Book Loft Reified

SUNDAY EVENING as Toni and I were finishing our lunch at the Frisch’s on Lila Avenue in Milford, we estimated it would take a little under a half hour to get home and we wouldn’t get unpacked at all that night. A half-hour after we left the restaurant, we stumbled through unloading the car, staggered across the street, with all our impedimenta, and I was unpacked and in PJs a half-hour later.

We had just spent something over eight hours in the car and a half-hour stumbling around in the Book Loft for the second time in one weekend, since a Bob Evans breakfast that couldn’t be beat. That second time in a weekend is critical to your understanding of the matter.

You see, last week (Monday) I had shared a post of interest, featuring some words about a fascinating-sounding bookstore in the German Village section of Columbus called The Book Loft. Which store comprises 32 rooms in what turned out to be two floors of shotgun flats from the 1890s (I guess) on South Third Street. It is the kind of place that makes a bibliophile horny with the want-to-buy’s and can have your last dime burning a hole in your pocket. The sign claims 500,000 volumes in 32 rooms. I’m not even going to challenge their count, though I remain skeptical. That’s a lotta books. But, even so there’s a lotta books there. A good time was had by all. Money spent, and a lot of climbing of stairs (There’s a stairwell every two rooms it seems like, and, as the old mechanic at the service station used to put it, “Y’cain’t git theya from heeyer.” The place is definitely not ADA compliant nor friendly to the mobility-challenged.). I got a book and Toni got two. Would have spent more, but budgets must; when needs drive, desire sits in back.

Toni came back with the suggestion that we leave for Columbus after she got off work on Saturday, spend Saturday night in a hotel (Red Roof. Note: there’s one on South Front Street, four blocks from the Book Loft.) We reserved a room at the Red Roof in Grove City (about 7 miles away, and right by the exit off I71 North. We checked in and headed over to German Village. It was raining, so I had hassles with the traffic. Someday, I’ll learn.

We were lucky enough to find a parking spot on South Third Street, right across and half-block down from the Book Loft. Only had to cruise the neighborhood once. This is another key point; if you are at all mobility challenged, the closest parking lots are several blocks away — too far to hobble on a cane. It’s worthwhile to orbit the block, looking for an open spot. Plus: do a recce so you know what all the signs mean before you have to pick or reject a spot based on legalities. Also, if you have a handicapped placard, be prepared to wield it.

Go expecting to spend some serious coin. I think Toni and I spent close to a hundred dollars in two cursory visits. If we had been willing to hang in the store for what it’s worth and able to spend three or four (or five) figures, it could have been done. Most readily. I can see myself dropping ten grand in there on a weekend, though I can’t see myself having that much to spend, if you get my drift.

They don’t shy from high price tags, although I suspect nearly every book in the store is marked down somewhat. I bought a book on Art Noveau, for example, that lists about fifty bucks, but got it for under thirty. But you can be tempted, believe me. On the way out Saturday night, I spotted a book still in the publisher’s shipping box: The Complete Little Nemo by Windsor McKay. I oo’d and ah’d appropriately, but knew without asking that I couldn’t afford it. Plus: we don’t have room for it in our house. Not shelf space, mind. That I could come up with — or build. No. I’m talking about room absolute. The thing is a coffee-table book. As in: put legs on it, it’d be one. What would you guess? $150? $500? I don’t know myself, but, as I said, I know I can’t afford it.

Saturday night after the book store, we went to a place Toni had scouted out in advance. It was close to our hotel, didn’t sound like a chain (we discovered otherwise later) and sounded promising on food and priciness. It was on Stringtown Road in Grove City and called Planks. It was an OSU hangout. Not that people from OSU hang out there specifically, though I’m sure a few do, but that it is a sports bar whose focus is local Columbus-area teams, including the Buckeyes. (The area’s like that. You’d have thought from all the O’s on people’s foreheads, that we were somewhere close to campus, but no. It’s that the Bucks are more popular in Central Ohio than the Bengals are around here. I forget what Toni had, but I had my old standby, a club sandwich with fries, washed down with Yuengling draft. (Happy hours during the week, they serve Yuengling draft for a dollar a glass. Mine went for $6.50. Oh, well. Win some lose some.) Our waitress was top-shelf. Very efficient and professionally friendly without the usual smarm that chains like Longhorn burn into their wait staff. Judging by appearances — both staff and customer — ours was hardly unique. I think the whole staff is aces. Big tip. The sandwich was huge. Turkey, bacon, ham. I’d guess four ounces of each. On a toasted double-decker with vegggies I didn’t even notice. And I think there was cheese, too. It was good. I almost had to leave the toothpicks in, it tried that hard to fall apart in my hands.

The fries deserve special mention. First, it was a huge serving. They’re billed as “Fresh cut” which sounds good. I think they used two or three Idahoes to make mine. Wowsa. I almost freaked when they came to the table (and you should learn from my experience and have faith). They looked like they were burned — dark from the oil. But they tasted like a little slice of heaven. Toni speculated that the seasoning my have darkened them somewhat.

The place has a Cheers-like atmosphere you’d expect from a big-time, historical sports bar in a big sports town like Columbus. (The photo at top was taken from our table through the servers’ door down the length of and behind the bar.)

As with the Red Roof, we discovered that there is a location of Plank’s (no idea how closely related, though the signs look the same in both places, so the assumption they are sisters seems legit) near German Village. Word to the wise. It seems worth noting that the German Village is neighbored on the West side (South Front Street) by The Brewery District. it’s not like Cincinnati where there’s a brewery on every block at the bare minimum, but there do seem to be a few, including the one this fellow represents. I don’t really know enough about local brands to say what breweries may be resident in the district (if any are) and which are not exactly local (like: some of the craft beers served in pubs (there was an Irish pub on Front Street, I seem to recall) and bars might have come from as far away as Cincinnati. But I don’t know.

Also to notice that the German Village area is about six blocks by six blocks, extending east from Front Street (though it would seem that the district proper doesn’t get really going until you cross South Pearl Street or City Park Avenue.) and South from East Livingstone to Thurman, just below the city park referred to in the name of CPA. (I never caught its formal name, but it looks as though there’s a statue of Christopher Columbus in the middle of it. (Kind of like the Statue of Alexander Hamilton on the Main Street of his namesake city.) The hitching post at right stands in front of a house on City Park Avenue. There are several of them and in between them are limestone blocks which look as though they were placed there to help (possibly inebriated) gentlemen to mount their horses, said horses having hitherto been hitched at the hitching post.

After dinner, we returned to the Red Roof, showered, changed into PJs, hung out and read for awhile, then went to bed.

It shouldn’t reflect on the motel, but it does, that there were stomping elephants overhead and a herd of water buffalo parading outside our door and bitching at each other in teenage voices. It made getting to sleep difficult, so I sat up late and made notes about the next day’s itinerary from our road atlas.

I’m beat and need to go to bed, so I will continue this tomorrow. It will include lots of neat pictures.

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