College bars come and go, for their patrons are fickle and, by definition, temporary. Fries Cafe doesn’t have that problem. It replaced a Kroger store in 1930 and, but for a year-long closure in 2015, it’s been going strong ever since.
The bar sits just a quarter mile from the University of Cincinnati. As such, you’ll find its three floors and gorgeous back patio crowded with undergrads on the out-going nights of the week—more often if they’re seniors, more often if the weather’s nice. But you’ll also find grad students, professors, and school admins together with a well rounded cast of regulars who’ve washed their hands of school altogether.
Therefore, while Fries Cafe might be a bar near a college, you’d be doing it a disservice by calling it a college bar.
You’d be doing it a similar disservice by calling it a dive. Distinctive? Yes. Interesting? Absolutely. Old, with a wee bit of wear around the edges? I concede the point. But a dive?
Would a dive feature fun weekly events like trivia, karaoke, and local bands?
Would a dive have all manner of bar games, including darts, shuffle board, cornhole, and pool?
Would a dive sport a food menu so comprehensive it includes both bagged chips and popcorn machine popcorn?
I ask you this, would a dive have Rhinegeist’s Andromeda, Madtree’s Blood Orange Psychopathy, and several other local brews on draught, not to mention scores more in the can?
Eh, maybe. Not that it matters. Whether a dive or not—whether a college bar or not—Fries Cafe is among the best places to chill out near UC.
A big part of that is the back patio. It’s enormous, uncharacteristically so for a Clifton bar. The size allows for a stage upon which live music is played. And though the patio is tailor-made for sunny days, a roof spans half the space to ensure you can relax there whatever the weather.
Another point in Fries’ favor is the cool Lincoln (plus tip) you can pass the bartender in exchange for a beer and a shot. I’m referring to the daily happy hour specials, which run until 9 p.m. The shot/beer combo is a mainstay, and it’ll get you where you need to go.
Then maybe head for a pool table. And just in case that Lincoln turns into a Jackson, no, you’re not seeing quadruple—there really are four of them.
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Fries Cafe is located at 3245 Jefferson Avenue (45220).