From a family-run Filipino restaurant to a French brasserie in the LeVeque Tower, here are eight new spots to check out.
Trism is the latest concept from A&R Creative Group, the folks behind The Crest gastropubs, Fourth Street Bar & Grill and other eateries. Incorporating elements from one of its other creations, Alchemy Juice Bar + Café, Trism inhabits all 6,500 square feet of the old Eddie George’s Grille 27 space in the University District, with an eye toward appealing to both student and non-student populations. The restaurant, bar and event space is headed up in part by Alchemy co-founder and nutritionist Alexis Joseph. It draws on the multi-purpose model employed by other A&R ventures like Ethyl & Tank or The Market Italian Village, both of which feature food and drink menus that attract different crowds throughout the day. Trism’s airy and eclectic corner space, sitting across High Street from Ohio State, has already been used to host yoga classes, DJs and roundtable discussions on public health. The opening menu is more reminiscent of Alchemy’s wholesome fast-casual fare like open-faced toasts, smoothies, bowls, sandwiches, coffee and snacks. Expanded options, including weekend brunch, are on the way. Instagram-worthy bites range from the avocado toast with red pepper flakes and kale to the colorful Birthday Cake smoothie loaded with bananas, cashew butter, almond milk and Blue Majik, a green algae extract. Visitors looking to hang out later in the night will discover a solid wine list or beer by the bottle and on tap. Trism crafts its cold-pressed juices into cocktails as well, like the Trism Tang with vodka, turmeric-ginger syrup and Orange Zing cold-pressed-juice or the Matcha Bourbon, mixing bourbon, lemon juice, orgeat almond syrup, Peychaud’s bitters, matcha and a lemon twist. —Nicholas Dekker
Tiger + Lily Bistro
The restaurant business runs in the family for husband-and-wife team Thomas Chang and Kirsten Cheng, owners of Tiger + Lily Bistro. But as they venture out on their own with their Downtown Asian fusion eatery, they’re adding their own twist, trying to modernize dishes from their childhood and make them healthier.
Cheng, who runs the kitchen, spent part of her childhood in China, learning recipes from her grandmother. From a young age, she would travel with her father on business trips abroad, and by middle school, her family was living in Budapest (where she first tried palacsinta, her inspiration for Tiger + Lily’s Mille Crepe Cakes).
“I think because of her upbringing, growing up with … different types of experiences and cultures, the rulebook wasn’t set in one specific way,” her husband says. “That’s why all of her flavors are very unique.”
In preparation for Tiger + Lily’s opening, Cheng (who is an Ohio State grad, as is her husband) traveled from Columbus back to China several times over the past few years to train with a family friend who owns a cooking school.
“I like to try interesting ingredients that no one else would use in Asian cooking,” Cheng says. “Like our Dandan Mazeman—the authentic way is to use sesame paste, but I use tahini. So, it brings out more flavor and is not as greasy. ... Also, our ramen is very different than any at a Japanese shop.”
Tiger + Lily’s Tom Yum Ramen, for example, is a mashup of lemongrass-y tom yum soup, a Thai staple, and Japanese ramen. Instead of using the more traditional pork broth, Cheng uses chicken broth.
Tso Good General Chicken, meanwhile, is a reinvention of General Tso’s chicken, the Chinese-American standard. “She said, ‘How do we make this healthier?’ She’s taking white meat chicken, uses panko instead of flour and she made her own sauce using agave instead of sugar,” Chang says.
Tiger + Lily is open on Mondays for lunch only and serves lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday. —Erin Edwards
South Village Grille
Seasoned Columbus diners already are familiar with visiting the corner at Thurman Avenue and Jaeger Street, which was home to Easy Street Café for nearly three decades. It’s now South Village Grille, an eatery named for its position on the southern end of German Village.
The eatery features chef-driven brunch and dinner menus supplemented by a handsome wine list, draft beer and craft cocktails. It’s the latest concept from George Tanchevski, the owner behind a diverse group of restaurants and watering holes like Local Bar, Old Skool, Aladdin’s Eatery and Local Cantina.
The corner location has been transformed from Easy Street’s lovable kitsch to a casual but classy neighborhood spot, with a long marble bar, rough wooden planks lining the walls and bar seats wrapped in leather. The draft list prefers craft beers and the cocktail menu is strong.
Chef Josh Wiest heads up the kitchen; he’s created a small-but-mighty menu of shareable items and both large and small entrées with an emphasis on upgraded bar classics and seafood dishes. The dinner menu is headlined by fresh oysters, crab croquettes and meatballs, while pizzas, pork chops, scallops and chicken Vesuvio round things out. Weekend brunch incorporates upgraded classics like crab cake Benedict, pork belly hash and fried chicken with grits. Add in a solid happy hour, and South Village Grille has the makings a new favorite neighborhood hangout. —Nicholas Dekker
Trillium Kitchen & Patio
After helping to elevate bar food at The Sycamore in German Village, chef Bradley Balch is on to his next big project—launching Trillium Kitchen & Patio, in the brick house previously occupied by Alana’s Food & Wine, with his former Tucci’s colleague Michael Kulikowski.
Former Alana’s customers will be surprised at the restaurant’s transformation, starting with the roomy and renovated brick patio out front, which hosts acoustic music several days a week. “There’s no competition for patio dining with our quality [in this area],” Balch says.
Inside, the expanded bar area includes a community table and a handsome, long bar top made of sycamore wood (fitting, given Balch’s continued ownership stake in The Sycamore). The interior dining room, starring previously covered wood floors, employs a minimalist aesthetic in gray, white and brown tones. (There’s also a scarlet-and-gray private dining room—a smart move for wooing OSU parents when they are in town.)
With a mix of small and large plates, Balch’s menu is both approachable and global. He may venture to the South through dishes like fried green tomatoes with basil-corn pesto or showcase Southeast Asia with Duck Confit Vietnamese Spring Rolls. Above all, Balch emphasizes seasonal ingredients and quality seafood like Ahi tuna, Ohio trout and wild Gulf prawns.
Wine also has a big emphasis here, and Kulikowski brings valuable oenophile knowledge from his time as general manager at Tucci’s in Dublin. An overflow space off the kitchen provides a spot for wine tastings, complete with wine lockers and, in a nice homage to the previous owners, a wall covered in wine boxes that the Trillium team discovered in the basement. The restaurant is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday, with happy hour weekdays from 4 to 6 p.m. —Erin Edwards
The Keep Liquor Bar
Executive chef Jonathan Olson knows that a French brasserie in the LeVeque Tower may sound stuffy, but that’s not the vibe he’s aiming for. Classy, yes, but brasseries are also meant be relaxed—an everyday sort of restaurant. As part of Hotel LeVeque, this mezzanine-level, 100-seat restaurant will be open every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with brunch on the weekends.
“It’s very French in its soul and a lot of the base techniques, but we want to modernize it to the current-day palate, lighten things up a little bit. Not every dish needs a pound of butter and a quart of cream,” Olson says with a laugh.
Classics like steak frites, French onion soup and seafood towers all make an appearance on the menu, which includes raw bar offerings, shareable plates and eight mains. Then there are more playful dishes, like Olson’s take on chicken and waffles: a breaded chicken paillard accompanied by pommes gaufrettes (waffle-cut potatoes) instead of waffles and a honey-caper pan sauce. The Columbus native says he plans to incorporate local ingredients when possible, through partnerships with Central Ohio purveyors like Foraged & Sown, Bluescreek Farm Meats, Luck Bros’ Coffee and others.
Cocktails, prepared in the adjoining speakeasy-inspired bar, are a big focus, as is the wine list, which leans heavily French; 35 wines are available by the glass and another 30 to 40 by the bottle. “We really want to turn people onto [wines] that they’re not comfortable with or familiar with,” says general manager Jaime Young. “The wine list is very, very critical.”
So is the view. Restaurant patrons can look out over Front Street toward the river thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows, or turn the other way toward the centralized open kitchen (featuring a chef’s table) and get a close-up look of Olson at work. —Erin Edwards
Smoked on High Barbeque Co.
Barbecue is a slow, patience-testing process. So maybe it’s fitting that Max McGarity’s new Brewery District barbecue spot took longer than expected to open. Converting a 19th-century brick Victorian house into a restaurant with a 40-seat dining room, exposed brick walls, original wood floors and counter service is no quick endeavor. “Gosh, I hate plaster,” McGarity says, his sense of humor still intact.
The Columbus native got his start in barbecue at age 17 as a dishwasher for City Barbeque on Henderson Road. He worked there for four years, eventually stepping in to work the smokers. He later started his own food truck called Buckeye Back Ribs (which he renamed Papaya BBQ).
McGarity loves the charm of this old home and the potential of this stretch of South High Street that’s about to see a flurry of activity—a second Seventh Son Brewing Co. location and the restaurant Ambrose and Eve are opening across the street this year.
Open Wednesday through Sunday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. (or until they sell out), Smoked on High serves Texas-style barbecue, with beef brisket, pork spare ribs, chicken “drummies” and a few sides like mac ’n’ cheese. McGarity uses a simple rub of salt and pepper on his ribs and brisket, which are smoked using a mix of hickory and post oak sourced from Hickory Bluff Farms near Worthington. There’s also a large beer garden out front that serves wine and craft beer from local breweries like North High and Land-Grant, plus some Texas beers.
“I can’t wait to do some sort of brat and [Texas] hot link specials for game days,” McGarity says. He also has a liquor license and hopes to add a second-floor speakeasy in the future. —Erin Edwards
Soulshine Tavern & Kitchen
Over his years working in sports management for Ohio State athletics and the Columbus Crew, Andrew Arthurs took notes on the restaurants he visited while traveling with his wife, Shanda, noting menu items, atmosphere and clientele. Eventually those notes took shape as a business plan, and this June the Arthurs’ first restaurant venture, Soulshine Tavern, opened in New Albany. Inhabiting the former space of Ella Restaurant, Soulshine takes its name from the easy-going 1994 Allman Brothers tune. “It’s a warm, positive song,” Arthurs says, “so we wanted to create a local gastropub that feels unlike a chain. It’s craft beer, craft cocktails, a great wine list. It’s upscale American comfort food.” The goal was creating a place that’s comfortable and inviting to a variety of crowds; a grouping of 11 televisions, for instance, should draw sports aficionados without imbuing a complete sports bar feel. The restaurant features a large square bar, wooden tables, booths covered in dark leather and a spacious patio lit with strings of lights. Soulshine focuses on lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. Heading up the kitchen is chef Josh Truex, most recently executive sous chef at Spagio. His menu centers around pub favorites like wings, pretzel bites and Scotch eggs. Other comfort foods have been given creative treatments, like baked mac ’n’ cheese with chicken and andouille sausage or the Soulshine Cuban made with pulled pork. Arthurs says Soulshine’s burger and the pretzel pecan-crusted chicken sandwich have proven popular, as has the cornmeal-crusted walleye. —Nicholas Dekker
Kuya Ian’s Bistro
Until roughly a year ago, Columbus didn’t have many options for Filipino dining, but between eateries like Bonifacio and now this family enterprise on the North Side, that void is slowly being filled. Kuya Ian’s Bistro, which opened in March 2017, is operated by Leonore Firmalan and her sons Ivan and Roebuck. The bistro’s name combines the Filipino word kuya, which means “respect to the older brother,” with the name of Ivan’s son. “We named it after the youngest male family member,” Roebuck says.
Leonore immigrated to the U.S. in 1995, and the bistro’s menu draws on dishes that she learned from past generations in the Philippines. The eatery features two types of menus: a traditional menu for ordering dine-in or carry-out, or the turo turo menu, essentially a cafeteria-style hot bar with dishes that rotate daily. Diners who are new to Filipino cuisine will find it very approachable. Appetizers include items like barbecued chicken on skewers, steamed dumplings, rice buns and lumpia—crispy spring rolls filled with pork, chicken and vegetables. Entrées range from sautéed or fried noodle dishes to the earthy chicken adobo simmered in a soy and vinegar sauce. Roebuck says the lechon kawali has proven popular; the dish features fried pork belly slices with a sweet brown dipping sauce. One of the hits from the turo turo menu is the dinuguan, a rich pork and beef blood stew. —Nicholas Dekker