- 1832 Dana Ave., Cincinnati, OH, 45207
- Overall User Rating:
- (9 ratings)
- 3 p.m.-2:30 a.m. daily.
- Official Web Site:
Dana Gardens is as much a Xavier institution as Musketeer basketball at the Cintas Center. The storied Gardens has been serving up drinks to XU students and Evanston residents since the 1930s when the building was converted from a former fire house.
Dana's is the ultimate college bar, with enough Muskie sporting paraphernalia to sink a campus bookstore. Musketeer basketball legends - like David West - have their jerseys framed and placed in an area filled with honor: on the ceiling, directly over the bar. I think I even saw an autographed Xavier Speedo. Be forewarned: even casual Xavier University observers (i.e. a Miami grad like me) leave Dana Gardens rabid XU fans.
The vibe: The main room feels like a model dive bar: narrow, dark, old and full of history. Thousands of Xavier students have been tossing back cold ones here for more than 70 years and it feels like it. Chances are, those same patrons have documented their experiences on an unusual place: the walls. Names, phone numbers and pearls of sage advice fill almost every space from floor to ceiling. Patrons acknowledge difficult truths near the authentic dartboard: "I really suck at this." And of course, people have repeatedly written a phrase so popular it's the wifi network name: "U.C. sucks."
If you need a break from the crowds that pack the place after 11 p.m., head outside to the spacious two-level deck. There are plenty of picnic tables, music piped in from the jukebox, and a view of the gravel parking lot and south Norwood in the distance. This is the area that puts the "gardens" in Dana Gardens.
The drinks: Beer and shots are Dana's specialty. A thorough draft selection covers all ends of the malt spectrum (from Guinness to Miller High Life) and bottles will set you back $3.50 during prime hours, with a dollar or so knocked off during happy hour. Pitchers come with their own ice cold frozen mugs fresh from the freezer. Be sure to try the Hershel Special ($6, a variation of the Long Island with grenadine and fruit punch) named for a 73-years young bartender who is full of Cincinnati drinking history. Get in early when it's not too crowded and bend Hersh's ear.
The food: Appetizers - cheese sticks, cheesy tater tots, and the aptly named spicy balls (fried pepper jack cheese served with ranch; pretty much the best appetizer, and appetizer name, ever) - all set you back $5. The entrees like the U.C. Sucks! Mett, the Big Dan burger and the Prosser Burger (a double Big Dan, named for the former basketball coach) run $3 to $6.
The verdict: If you want to get a glimpse of the value of a real Xavier education, stop by Dana Gardens. Make your mark - literally - with a permanent marker on the wall, or carve your initials in the wood bar (it's BYOC, bring your own carving-instrument) and take comfort in the fact you are following in the footsteps of Xavier alums. And their parents. And their parents' parents.