Restaurant Review: G. Michael's

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

A lush honey locust tree shades the courtyard patio at G. Michael's Bistro & Bar in German Village. It's a fitting symbol for the eatery: The mature branches spread their leaves over a relaxed restaurant where local ingredients meet Lowcountry traditions in a classic neighborhood setting.

Cooking up this old-is-new alchemy is David Tetzloff, the restaurant's executive chef and co-owner. A Miami of Ohio grad, Tetzloff went to culinary school at Johnson & Wales University in Charleston, South Carolina. He returned with a taste for Lowcountry cuisine and a passion for seasonal flavors, and the results are perfectly suited for a bistro that's both hip and historic.

Every visit to G. Michael's should begin at the bar. The narrow room with exposed brick walls is exactly what you expect from a cozy German Village hangout, and you can drink in the history (and the drinks) from a comfortable perch at the long wooden bar.

We started with a Village Royale martini ($9), an icy mix of Vox vodka, Caravella limoncello, Grand Marnier, prosecco and muddled orange. The drink is smooth and surprisingly a little dry, with a delightfully tart lemon finish. The Third & Willow martini ($9) was equally well-made and not at all cloying, avoiding the syrupy trap that can snare some sweet drinks. It's made with Ciroc vodka, Lillet blanc and grapefruit juice, which comes through as a clean, refreshing burst of citrus.

Unfortunately, rain kept us off the patio during our last visit. (I have to admit, I have a bad track record of bringing bad weather to G. Michael's with me; you'd be well-advised to avoid the patio when I'm dining there.) The bistro-like dining room is just as comfortable, though, and much drier. A wall of windows overlooks the patio, offering a pleasant view of that old locust tree even during a downpour, while a skylight shines from above. The warm natural light adds to G. Michael's relaxed and unfussy mood.

Our meal started with one of the menu's Lowcountry favorites (and ours too), the Shrimp and Grits appetizer ($12). The sweet seafood is joined by spicy, smoky Andouille sausage and country ham, while the creamy grits cut through the heat with comforting heft.

The Crab Cake ($9), an appetizer special that evening, was just as hearty for a small plate. The meaty patty was served on a bed of vinegary black-eyed peas.

Continuing our flavor travelogue, a true highlight was the Duo of Ohio Pork ($24), which showcases Chef Tetzloff's wide-ranging flair for Southern cuisine and local ingredients on one gloriously oversized plate.

This power couple includes a crispy, country-fried pork loin and fork-tender pulled pork. Sweet braised cabbage and oniony home fries underscore the meaty affair, while a cider-vinegar barbecue sauce adds a tangy pop. Nice. The chef also has a tasty touch with seafood. The Alaskan Halibut special ($27) was a thick steak of fish with a bright citrusy kick. It was topped with a chunky crab salad and served with fingerling potatoes and asparagus.

The Grilled Mahi entree ($26) takes a richer approach, with a buttery bacon sauce and a cheddar-jalapeno polenta cake that revealed a warm, creamy center beneath its fried-crisp crust. This is straight-up fine comfort food, no matter what region you draw inspiration from.

For dessert, we enjoyed the Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Bar ($6.50). Served warmed in its own ramekin, and topped with Jeni's ice cream, this gooey delight was a great way to end our journey from Lowcountry flavors to the best ingredients in Columbus.

G. Michael's shaded patio is a perfect place to soak in German Village's brick streets and classic architecture.