Best bar

Savannah+Ramsey+fills+the+cup+with+beer+at+Zephyr+Pub+on+West+Main+Street+in+downtown+Kent.++

Kelly Krabill

Savannah Ramsey fills the cup with beer at Zephyr Pub on West Main Street in downtown Kent.

FIRST: Zephyr Pub

If someone in Kent wanted to watch a drag show, play ping pong and sing karaoke all in one place, there’s only one answer: Zephyr Pub. This staple of the downtown nightlife takes the idea of variety and cranks it up to eleven.

“Well, we’re just kind of a place for everybody,” general manager Josh Sed said. “When we first started off, everybody thought we were the gay bar, even though we weren’t like, strictly a gay bar, because it’s kind of hard to be strictly anything in this town, being so small.”

 “We just kind of cater to everybody,” Sed said. “We don’t have one certain thing we’re into. We just want everybody to feel included and want to have a good time when they’re here.”

Sed said Zephyr is probably the only bar to be crowded and bumping on a Monday, due to their weekly karaoke nights, which have only increased in popularity as in-person activities slowly return to downtown.

Another fan favorite is their pitchers of cocktails.

“We started doing it during the pandemic when [Kent] had their weird restrictions where we could serve until 10 and close at 11,” Sed said. “We started doing pitchers of booze so people could have something to drink in front of them after they couldn’t buy any more. They’ve really stayed on as something people love, so you can get whatever cocktail you want in a pitcher.”

A particular point of pride for Sed is the fundraising efforts Zephyr has put on over the years. They’ve raised money for One of a Kind Pet Rescue, the Kent State LGBTQ Emergency Fund, Kent Social Services and many other organizations assisting people in the area.

SECOND: Ray’s Place

Ray’s Place owner Charlie Thomas likens the bar and restaurant to an old shoe.

“It feels good. It fits. And everybody feels comfortable here, you know?” Thomas said. “When you come in here, you’re walking into a place that’s got a long history.”

Bartender Chris Allen refills a drink for customers eating at the bar at Ray’s Place on March 20. Ray’s is located at 135 Franklin Ave. (Kaitlyn Finchler)

With two floors packed full of the rich history of Kent, people go to Ray’s Place not just for the dozens of draft beers on tap or the best burger (Page 27) in town, but also for the community and knowledge that thousands of students have visited in years prior.

On Homecoming weekend or Halloween night, you’ll find the bar packed to the gills with people having a good time. Those looking for something to do with a long island in hand can catch a Cavaliers game on the TV or play a game of pool upstairs. Thomas said he prides himself on this breadth of offerings, with something that can bring anyone off of Franklin Avenue and through the front door.

THIRD: Venice Café

Bartender Scotty works on making a drink during his shift at Venice Café. Venice Café shares space with Erie Street Kitchen and is located at 163 W Erie St in Kent, Ohio. (Savannah Monks)

Venice Café sits at “the intersection of good food, good drinks and good music,” said Jeff Crowe, manager of Venice Café and owner of Erie Street Kitchen. That atmosphere of an establishment that has served residents since 1941, mixed with great refreshments, is what sets Venice apart from the rest of the bars in Kent.

At the bar, one finds beautiful murals that depict a journey of Italian immigrants to the U.S. 

“It really resonates with some folks looking for that connection,” Crowe said. “Between that, a funky vibe, the combination with Erie Street with their good foods and live music and friendly staff, I think it’s a win-win combination.”

Among all the beers on tap, wine by the glass and cocktails made to order, Crowe said the best thing to get is a Mason Jar cocktail. There’s Electric Lemonade, the Dark and Stormy and the Green Tea, which is Bushmills Irish Whiskey, peach schnapps and sour mix. They’re served in a titularly large Mason Jar, and Crowe said it’s a unique offering in Kent that sets them apart from all the rest.

Wyatt Loy is a reporter. Contact them at [email protected]