Brand new flavor

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Tom Starker has a history of making a splash on Columbus' nightlife scene. He's one of the forces that launched BoMA, and he got his start as the co-founder of legendary dance factory Mean Mr. Mustard's - a club so adored that, more than a decade after its closing, there's a Facebook page paying homage to "the best OSU Campus bar ever."

So you can expect the revamped Spice Gastro Lounge to become another hot spot. Under Starker's recent ownership, the "new" Spice has moved away from its South Beach theme while remaining a stylish Park Street destination.

"We wanted to be a fun place with affordable food, but also offer something different and unique," said Starker. "We have four-star food, but it's not fine dining with four-star prices."

Executive Chef Brian Parker, whose background includes BoMA, M and The Refectory, wanted to create a menu that goes beyond its comfort-food inspiration with refinement.

Standout entrees include Fried Chicken and Waffles enhanced with a semi-sweet gingersnap and pomegranate gravy ($15); a hearty Lobster Pot Pie ($19); and Tomato Soup and Short Rib Grilled Cheese ($10).

The seasonal menu will change four to five times a year, while the kitchen will be open daily until midnight.

The renovated decor parallels the menu - the relaxed atmosphere is heightened by a touch of sophistication. Spice is separated into three rooms with conflicting personalities that share Starker's style and personality.

The first is a hunting lodge-themed bar named the "Roosevelt Room." With antler chandeliers and trophies mounted on the walls - including some Starker claimed himself - it's an homage to the outdoorsman and former president who gave us the National Park Service.

"At first when I wanted to put up a bunch of dead animals, I thought people would freak out, but they have really taken to it," said Starker.

The dining area is a modern room with warm colors, elegant table settings and plush, oversized chairs that showcases Starker's love for art. Modern metal work is displayed throughout the room, with one colossal piece engulfing the south wall.

In the back, there's the D' Or Club, a dance room with tables and VIP seating. Spice's famed patio is currently under renovation; it will reopen as a sculpture garden in time for the return of warm temperatures.

One thing that hasn't changed is the extensive happy-hour menu of discounts and specialty drinks. Seasonal drafts like Brooklyn Brown Ale and Guinness (regularly $6) are half-price during happy hour, as are all martinis, including the house favorite Ginger Lime Martini (regularly $8) topped with a crushed wasabi pea rim.

Spice Gastro Lounge

491 N. Park St., Arena District




5 p.m.-2:30 a.m. daily

Happy Hour

5-7 p.m. daily