Built in 1897, the Ringside Café is the oldest restaurant in Columbus, Ohio. The boxing-themed restaurant has been popular with politicians of Columbus, Ohio since it opened as the Board of Trade Saloon in 1897. The new structure was designed by Carl Howell, a native of Columbus. It reopened in 1910 with the name Chamber of Commerce Cafe & Rathskellar. It was renamed the Ringside Café in the 1930s when it was purchased by Al Haft, wrestler and businessman.
Collectables and memorabilia are placed throughout the restaurant.
The restaurant features custom floors, authentic paintings, and stained glass
windows from Belgium. The windows had designs of a donkey to represent the
Democratic party and an elephant to represent the Republican party. There is a
legend that states owner of the establishment would shine a light on the symbol
of what party was in power at the time. The restaurant has clientele including
prominent political figures in Ohio. These clients walk over from the
Statehouse to the café.
After opening as the Board of Trade Saloon in 1897, it burned down
in 1909. It was rebuilt and opened in 1910 as the Chamber of Commerce Cafe
& Rathskellar. This is German for council’s cellar. This name is still carved
on the entryway on the façade of the restaurant, but the Chamber of Commerce
section of the engraving is hidden with a vine design.
The original work of designer Carl Howell is still on display
throughout the café. These include drawings of a mermaid and rams’ head on the
tile and wood bar. The bar was renamed Jolly Gargoyle during the Prohibition era. At
this time it functioned as a restaurant with a full-service kitchen.
The restaurant was purchased during the 1930s by Al Haft, who was
a wrestler and businessman. It was named the Ringside Café at this time. The
boxing theme and décor is still in use today at the business. Burgers are named
after famous boxers, and décor includes pictures and paintings of boxers and punching bags hanging
around the restaurant. It was purchased by Clem Ambrose in 1960.
It is rumored that a secret door was in the basement of the
restaurant that was the entrance to an underground tunnel that led to the
Statehouse. Others say the establishment is haunted. Current owners Dan and
Adrian Rosu, who purchase the café in 2008, acknowledges the supernatural activity, as