Amusement Park

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Hot dancing flames from a decorative coal-black fire pit welcome you when you enter Easton's new Martini Park. One room over, water profusely bubbles upward inside two back-lit tanks. Those fish-free aquaria bracket a luridly red band stage theatrically surrounded by lit candles and hovering directly above a substantial and swanky semicircular bar.

Opposite this is one of the largest DJ stations I've ever seen - naturally, it's encased in glass. And roaming throughout Martini Park's three rambling, packed party rooms is a black-clad staff (women in cocktail dresses, men in ties) of what seems like dozens and dozens of employees. How they can function properly - because they seem to - above the diverse din is truly beyond me.

Starting to get the picture? If not, think harder, because describing the myriad distractions in this 8,800-square-foot self-described "playground for grown-ups" is beyond the scope of this article.

Suffice it to say this Martini Park is the expensive and expansive look-alike brother of others already established in places like Chicago and Plano, Texas (a Dallas suburb).

This family is the offspring of Chris Barish, a glitzy big-city mover and shaker. Apparently his intention is to offer trendy food and cocktails to well-heeled people who aren't enamored with trendy or edgy music. In other words, expect to hear U2 but not Gang of Four, Stevie Nicks but not Stephen Malkmus.

And expect it to come via the DJ and live bands that climb the elevated stage sometime after happy hour (when dancing can also take place). Also expect the music to reach Martini Park's three varied and very large rooms: a triangular-ish one with an angular bar and high tables, the room with a view of the stage, and a rousing circular rear chamber with a round, swooping bar.

So how was the opening week's food and drink? Pretty damn good. Sipwise, the several cocktails I tried ($10 to $12) were all well-executed. Many were fruity, yet nicely balanced and not overly sweet - call them girly but not sissified (I recommend the cucumber and apple martinis, which actually taste like their namesakes).

Munchiewise, Martini Park smartly uses Carfagna's as a meat provider. For $6 to $12, there's "Shareable" things like meaty sliders; great, crunchy and creamy sweet corn risotto balls; and excellent, obviously handmade Asian chicken dumplings.

But the sizeable menu also offers a terrific Park Salad ($8), some pizzas and sandwiches, smoked salmon poppers and other au courant tidbits - as well as a few entrees like a wonderfully tender and juicy glazed Amish half-chicken with a nifty stiff potato puree ($18).

So those crucial parts were more than OK. In the end, when the music is respectable here (say yes to the Hoo Doo Soul Band), I could see myself having a fine old time at this chaotic instant hot spot. But if I were there while a cover band was playing Pat Benatar, probably not so much.

Martini Park

4040 Easton Station, Easton




4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday-Saturday