"Trust me, you're going to want this," says our waiter as he places a spoon next to my entree-a lightly browned roasted halibut surrounded by tender vegetables and a rich oxtail broth. One bite and I ditched my fork, opting instead to eat this Italian-inspired play on a surf-and-turf like stew.

"Trust me, you're going to want this," says our waiter as he places a spoon next to my entree-a lightly browned roasted halibut surrounded by tender vegetables and a rich oxtail broth. One bite and I ditched my fork, opting instead to eat this Italian-inspired play on a surf-and-turf like stew.

It took nine hours to cook this broth, slowly simmering at 180-degrees and never brought to a boil. There was no violence ever introduced to it, the chef says; a careful technique that kept the broth translucent.

It's small touches like these at The Worthington Inn that remind me why some old-school techniques never go out of style. They are merely re-envisioned by brilliant chefs like Thomas Smith, who's been at this Worthington institution for more than a decade.

We applaud the way he's able to walk the line between dining institution and innovation. He pulls on his classic French and Italian roots to add worldliness to local ingredients. The Herb-Crusted Rack of Lamb is a sort of deconstructed cassoulet-serving the hearty French casserole with duck and sausage as a side to a rack of lamb, instead of mixing the two together.

And he softly bridges the gap between fine dining and casual fare (adding a wildly popular burger to the menu last year). "So many people think of us a high-end white tablecloth restaurant," Smith says. "But we're more than that." The more casual bar menu is every bit as good as the main dining room fare, diners eating the Worthington Inn out of the Ale-Battered Walleye Sandwich twice a week.

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