There may be no game this week, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't visit Columbus. Here is a special edition of "I've Got Five": five things everyone should experience on a Buckeye game day.
With the bye week, there's really nothing for me to predict. However, here's a bone for those of you who are planning on coming to Columbus for a game someday or for veteran fans who are looking for a little variety in their gameday experience. As a six-year resident of Columbus who spent four years of college at OSU and still resides in the off-campus area, here is my humble contribution to the masses looking for something other than drinking Bud Light from a red solo cup on gameday.
1) Don't go to Thurman on a gameday. Unless you want to be in line for 4 hours or more. Every one of those guides you read to Columbus, without fail, suggests The Thurman Cafe as a game day spot - mostly due, no doubt, to the fare it provides. Thurman Cafe has made appearances on various TV shows such as Man vs. Food with its Thurmanator and the Thurman Burger is a classic, piled high with mozzarella and American cheese plus ham, peppers and sauteed mushrooms. However delicious it may sound, Thurman's is a stay-away on gameday. First of all, it's going to be uber-packed. Thurman's does not accept reservations, so you'll be stuck waiting forever. Second, it is completely across the city from the stadium. German Village is on the south side of downtown, while the stadium, campus and all the rest of the gameday trappings are on the north side. It's nearly impossible to traverse between the two on game day. Maybe you're better off putting that Thurman's visit until a bye week or away game.
2) You don't necessarily need expensive 50 yard line tickets - the top deck has the best sight lines anyway. In 2009, I had no money and could not afford student tickets. I did, however, purchase some top-deck tickets for the USC game from a friend who could not attend. I sure am glad that I bought those tickets, even though they put me on a strict meal-swipe diet for about two months, because the top deck at Ohio Stadium is an experience in and of itself. In the packed student section or anywhere else in the lower bowl, you can't really get a feel for how loud the stadium is and you can't really see everything that's happening on the field at once. From the top, you can see and hear everything. I'm not saying I would have liked to have spent every game up there in the nosebleeds, but the two night games I did sit up there were amazing, even though they both ended in losses. Even for early afternoon games it's still the same experience - you're not losing anything up there and you're spending a few less bucks.
3) Apollo's Greek Kitchen. Hungry Buckeye fans ought to pay this little hole in the wall on the corner of 13th across from the Union a visit. The deal is a gyro, fries and a soda for 5 bucks. You honestly can't do any better. Plus they're made quickly, they're portable, and the lamb they use is excellent. If you don't like lamb there are certainly more options but nothing quite matches the texture and flavor of a lamb gyro. Additionally, they do serve alcohol, though it's a little bit more expensive as nothing is on draft. Most folks go there just to grab a bite to eat post-game or post-bar, and for my money there's no better little hole in the wall on campus.
4) Hamptons on King. This place is south of the stadium near the corner of Neil and King, so if you're not going to the game but still would like to enjoy yourself this is as good a place as any. It doesn't gouge your wallet like Eddie George's or the Varsity Club, but it's also a little bit classier than Little Bar, Too's, etc. There's a very nice front porch with two large TVs for a nice day and the clientele is not as typical drunken game day students. You'll see more grad students and young professionals at Hampton's if a typical college bar is not your scene. It's a little quieter but it still gets pretty rowdy while games are happening. I personally watched the Michigan State and Nebraska games there this year. The food is adequate, and the beer deals/selection are pretty good, but it's mostly the crowd that makes this place. Living in close proximity to this place is definitely nothing to sneeze at, and I'd recommend it for casual game day watching and enjoying some good libations.
5) Fourth Street Patio. Another relatively new, out of the way place, this bar is all the way out on Fourth Street as the name suggests. But fear not - the neighborhood is not sketchy, and for game day the experience is unmatched. As with Hamptons, the beer selection is a little bit better than most bars - one can enjoy a superior selection of craft brews as well as 60 macro-brew taps. The food there is also better than pretty much any other bar on High Street not counting Eddie George's Grille. The clientele is a little bit more rowdy due to proximity to fraternity row, but there is a nice outside porch and some corner seats to get away from it all. This place has plenty of televisions, too, and wherever you go there's a screen with the game on.
Ohio State and the surrounding campus is an insanely fun place to be for a football Saturday, but it can also be insanely crowded and insanely expensive. For the Buckeye fan looking for a less expensive, Natural Light-less game day in a place where your shoes won't stick to the ground these are five recommendations I can make to enhance the experience. I'd love to hear from other local folks on what you might recommend visiting fans or first-timers.