Rustic Roots, Tantalizing Tastes

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly
I had never before experienced the joys of double-cut pork chops before a recent visit to Third & Hollywood.

It's all too easy for pork chops to be depressing, isn't it? Cut with more bone than meat, cooked until tough as leather, shake-and-baked into submission-I've had all those takes on the humble chop. So when the server brought out my pork chop in all its glistening, towering glory, I was suitably impressed before I'd even tasted it. That I was still fantasizing about the dish days later is a testament to how much care this place puts into each of its dishes.

Third & Hollywood, so named because it sits at the intersection of those two streets in Grandview, has less of a Hollywood vibe than an Aspen one. It's rustic and comfy, with exposed rafters, an imposing stone fireplace and big leather booths.

An open kitchen with cooks hustling over flaming grills takes up about half the space in this tiny hot spot. And on a Saturday night, a growing line of customers waiting for tables (they don't take reservations) only added to the all-the-rage atmosphere.

The neighborhood bistro is a new upscale offering from the folks behind Northstar Caf, a duo of restaurants well-known locally for serving up healthy and organic fare. And Third & Hollywood's chef, Matt LaGrow, boasts on his menu that he's committed to using high-quality, humanely raised meats and flown-in-daily sustainable seafood, as well as locally grown and organic ingredients whenever possible. The menu spells out the sources for many of the meats and ingredients, and the knowledgeable waitstaff can answer any other questions you may have.

From a short but impressive list of updated cocktail classics, I picked the Havana Sidecar ($11). This Cuban take on the classic brandy drink paired 10 Cane rum with Cointreau. A nice touch: Our waiter poured my half-finished cocktail into a new chilled and cane-sugar-rimmed glass partway through the meal.

And from a quirky roundup of starters, we opted for the safe choice-a skillet of Cheddar Herb Biscuits ($6). They were gooey and buttery yet still flaky Southern-style drop biscuits, tasting slightly of buttermilk ranch. The skillet was more than enough for two people to share.

The main menu is succinct, leaving room for several changing-daily seasonal seafood and steak dishes. There's a hefty selection of sandwiches, including a grilled fish option made with a catch of the day, and a ground-in-house burger topped with bacon, blue cheese and balsamic onions. But I'd advise that you bypass the casual fare and splurge on one of the jaw-dropping, hearty featured dishes or the interesting specials.

The Nice Seared Tuna & Vegetable Salad ($18) was a lovely and fresh-flavored take on the classic Nicoise. Sushi-style medallions of ruby-red tuna were seared just slightly and lined up strikingly along one side of the plate. Making up the rest of the salad were perfectly cooked skinny green beans, chilled potato wedges, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, avocado, hard-cooked egg and dollops of soft and tangy chevre. A lightly applied caper-dijon dressing added some pleasant saltiness.

But back to that pork chop ($24). It was served on a bed of braised shredded red cabbage with a nice hit of balsamic vinegar. The thick chop was brined before cooking, providing juiciness and some layered, herby flavor. And it was grilled perfectly, just slightly pink and unbelievably tender. On the side was a halved poached pear-a nice nod to the retro pork-chop-and-applesauce combo. The sides were flavorful yet not-too-filling-fantastic companions for the succulent pork.

On our visit, there were just two options for dessert. A lemon square and a pecan pie sundae ($8). The waiter did manage to tempt me with his lofty description of the lemon square, but we couldn't pass up the sundae. Several scoops of vanilla-bean ice cream were served in an oversized wine glass, topped with crumbled chocolate-pecan pie, drizzled in chocolate sauce and then covered in whipped cream.