Restaurant Review: Flatiron Bar and Diner
Flatiron Bar and Diner makes an incredible amount of its food from scratch, maintains consistency and charges very reasonable prices -- and still doesn't get the respect it deserves.
The wedge-shaped building near the Greater Columbus Convention Center has been spruced up, with restored dining-room windows, renovated bathrooms and a new floor in the bar.
Chef Steve Nicholson always lists off-menu specials on a blackboard -- the green gazpacho ($5.50), for instance. Based on cucumber rather than tomato, with a slightly creamy finish, it's cold and refreshing.
In contrast, tomato appears in a broth-based soup of the day ($5.75) with a bold infusion of hot peppers; while a seafood chowder ($5.75), also a soup of the day, relies on a complex-tasting blend of flaked fish in a fine seafood broth -- with a few large chunks of potato and a properly sparse amount of cream.
The star of the gumbo ($6.25) is the house-made chorizo, which is accompanied by shrimp and chicken in a thick broth fragrant with hot peppers and chopped scallions.
One winner from the chalkboard shows off the house-prepared guanciale -- a cured, unsmoked bacon -- sliced into strips; cooked until crisp; and mixed with fusilli pasta, caramelized cream laced with Cajun spice and sauteed shrimp ($14).
Searing provides a good, crisp edge on trout without overcooking the interior of the thick fillet. The fish is slathered with an excellent green-chili cream with the right edge of spicy, fruity heat. The first-rate special ($20) is served with rice and a savory succotash of sauteed corn and lima beans.
For a Southern-style treatment of fish, consider the cornmeal-breaded haddock ($21): Two large fillets are pan-fried crisp and golden. They rest atop an interesting mix of house-made spaetzle, lemon zest and zucchini, which are sauteed briefly to develop plenty of flavor. A garlic mayonnaise with lemon and basil is on the side.
Flatiron is well-known for its barbecued meat, but it also makes an excellent house-smoked salmon. A hefty portion comes in the salmon club ($8.50) between slices of bread.
Most of the desserts ($5) are also house-made - including a thick, mildly spiced sweet-potato pie; and a bread pudding rich with egg custard, judiciously anointed with a bourbon syrup.
The fresh-tasting fruit in the apple pie are in a flaky, buttery crust -- before it's microwaved. Ask for a slice heated in the oven or served at room temperature.
The small wine selection has a few food-friendly possibilities. A split of Chandon sparkler ($7) is the best bet among whites. Among reds, the Bearboat pinot noir (expensive at $9) has decent structure that fights a notable oak. The Leese-Fitch cabernet sauvignon is a better, less expensive food wine ($7.50).
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Flatiron Bar and Diner
129 E. Nationwide Blvd., Downtown