Panini’s Bar & Grill

Panini’s Bar & Grill was another warmly recalled haunt, formerly located at the corner of High Street and West 10th Avenue on campus.  We loved them because they not only served sandwiches late into the night, but didn’t even card at the door most nights. Sometimes you did have to endure a little smarminess from the help, but hey, that’s true almost anywhere in this town, particularly around campus.

“Why don’t you get a haircut consistent with the century you live in?” one clean cut, bespectacled wiseass of a bartender once challenged a friend of mine, during our first ever visit to the place, as soon as we sat down at the bar.

Still, Panini’s does grow on us. A moderately upscale joint near the southern tip of campus, it almost has the feel of a New York City deli – at least during the week. When the weekend comes all those tables in the center will find themselves jostled against the wall and a DJ’s bound to arrive, as this joint magically morphs into a dance club. One with pisspoor ventilation and even worse music, maybe, and yet this place works its way into our regular rotation just the same, regardless of the day.

We do have our favorites, but the OSU campus is generally too jampacked with entertainment to permit obsessing over just one place. Thus a number of months pass before we visit the establishment again, this time Alan and me transporting three girls we barely know, in my car on a weekend night. If not for the unrelenting monsoon, we surely would have walked, just like always, rather than attempt cramming into this not-so-spacious Ford Escort.

Parking in an alley on the building’s graffiti riddled posterior, we stride with purpose, with as much swiftness self-consciousness will allow, down to and along 10th. At the corner doorway, Alan and I crack up to discover that the blonde smartass with glasses, Matt, who famously dissed Damon’s haircut our only other visit here, is now stuck in a chair checking ID, only half sheltered from the rain.

So reserved in her living room and during the quick ride over, Deetra instantly reveals her true colors by disappearing into the modest, almost laughable, makeshift central floor, where tables are shoved aside to accommodate any booty shaking urges. The rest of us slide into a booth along the wall, with its bank of large, chest high windows swiveled open onto the sidewalk, level, suspended on flimsy arms. Stamped underage, Dawn sends Alan up to the bar with her money, to purchase them a shot of the unabashedly cinnamon Goldschlager, in addition to the beers we’re already cradling. Just a few moments pass and now she’s dispatching him off for another, though this time I accompany, nabbing no frills, though equally potent, shots of plain old vodka for Stephanie and myself.


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