Restaurant review: Worthington Inn's kickin' brunch reboot

G.A. Benton, Columbus Alive

Seemingly since the beginning of time, Sundays at the Worthington Inn meant an upsized, upscale buffet. At $25, the special occasion spread wasn't cut-rate, but it was generally beloved. Well, paraphrasing that famous admirer of Buffet and buffets, "the times, they have a-changed" (for fun, google both "Bob Dylan's favorite songwriters" and "Subterranean Homestyle Blues Buffet").

But back to the Worthington Inn's brunch, now available on Saturdays (9 a.m.-3 p.m.) and Sundays (10 a.m.-2 p.m.). It's become a menu-ordering meal, with lots of regular (if terrific) lunch stuff offered, but also 10 new egg and morning- pastry-leaning items clocking in around half the cost of the old buffet. Though go-big diners might mourn this change, the new dishes are good, more reflective of the modern Inn's farm-to-table aesthetic, and are a wise and inevitable move toward portion and price control.

So take a seat in the classically handsome, venerable Inn - or, if it's nice outside, perch in the delightful veranda/garden area - and get a great Bloody Mary. Sure, they're 10 bucks a pop, but they're made with a fresh and zesty tomato mix, are generously spiked with Watershed vodka (one is enough!), and can be personalized with a wild jamboree of more than a dozen free add-ons - and almost as many hot sauces. Because I have no shame, I opted for a veritable hors d'oeuvre sampler of 13 garnishes, and loved the result. More modest types should at least order (it's done sushi-menu-style) the aromatically pickled green bean, log of salami and hunk of cheese.

Entree-wise, three English muffin-less Eggs Benedict variations are offered, like the excellent Eggs Worthington ($13). Resting on delicious, onion-kissed corned beef hash cakes, its ova duo came with a wonderfully tangy and chili-whispering hollandaise sauce, plus super-crispy home- fry cubes on the side.

A dark, earthy, thick and spicy mole sauce, lively cilantro pesto, and loose black bean cakes leavened with red pepper stood out in the Mexican-inspired Eggs Benedicto ($14). The multi-flavored entree also came with zingy grilled chorizo and a sorta deconstructed guacamole course: warm tortilla chips, sliced avocado, a spicy sauce plus sweet yellow grape tomatoes.

My Smoked Salmon Plate ($13) was modestly sized but distinguished by silky, house-smoked fish, crispy fried capers and a toasted "everything" bagel. Completing the pretty, DIY presentation were scoops of cream cheese, diced red onions plus a scattering of flowers.

The Chef's Scramble du jour ($12) was a similarly size-restrained but delightful arrangement of good ingredients that included ricotta cheese. Among that day's "seasonal vegetables" were mushrooms and al dente yellow squash and zucchini. The dish also comes with the Inn's addictively crispy home fries, plus either smoky bacon or a small burger of morning sausage - both high-quality pork products are Ohio-sourced from (antibiotic-and-GMO-free) the King Family Farm near Athens.

Sweet-toothers will like biting into the great-tasting Buttermilk Malted Waffle ($9.50). Arriving with lovely Chantilly cream, Ohio maple syrup, warmed-through "wild" berries and morning pork, I only wish my depth-of-flavor-flaunting waffle would've had a crispy exterior instead of a soft one. I also wish my delicious Corn and Chorizo Fritters ($10) "starter" had come prior to receiving my bill.

There were other minor service glitches - sometimes stuff took a while coming out, and a few Bloody Mary garnishes were MIA once. But this new non-buffet brunch is relaxing and fun, the food's always fresh and flavorful, and (invoking Dylan again) when "a different set of rules" means you're gonna change your way of thinking, expect some growing pains.

Photos by Meghan Ralston