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.
Backstory and Context
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 well.
Photos - Ringside Cafe. Ringside Cafe, Ringside Cafe. Accessed April 18, 2019, http://ringsidecolumbus.com/photos.html.
Ringside Café History. Ringside Cafe. Accessed April 18, 2019. http://ringsidecolumbus.com/history.html.
Thompson, Erica. Politics and prizefighting define the 120-year-old Pearl Alley bar. Columbus Alive. April 19, 2017. Accessed April 17, 2019. https://www.columbusalive.com/entertainment/20170419/ringside-cafe.
Benton, G.A.. Classic Columbus Haunts: Ringside Cafe. Columbus Alive. October 06, 2010. Accessed April 17, 2019. https://www.columbusalive.com/article/20101006/LIFESTYLE/310069227.