Restaurant review: King Avenue Five

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

The scarlet sweatshirt brigade was looking nervous.

Even though they were perched over righteous nachos whipped up at one of the hippest sports bars in town - and even though it was barely past noon on a workday -the Brutus crew began to curse and turn to alcohol as a scrappy (but ultimately doomed) Northwestern team pushed the Buckeyes into overtime.

When the Buds had settled and the Bucks had won their first-round B1G tournament game, it was high fives all around - even, or maybe especially, among previous strangers. Man, don't you love March Madness?

During this high-pitched time of year, there's lots of jump-shot palaces where you can communally soak up the hoops, hooch and sporty food, but King 5 is a slam dunk. Shadily lit and with an often packed, big rectangular bar, this large, semi-industrial indie is more rock 'n' roll than your basic wings, burgers and sports-tubed joints. And King 5's food is several cuts above, too.

I'll start with the Nachos ($7) - and so should you. They're a titanically piled-high mound of warm, thin and crispy, house-fried tortilla chips covered in an avalanche of all the expected garnishes (homemade salsa, pickled jalapenos, sour cream, etc.), plus nice chili if you want it (you do, it's only $1 more) and a blanket of broiled cheese.

Wings also fly high. You can go with the more-bang-for-your-buck boneless option (half pound for $5 - that's a lot of battered clumps) or get your gnawing on with the standard models (six for $4.75). Either way, I recommend the housemade spicy garlic and the fiery hot (vinegary buffalo studded with black peppercorns) sauces.

For more peppercorn fun, opt for the Pepper Burger ($8). That bad boy arrived with a thick cracked black pepper crust that delivered quite a spicy bite. Also under the decent glossy bun was a slice of pepper jack cheese.

Not a place to shy away from the spicy heat, King 5 also offers an appropriately titled Troublemaker Burger ($8.75). It came Cajun-dusted and armed with fiery hot wing sauce, jalapenos, chili plus cheddar and American cheeses -good stuff (note: these burger styles can also be had with a grilled chicken breast in place of the good beef patty).

King 5 does a solid job on its crispy toasted panini too. One of my faves is the Adobe Chicken ($8.75) with homemade salsa, onion straws, jalapenos and pepper jack cheese.

If you're not in the mood for a sandwich, try King 5's huge slab of homemade Meatloaf ($9). It's juicy, herby, and has a nice crust and pleasant flavors from onion, green pepper and ketchup. Plus it comes with real mashers and not-bad, baconed-up green beans - though I wasn't a fan of the beef bouillon-tasting gravy.

Another worthy entree is the Freshly Battered Fish 'n' Chips ($11). It's a huge plate filled with two long, thin and crispy planks of lightly battered whitefish. The clean-tasting, relatively ungreasy protein was paired with seasoned and battered wedge fries (aka Jo Jo potatoes) and a nice, oniony and vinegary slaw.

But whatever you get at the fun King 5 will be pretty damn good. And it'll taste even better as the Buckeyes continue to battle their way through a pretty mean-looking East Region on their glorious way to the Final Four. Knock on wood.

King Avenue Five

945 King Ave., Grandview