This edition of Columbus Restaurant Spotlight is a love story–not just between two people, but for the city and restaurant in which they met.
Mike Darr met Natalie Connor through mutual friends in 2004 and instantly hit it off.
Mike was working in IT and moved to Columbus for work.
Natalie was managing the original R Bar – located in the heart of Columbus’ Arena District.
Once they started dating, Mike would visit R Bar frequently to hang out with (and distract) Natalie while she worked. Within the year, he asked her to marry him.
At this time, R Bar lacked a true identity – a point discussed by Mike and Natalie frequently throughout their relationship. So, after receiving the opportunity to buy the restaurant and bar in 2005, the newlyweds – along with business partner Danny Capoccia – jumped at the chance to create something truly special.
In 2006, the new and improved R Bar Arena was officially open for business.
The Birth of a Columbus Hockey Bar
“Before we had children, R Bar basically was our child,” stated Mike in a 2016 Columbus Alive interview, “and we got to see it grow into being rated one of the top 10 hockey bars in the United States.”
After their purchase of R Bar, Mike and Natalie Darr – who now also own The Three-Legged Mare – set to work establishing its brand. Noticing there wasn’t a sports bar in Columbus dedicated to hockey, the couple knew they had found their niche.
It wasn’t long before R Bar was established as the hockey bar in Columbus. It became the first restaurant in the area to get NHL Center Ice – the penultimate TV package for NHL hockey games – and the first bar to be outfitted with flat-screen TVs (there are now more than 30 throughout the restaurant).
This hockey-heavy setup allows patrons to not only watch Columbus Blue Jackets games, but virtually every other NHL game as well. The bar even broadcasts international hockey games for fans visiting from abroad.
Adding to the authenticity is the fact that R Bar is decked out, wall to wall, with hockey memorabilia. And it’s not limited to the Blue Jackets – examples include autographed pictures of Gordie Howe, a Maurice Richard mural, a restaurant booth built like a penalty box, a jumbotron suspended above the bar and even men’s urinals with divisional rivals’ logos plastered inside.
With Nationwide Arena a stone’s throw away, R Bar also works directly with the Columbus Blue Jackets on a variety of functions and charitable initiatives – most recently partnering on a raffle to support Dollar Energy Fund, a charity that provides utility assistance grants to low-income families.
Now that they have a family of their own, Mike and Natalie have also begun putting an emphasized focus on local hockey initiatives – working to develop youth hockey and, more specifically girl’s hockey, in the Columbus community.
A Menu of Champions
While Natalie and Mike Darr’s R Bar concentrates a ton of energy on hockey and the culture surrounding it, the real draw is in its delectable bar food and wide array of drink options.
The Columbus restaurant features popular food and drink specials daily, including exclusive game-day promotions that feed the Arena District’s vibrant and energetic atmosphere. From Jackets fans to event attendees coming from the Greater Columbus Convention Center, there’s something delicious for everyone!
Menu items include The Enforcer (loaded kettle chips with blue cheese dressing, bacon, and blue cheese crumbles), The Gordie (an 8-inch hoagie topped with sausage, pepperoni, meatballs, banana peppers, garlic oil, and provolone cheese), the CBJ Burger (fresh Angus patty topped with cheddar, bacon and jalapeno) and a variety of 12-inch craft pizzas.
An All-Star Staff
Contributing heavily to the success of R Bar Arena is its top-notch team of employees. Mike says one of the most important factors in running the business is selecting the right staff. One that works well together, is engaged with customers and keeps people coming back – even on those rare days where nothing is happening in the Arena District.
By fostering an attitude for success, rather than a formula, R Bar brings in tons of regulars who interact with their favorite staff members and enjoy the great food and spirits they serve up.