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A Nighttime Visit to Morningside Pub in Plaza Midwood

Back in time, gun violence, post pandemic social scene, Optimist Hall, Waffle House
Aerin Spruill

Heading away from Uptown on Central Avenue, you may remember a restaurant called Krazy Fish. Located on the corner of Club Road between Skylark Social Club and Three Amigos, the name and branding alone conjured a mental picture somewhere between Rainforest Cafe and Ariel’s secret grotto in The Little Mermaid. And that’s why driving past the local “seafood joint’s” eclectic exterior, you’d think, “Nailed it!”

The unsightly amount of metal yard deco cordoning off the Central-facing patio rivaled those of a well-traveled art hoarder. Driving by, the rainbow vomit of yard art would force you to avert your gaze and leave you wondering, “What in the Plaza Midwood?!” A quick Google search will confirm that what you saw on the outside was a solid reflection of both the inside as well as the unique fusion creations featured on the menu.

But, in case you missed it, the once-familiar Central Avenue curiosity has since replaced artsy Krusty Krab vibes with a local watering hole-in-the-wall bar mood. Despite making an appearance on Guy Fieri’s Food Network show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, Krazy Fish quietly closed in early 2022 after being a part of the community — and the center of multiple controversies — for over a decade.

Following the remodel, all that remains is a metal bike perched atop a bike rack at the entrance (a sink with a screw for one handle was still lying around in April but has since been replaced). In its place, the same old “seafood shack” bones are now dressed as a more subdued, casual, rust-colored dive appropriately named Morningside Pub — it’s located between Club Road and Morningside Drive — featuring a limited bar food menu, spirits, pool and darts.

From the moment you walk through the door, it’s clear that Morningside Pub brings the same laid-back, made-for-locals vibe reminiscent of the neighborhood’s beloved Elizabeth Billiards (RIP). No frills, no thrills, no bullshit.

The innards of the ceiling lay fully exposed, with jerseys hanging scattered among its rafters. The smell of beer hangs in the air unsure of whether or not to wander out onto the patio. The only discernible “decor” are branded neon signs, and from across the room you can feel big “Don’t try me” energy spilling from behind the bar as the bartender sits in wait to shut down any nonsense.

I gulped and gathered my courage to ask the unforgivable, knowing my boyfriend’s expression was already toying between utter embarrassment and amusement, “What kind of ciders do you have?” Without an obvious eye roll, condescending tone, or deep sigh, the bartender responded, “We’ve got Angry Orchard.” Thank God.

That’s when I realized it was the same bartender who’d raised an eyebrow at my request for a “sweet” shot in my father’s memory the weekend EB’s closed its doors. I chuckled at the irony as he turned to grab the bottle, and even though I may always be perceived as “extra,” recognizing him gave me the confirmation I needed: This spot is Plaza Midwood approved. (I should acknowledge, however, that the owner still appears to be the same proudly pro-Trump guy who has inspired much hatred on the ol’ socials, so do your research if such things are dealbreakers for you.)

Open seven days a week until 2 a.m., Morningside Pub is situated just far enough down Central and just spacious enough to deliver a refuge from new post-Covid hours, bar service that’s four-deep, obnoxious Chads, and a deluge of out-of-towners.

On any given night, regulars and industry folks move with an ease of familiarity while bar hopping or unwinding after a shift, making it feel like the beginnings of a locals-only, best-kept Queen City secret after only a year or so operating as Morningside Pub. A much brighter outlook for a spot that’s had its fair share of public scrutiny and a win for a neighborhood that’s been fighting loss and change tooth-and-nail since COVID.

While waxing my boyfriend’s ass in a game of pool (read: losing terribly three times in a row), I watched as a guy “audibly whispered” instructions on the best shot and how to hit it into his girlfriend’s ear. She and I locked eyes and smiled, both acknowledging and accepting our inevitable respective “Ls” with a nod and quiet contempt toward the counterparts who didn’t “let us win.” Or wait, was that just me?

It was then, in the aftermath of my indignant loss,  that I realized it was almost closing time. And just like that, the last call turned into utter despair when I was forced to accept the ultimate loss: no food to satisfy my late-night hanger. If asking for a cider was a borderline dive bar faux pas, asking about the brand of (a presumably frozen) pizza on deck and if I could have one at the late hour, was absolutely out of the question.

I guess avoiding that “scratch” will be worth the W until I return, Morningside.

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