The best way to discover Hal & Al’s vegan bar is by surprise. When my date spoke the name of this place, my ears heard “howlin’ Al’s”. I had never heard of Howlin’ Al’s and I’m always up for some live music so I just hopped in the car. He told me it was on the south side of Columbus and there would be line dancing. If there hadn’t been snow on the ground, I would have maybe done a tuck-n-roll out of the car at that moment. We came up Parsons Avenue and I spotted Hal & Al’s. ‘Where the heck are we going?’ I asked as we parked across the street in front of a boarded up building. (There were several boarded up buildings from which to choose.) From the outside, this place didn’t look much different from other bars commonly seen in Columbus’ economically blighted areas. Think of a small, one story building with absolutely no windows–not even on the door–and poorly lighted side streets. The COTA bus stop is right out front. You can take one leap from the entrance/exit of the bar and land on the first step of the bus if your timing is right. You might think this is corny but the total lack of windows made the initial entrance a little bit suspenseful. And, TAH-DAHHHH! Regular bar. No line dancing.
I started to look at the menu. Whoa! Tons of weird sounding brewskies on tap. Brats. Burgers. Pizza. The usual fare. But, then I saw the big print: all our food is vegan. I pointed the words out to my date and said, “That’s a joke!” But . . . . turns out . . . no joke. I took a closer look and for sure, this place was totally vegan. Soooo weird. Okay, not weird but, you know, unexpected. That’s the right word. Everything about this place seemed like a contradiction. Hal & Al’s is totally thriving and in location that many businesses might avoid simply due to concerns about the crime rate. I looked around the place. Thursday is sushi night. Wednesday is taco night. Tuesday is beer tasting night. Now, remember, this place is vegan. We ordered the bratwurst platter.
It was really good! I could eat those vegan brats over meat brats any day. They were served with stadium mustard and over the top of a huge pile of what I call fair fries. The kind that are sort of brown in color and taste good with malt vinegar.
I’m the social type so I asked my table neighbors about their pizza. They said it was good, but they really raved about Taco Night on Wednesdays. They reminded me that it’s vegan taco night–not real meat. Okay, sold. I’m going to be at Hal & Al’s on Wednesday night. I will also make a point of trying the fried sauerkraut balls.
The pinball machine was in fine working condition and worth the 50 cent investment.
As I sat there waiting for the music to start, I wondered if this was a neighborhood bar in the sense that patrons come from the surrounding community or if this bar is more of a destination spot. Or, a combination of both? I’m curious. If you’ve been to Hal & Al’s, then let me know what you think in the comment section below.
This bar is one part of an entire community of Columbus vegan dining venues. I’m workin’ on my list of reviews.
Leave your comments below. Would love to hear what you think of the other dishes on the menu.
See you there!
1297 Parsons Ave Columbus, Ohio 43206 Here’s a map.
4pm – 12am
Friday & Saturday
12pm – 2:30am
12pm – 12am