Northstar's full-service sibling restaurant continues to bring comfort, consistency and a bit of sparkle to its role.
You know how it goes: A comedian makes it on Saturday Night Live, stays a few years and then begins taking on big-time projects in LA. These days, when a Columbus restaurant succeeds—as Third & Hollywood has for 10 years—it usually looks for more roles. So it’s surprising that the owners behind this Grandview restaurant haven’t expanded the concept into multiples, as they have with sister businesses Northstar Café and Brassica. With a warm dining room and a straight forward veggie- and seafood-heavy menu that is ideal for gluten-free diners, it’s easy to imagine a gaggle of healthyish Third & Hollywoods in every suburb of Ohio’s C-cities. But for now, the American bar and grill is content starring in its sole location: Grandview.
Ideal for date nights, the restaurant offers a cozy Napa winery feel, with intimate lighting, exposed wooden beams and a giant fireplace. A full-service bar and a view to an open kitchen—complete with a symphony of clanging pans—line two sides of the perimeter, while large mirrors on a third wall allow natural light to reflect into the dark dining room. Cat artwork on the walls adds a bit of whimsy to the space.
The bar serves basic cocktails as well as wine and beer. Beer selections are regionally sourced and solidly chosen, with three rotating drafts as well as The Brew Kettle’s White Rajah IPA, a couple of selections by Rockmill Brewery and others available by the bottle. The Hollywood G&T ($11) is a do-it-yourself endeavor, with a hefty portion of Bombay Dry Gin served alongside a small bottle of Fever-Tree tonic water for refills.Like what you’re reading? Subscribe to our weekly newsletters.
On the starters menu, the whole grilled artichokes ($13) are novel but awkward to eat, as not every part of their leaves is consistent in texture. Inedible chewy ends can be difficult to navigate, if you’re not familiar with the vegetable outside of its usual spot in cheesy spinach dips. The softer center layers are nice and tender, and are enjoyable with and without the spiced remoulade. Although it’s meant to be shared, ours was served without accompanying plates.
If the artichokes annoy, the house-smoked salmon ($15) is a much better choice and is available for both dinner and brunch. A sizable portion of cold and smoky salmon is served with a Jenga-esque structure of crispy, Melba-like toasts and a tangy aioli. If neither sounds appealing, there’s always the restaurant’s near-iconic skillet of cheddar herb biscuits ($8), which are complimentary during happy hour.
As is evident at Third & Hollywood’s sister establishments, its owners (Kevin and Katy Malhame along with Kevin’s brother, Darren) know how to compose a good salad. It’s no surprise then that entreé salads are a key portion of the menu here, and any of them can be shared as starters. The roasted beet and butternut squash salad ($13) is a must-order. Three large pieces of soft butternut squash and tiny, firm beets serve as a base layer for a pile of well-dressed greens tangled with spoonfuls of goat cheese and whole candied pecans that taste like Christmas. The size and texture difference between the squash and beets is odd, but the flavor combination of all the ingredients works nonetheless.
Vegetables also get their due in the seared tuna entrée ($27). An upgraded niçoise salad of cucumbers, green beans, beet pieces, corn, frisée, red bell peppers, Kalamata olives, fingerling potatoes, goat cheese and soft-boiled egg takes up half the plate. On the other half are slices of blackened sushi-grade tuna, displayed like sliced tenderloin.
Butternut squash and goat cheese make a reappearance in the slow-roasted chicken au jus ($25). A chicken quarter sits atop the squash and crusty croutons of bread in a seasoned broth in this delightful dish. From the crispy chicken skin to the autumnal panzanella that occurs when the bread soaks up the pungent, anise-kissed broth, every bite has a surprise. The squash pieces were a little too large for my liking, but a little plate-side surgery does the trick.
Speaking of size, a Thursday special—the Righteous Pork Chop ($34)—is enormous. Served with an entire poached pear cut in half and a small mound of shredded red cabbage, the entrée is both colorful and visually striking. The pork is seasoned well and cooked to a perfect pink. The three distinct ingredients—the salty pork, the sweet cabbage and the subtle pear—come together well, though a little pickling of the cabbage could go a long way.
The restaurant’s weekend brunch offerings—which come with a free side of slightly too-loud live jazz music—span savory and sweet. The oven-baked, deep-dish French toast ($14) is an homage to its pain perdu origins, and is essentially a bread pudding served in a small cast-iron pan with a thick strawberry syrup, real whipped cream, sprinkles and a mysterious banana flavor not mentioned on the menu. Marked “while supplies last,” it’s worth asking about, if you’re into eating dessert for a midday meal.
On the savory end of the brunch spectrum, the iron-skillet chorizo and eggs ($17) combines black beans, fresh tomatoes and jalapeños, large pieces of Niman Ranch chorizo, avocado, cheese and two eggs to present what is an expensive burrito sans tortilla. Given Third & Hollywood’s veggie acumen, it is surprising to see the tasteless tomatoes on a fall and winter menu, but the lime ties it all together.
Equally popular for brunch and dinner, reservations are recommended at the Third Avenue restaurant. But while that will guarantee you a table (and a spot in the valet lot, should you choose to shell out $5), it will not guarantee that the restaurant staff is deft in rolling out the red carpet.
Indeed, service is the weakest element at Third & Hollywood. The waitstaff’s lack of food and beverage knowledge is troubling, especially given the restaurant’s prices, which are a function of the owners’ penchant for sourcing high quality ingredients. Servers should bring expertise to the table that enhances the dining experience, but during multiple visits to Third & Hollywood, servers read from lists, mispronounced basic ingredients (Kalamata became “Kamata”) and could not speak about the offerings in a sophisticated way. (One server described a seasonal Seventh Son brew as “pretty different.”) This inexperience seeped into the operational side as well. In one case, my table wasn’t greeted for 10 minutes. In another, a drink came out well after a starter had been served.
In a city hurtling full force into fast-casual dining, Third & Hollywood stands out as an unpretentious place for excellent food in a cozy and sophisticated setting. When the service rises to the rest of the experience, this restaurant will earn a place among Columbus’ finest.