Best Drink Selection: Ray’s Place


Ray’s bartender Angelo Cataldo, then junior exercise science major, pours a draft in Downtown Kent, Tuesday April 8, 2014.

Mark Oprea


Ray’s Place

It’s no secret to Kent bar-hoppers that Ray’s Place is a hub for a beer lover’s palate with 64 beers on tap that cycle daily, along with standard domestics and imported ales.

Yet what makes Ray’s selection unique are its numerous local brews. Aside the Budweiser and Guinness taps are names like Mad Cap, from Stow, and Bodhi, from Columbus, including a healthy lineup of Great Lakes and Thirsty Dog — grouped together and easily spotted on the draft handles.

Stewart Smith, a Stow resident and frequent patron of Ray’s, said that it’s the bar’s support of the smaller brewers that makes him somewhat of a regular.

“It’s really cool that they like the national breweries, but at the same time have a lot of the local guys that don’t have as many distributors,” Smith said.

Although Ray’s is unanimously agreed upon as a family establishment, Manager Tom Creech said that the bar’s state-of-the-art draft and keg system — the “quality equipment” — contributes to the beer lover’s admiration. “But it’s also more than the beer,” he said.

“It’s the people selling the beer, as well. I tell people that I’d put my staff up against anyone else’s — anywhere, not just in Kent.”


Bar 145, Water Street Tavern

If there is a king of bourbon in Kent, then the award would probably be handed to Bar 145.

With more than 50 bottles on its menu, like Wild Turkey, Old Grandad and Woodford Reserve, the recent bourbon craze sweeping the country is easily nourished here.

A gastropub with the three-B motto (“Burgers. Bands. Bourbon.”), Bar 145 — named for the “perfect” temperature to cook a hamburger — has turned into one of the go-to spots since its opening on Erie Street in 2013.

“I didn’t even know what a gastropub was until I started working here,” Jemar Johnson, manager at Bar 145, said. “And here in Kent, it really took off quick.”

Aside from the myriad of bourbon bottles that line their shelves, Bar 145 offers an extensive list of beers and cocktails, often on special, with Johnson’s favorite being the “145th Manhattan,” a cocktail comprised of Grand Marnier, Vermouth, Bitter’s, Woodford and cherries.

Apart from its often-sold seasonal beers and $2 specials, Kent’s Water Street Tavern makes more of an impression on its college crowd via two of its own concoctions: the Water Street Bucket and the infamous Mongolian Motherfucker. The “Motherfucker” was first mixed, according to Owner Mike Beder, on a slow night in 2010.

Following the 11-ingredient recipe in a run-of-the-mill mixology book, Beder began serving it with an immediately good reception.

“We ended up having to make it up in batches to make it quick,” Beder said. “Now, we serve it regularly on tap.”

That is, from a 15-gallon keg, which Beder estimates to “literally sell thousands” of servings. The Water Street Bucket, an $8 concoction of four liquors, is a suitable companion. Yet, beer adherents won’t be dissatisfied: Water Street boasts a lineup of 24 brews on tap, from local to domestic.


Zephyr Pub

Do you know of any other Kent bar that serves a craft beer named “I Love You With All My Stout?”

Along with the thick-textured Evil Twin brew with the long name, the Zephyr Pub offers more than a dozen craft and domestic beers on tap, like Anti-Hero and Fat Tire, most of them favorites of beer junkies.

It’s $2 specials — along with the “Bomb of the Month” — that make for happy nights on the cheap.

“I think that gets people in the door,” Bartender Darren Haggenjos said, “because they’re very reasonably priced.”

Owner Patty Restaine said that keeping up with trends in the craft beer movement is key to her pub’s relevancy, along with keeping tabs on craft beer. Constant input from customers and managers, for her and the rest of the Zephyr crew, is essential to being a part of such a movement.

“We try out a lot of things,” Restaine said. “We’re not afraid of trying something different — or something weird.”

Contact Mark Oprea at [email protected].