Restaurant review: Good fried chicken and chef-cooked Southern classics are a dual threat at Double Comfort

G.A. Benton, Columbus Alive

The timing of Double Comfort couldn't be better. A fried chicken specialist enamored with Southern classics, month-old Double Comfort rides in on a wave of fried chicken mania that's approaching tsunami levels in Columbus. Credit Chef Dan Varga (formerly of Explorers Club) and owner Mary Lyski (it's her recipe) that Double Comfort's chicken surfs near the crest of this movement.

As its name alludes, this newcomer's comfort concerns are dual: making feel-good grub, but also to comfort disadvantaged people by pledging money regularly to the Mid-Ohio Foodbank. I only hope these laudable concerns can increase to threefold, and soon include comforting patrons with efficient service.

Renovating the old Knead space into a more open room with a "farmhouse chic"-look, Double Comfort exudes a barbecue joint-type vibe. Blues tunes often play, and there's a little bar, a little patio, de rigeur reclaimed rustic wood, a photo of a tractor and burlap sacks on the wall.

There are a few refreshing drinks, too. These include four craft taps (e.g. Jackie O's and Seventh Son brews) and sure-handed cocktails, such as the tropical-hinting (but not-too-sweet) Sweet Tea Sour ($12) and the mint julep-esque Firestorm ($10).

An amuse bouche might seem unusual in a fried chicken restaurant, but this isn't your average chicken shack. And the free mini-jar of clove-y and vinegary homemade pickles is a welcome touch.

Also welcome is an inventive salad, like the enormous and shareable Double Comfort ($9). That zesty ensemble coats fresh and tender local greens and pickled vegetables in an intriguingly smoky and tart-sweet "smoked Vidalia onion vinaigrette." Brash counterpoints arrive via a fried egg. For a smaller starter, the puffy, crisp and hush puppyish Ohio Sweet Corn fritters ($5), served with cayenne aioli and a deeply caramelized "chow chow" veggie relish, hit a sweet spot.

Since the abbreviated menu emphasizes ("Ohio organic") fried chicken so much, let's cut to the chase: it's greasy, but crispy and good. Said to be Memphis-influenced, its crust is salty, black peppery and more herby than spicy. This pleasant, medium-thick exterior leads to commendably moist meat.

You can purchase the bird a la carte ($3 thighs or $2 legs) or in "meals" of two ($10), three ($12), four ($15) or 12 pieces ($42). Meals arrive with negligible white bread, alright fries and a richness-cutting, interesting slaw (made with cabbage and Brussels sprouts) detonated by an aggressively vinegary dressing.

Another vinegary side that complements the chicken is the tender and agreeably bitter, long-leafed Braised Southern greens ($4). Other sides stand alone better - like irresistibly rich, garlicky and Ohio-dairy-flaunting Macaroni and Cheese ($6); gigantic, cake-like and highly recommended Sizzling Skillet Bacon Cornbread ($4); and rib-sticking Red Beans and Rice ($4), which benefit from hot sauce.

Fully dressed Po'Boys are offered on decent, toasted baguette-like rolls. Though overgenerous with the terrific housemade remoulade sauce, my messy fried shrimp submarine-type sandwich had plump and clean-tasting crustaceans and a sneaky heat from banana peppers and jerk-type seasoning.

Similar thyme-led spicing slightly cut through the delicious, if imposingly thick and creamy bacon gravy that swamped the pounded-thin, almost-tender Chicken Fried Steak dinner ($12). The rare non-chicken entree here, its bold flavors actually outpaced the fried chicken I tried.

As for service, long delays and confusion weren't uncommon. And I experienced a Murphy's Law-proving night when it took an hour before I received the wrong food.

On the plus side, the friendly and justifiably proud-of-their-food servers deftly handled those screw-ups. Though these problems probably cost Double Comfort a half star in this review, the restaurant's gracious responses - and its killer Key Lime pie ($5; skip the Reddi Wip) - won it a full-time fan.

Double Comfort Restaurant

505 N. High St., Short North