Restaurant review: Buckeye Hall of Fame Grill

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Though now hinting they're not set in stone, last week the Big Ten Conference "distinguished" itself with these remarkable new division names: Leaders and Legends. I mention this because as far as sports-bar restaurants go, the surprising Buckeye Hall of Fame Grill is clearly a Leader.

Unrelated to its (also OSU-licensed) predecessor, this recently christened BHOF is situated in a new development called Grandview Yard. Likewise unlike the previous BHOF, the newbie doesn't resemble Ohio Stadium, but rather is a less-kitschy brick edifice with lots of big, natural-light-transmitting windows.

Outside, a giant, smile-inducing Woody cap hangs on the stout building's long, vertical sign. Inside, the Hall is open and airy, rather tastefully loaded with Buckeye memorabilia and approximately the size of a football field. Sliced up into several rooms (one a semi-private space with an immense projection TV) and equipped with a large bar, this BHOF is considerably better looking than your standard sports-watching establishment. And its food is far, far better.

In fact cheffy touches abound, like in the stuffed Jalapeno Poppers ($8). Transcending the industrial cream-cheesy battered blobs you usually get, these were unfried, heat-blistered peppers cored out and stuffed with good housemade chorizo and jack cheese.

The presentation - bacon capped, roasted peppers protruding like tiny ice cream cones from holes in an elevated metal Block "O" tray - was as impressive as the potent flavors.

Also not masking over the taste of its higher-quality ingredients with excessive batter, grease and cheap cheese were the Brutus Bites ($7). Little, roasted-whole, salt-and-pepper-crusted potato globes were understatedly stabbed with bits of bacon and cheese.

Other excellent starters were the colossal Shrimp Cocktail (three "look at those!" lobster-tail-size specimens for $12); Wings in a tangy, spicy and thoroughly addictive housemade barbecue sauce ($7); and the sweet and tart, baconed and blue-cheesed ("55"-like) Yard Street Salad ($4).

Mildly spice-rubbed rotisserie chickens are big here - you can see them spinning near the bar. Sliced and chopped, they grace salads and sandwiches or dress up dinners like the excellent, two-toned Enchiladas ($15).

The latter were alternately slathered with a roasty and smoky red chili sauce and an innovative, toasted-corn-tasting sorta tortilla gravy. The enchiladas also came with good black beans distinguished by sweet sauteed onions plus nice, veggie-studded Spanish rice.

Two sandwiches I tried were less restrained. In fact they were layered with a ton of messy toppings. But guess what? Yep, both were delicious and their more-is-more garnishing approach absolutely worked.

The juicy, handmade big boy Buckeye burger ($10) satisfied in a manly manner with its caramelized onions, pungent blue cheese and sauteed mushrooms. But the kick-ass Carnitas Sandwich was an all-conference all-star ($10). On a baguette roll, big chunks of fragrant, slow-cooked pork were showcased with cilantro, pickled onions, jack cheese and avocado. A must! (Note: Sandwiches come with a side like crispy shoestring fries or an inspired peanut cole slaw.)

As I bit into dessert - a wonderful apple cake made using the chef's great-grandmother's 75-year-old recipe - I thought this BHOF might be a Leader now, but it seems destined to become a Legend.

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Buckeye Hall of Fame Grill

900 Goodale Blvd., Grandview