A second location of The Crest celebrates Ohio's bounty, and its craft beers, as the A&R restaurant group expands its empire.

A second location of The Crest celebrates Ohio's bounty, and its craft beers, as the A&R restaurant group expands its empire.

Ingredients come fromlocal farms and artisan purveyors. Icons on the menu let you know when an item is vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free. Delicate micro-greens are strewn across nearly every plate.

Another month, another farm-to-table restaurant.

But The Crest on Parsons, the bigger, more refined sequel to The Crest in Clintonville, doesn't just pay lip service to the trendy concept. Unique dishes built around craftsmanship and sustainability is their raison d'etre. During warmer months, sage, thyme and tomatillos grow in hip-high planters out front, and there's much more in the 1,100-square-foot rooftop garden. Fifteen of the 40 craft beers on tap are made in Ohio. Even the lavender hand soap in the bathroom is local.

The eco-chic gastropub is the latest from the A&R Creative restaurant group. In just five years, the group has built a small empire that includes Fourth Street Bar and Grill, The Crest in Clintonville, Ethyl & Tank, The Market Italian Village and Alchemy Juice Bar & Cafe. Many of these properties were rehab projects, so it's fitting that the new Crest is located at Parsons and Livingston, a part of town undergoing a slow renaissance.

The Crest has the marquee spot in the new Village Pointe building, which is shaping up to be a hub of health and wellness with a 25,000-square-foot gym and Alchemy. Unlike the original Crest, which sits at the end of a residential street, parking here is easy; there's a huge lot out back.

It's also more spacious, with lots of windows and a Nordic botanical vibe. Potted plants line the sills under white cafe curtains. Neon green moss grows on a wall of porous rock. Along the perimeter, groups of friends and families (kids were spotted on every visit) perch on unforgiving wood benches; your back gets a reprieve from sage and icy blue velvet cushions. Industrial touches lend an edge. One table gets privacy from drapes made of chain mail.

Chef Julian Menaged (The Market Italian Village) is in charge of the menu, where shareable small plates, salads and sandwiches rule. Entrees, which hover around the $20 mark, are exiled to the back page with desserts. There's a European sensibility to Menaged's cooking, coupled with solid technique honed during his years at The Refectory. Middle Eastern and Mediterranean classics pop up here and there, but the biggest influence is Ohio.

Reading the menu is like browsing through a Whole Foods store. It gets you excited to eat fresh, minimally processed foods not typical of casual pubs. It doesn't always lead to a slam-dunk result, though. There's definitely a spectrum.

On the spectacular end is a large platter of wood-fired Case Farms Whole Chicken ($20). The bird is spatchcocked, roasted in a wood-fired oven, then cut into easy pieces to share. What makes it special is a bright salsa verde made with house-grown tomatillos. The chartreuse chutney pairs well with nicely charred chicken fat and the grill flavors transport you to summer.

My group also made light work of the Taco Trio ($12), a small plate that includes one each of pork belly, fish and beef tacos. It could easily be dinner for one. The Lake Erie walleye is so flaky, it frequently fell out of its floppy corn tortilla in a plop of cilantro cream sauce so good, you'll want to scoop it up with your fingers. We also fawned over a plate of Smoked Salmon Fritters ($10). The texture was soft-more like a cake doughnut than crisp hushpuppy-but they have a lovely, mild salmon flavor, especially when dunked in dill aioli.

The Crest is at its very best at brunch, when the dining room is filled with light and you can order dishes like Salmon Benedict ($13), a hearty breakfast of tender salmon patties, perfectly poached eggs, fresh arugula and herb-laced hollandaise. Or Pork Belly Cassoulet ($12), a rustic skillet of Ohio Proud pork belly snuggled into a stew of white beans. Coin-sized potato chips as delicate as fairy wings are scattered on top and eventually melt into the beans. Dashes of house-made hot sauce help the cassoulet find another gear. The condiment was crafted more for flavor than heat, and I liked it so much I bought a bottle to go ($12).

The bar makes up for lack of a Sunday liquor license with a three-step BYO Mimosa ($7). Choose one of four herb-infused syrups such as mint or basil, one of three fruity cordials like apricot or pear, and one of four fresh juices, such as pineapple or orange, and the bar will top it off with Prosecco. It's fun and foolproof.

But then there's the other end of the spectrum. Burgers are popular, but the Crest's beef and bison versions aren't special enough to make them a main draw. They had good grill flavor but lacked juiciness and softness, and the toppings are pedestrian.

Salads like the Roasted Butternut Squash ($13) also failed to satisfy, too light on ingredients like goat cheese and sour green apple dressing.

Butternut squash appears again stuffed in tender, cragged ravioli made by Ohio City Pasta. The Toaster Strudel-sized ravioli are tossed in an earthy blend of Brussels sprouts, pine nuts and brown butter. The $17 dish is pretty to look at, but the textures and flavors became monotonous after a few bites.

The Crest does Middle Eastern specialties like falafel burgers, tabbouleh salad and caramelized Halloumi ($12) drizzled with fresh honey, honeycomb and bee pollen. The night we had it, the halloumi was only golden at the edges, not in the middle, and had the rubbery texture of old string cheese flattened by a Fiat. A better cheese starter is the Shankleesh ($8), a creamy Lebanese spread of mild Bulgarian feta studded with fresh cherry tomato.

Service is a weak spot. At brunch, we sat for 15 minutes while servers meandered around with the urgency of maple syrup. Another night, our server was sweet but a little spaced-out, like we were a science project he was only mildly interested in. To his credit, he did come through with a Grapefruit Ebb N Flow ($9) recommendation, a floral cocktail made with Watershed gin, sage-infused syrup and elderflower liqueur.

This ultra-local, farm-to-fork concept isn't new to Columbus. Chef Alana Shock is known for her seasonally driven menu, and chef Magdiale Wolmark keeps an on-site garden at Till Dynamic Fare. But Crest owners, the Alshahal brothers trio, along with Menaged, are the new turks in town. While they have a few kinks to work out with the menu and service, they're taking granola ideas like urban farming prime-time, and making them accessible to a new generation of diners. And as it turns out, craft beer pairs really well with clean eating.