashville, where I dined at Blake Shelton’s bar and restaurant Ole Red and ordered a very similar snack. Dark and crunchy on the outside, but warm and soft on the inside, the tots were made even better with the array of sides our server brought out for us to sample: the lime crema found in the taco, and three of the four different barbecue sauces one can get with Bristol Republic’s wings. The flavors we tried were called the Pucker, which is sweet and spicy; the Gator, which is a Carolina-inspired mustard and vinegar; and the Alabama Sauce, which was a creamy vinegar-base.

Nightlife

Anna: Somehow I weaseled my way into a private, trial-run event Bristol was having a week prior to its official opening on April 18, and the second I stepped foot into the bar, I felt like a new person. The environment was exactly what I was hoping it would be, with live music and an enthusiastic crowd.

When you enter through a small walkway, you immediately are immersed in southern comfort, evident in its furniture and decor. Take a few steps in, and the bar is directly accessible. On the other side of the room, across a sea of high-top tables, is a bar completely dedicated to Bristol’s whiskey and bourbon selection.

Toward the back of the establishment is where all the music magic happens. Musicians are elevated by their very own stage, with a space for enjoying and dancing to the music. When acts aren’t performing, a DJ stand is nestled away, playing everyone’s favorite top country hits.

It’s safe to say as someone who thrives in a country music setting that I will be back at Bristol on most weekends, singing along with beverage in hand.

Bristol Republic is located at 1124 N. High St., and its hours are: 4 p.m. to midnight on Mondays; 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays; 4 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. on Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays; and 11 a.m. to midnight on Sundays. Check out the rest of the happy hour deal here: bristolrepublic.com/happy-hour.

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