Guide: Granville's dining scene
A lively sipping and supping stroll along lovely Granville's busiest road
By G.A. Benton
Doggedly following 161 eastward from Columbus, the concrete jungle quickly recedes into thickets of trees, pastures, fields and farms, and then -- 35 minutes later -- a community defiantly clinging to its singular identity. Welcome to Granville, where the small-town American dream is alive and well and living in a charmingly preserved, storybookpretty university village.
Here, any modern show-bizzy connotations drummed up by the evocative name of Granville's main thoroughfare -- Broadway -- immediately melt away with a relaxing stroll past quaint storefronts.
Instead of theaters and glitz, this Broadway is rife with picturesque, awning-shaded small businesses inhabiting shoulder-to-shoulder, narrow two- and three-story brick edifices that mostly bear authentic Civil War-era vintages. In another pleasant throwback, a steep majority of Granville's often-quirky shops, pubs and restaurants are proud to be independently owned and operated.
No, rather than theater territory, I momentarily felt like Granville's Broadway had led me to an old Preston Sturges or Frank Capra movie set. Heck, I half expected to see a young Henry Fonda or Jimmy Stewart among the numerous "al fresco-ing" kids, couples, friends and families (many with dogs in tow) leisurely enjoying dinner, drinks and other summertime treats on Broadway's handsome and communal patio-table-lined streetscape.
That's not to say Granville's stuck in a time warp. I learned this while merrily sipping, supping and ambling down Broadway -- and veering off it a bit, too.
My first pit stop was Brews Cafe. With "growler" lamps, 36 beers on tap and 150 to 200 bottled varieties stacked in cooler cases along one of Brews' brick walls, this place -- whose two-level-porch-hung, red exterior sorta recalls an Old West saloon -- takes its name seriously.
Yet beer-centric as it is, except for an after-hours-y third floor (where bands occasionally play), the comfy-booth-laden Brews is full of dining families.
They're digging fish tacos ($12), habanero-chipotle-glazed green chili bacon and goat cheese burgers ($12) and pretzel-rolled smoked turkey cheddar melts ($9). My companion and I eased our way into the evening by slamming refreshing tap-pours of Monk's Cafe Flemish Sour Ale.
Literally feet away is thoroughly cute Bella, specializing in "Italian Comfort Food." Past its rustic and heavy wooden door is a fetching room where ceiling-hung drying herbs, floral tablecloths and the scent of a wood-burning pizza oven warmly greeted us.
We grazed on the namesake Bella pizza ($12 -- handmade dough, fennel-y sausage, fresh sage, shiitake mushrooms, banana peppers), savoring its attractively singed, crackly edged crust.
Reluctantly saving the brightly painted Day Y Noche Mexican restaurant and the totally hopping Broadway Pub for another day (so many fun-looking Granville places, so little time!), we veered half a block off Broadway to delightfully odd Taco Dan's.
Sharing its funky "this old house" space with a vintage clothing store, at Taco Dan's, patrons order goodies (we got margaritas and kitchen-sinker nachos with chorizo) and hang out on the porch like instant old buddies. If Taco Dan's were a syndicated TV program, it'd be "The Andy Griffith Show" merged with "Northern Exposure."
Idiosyncratic gave way to classic back on Broadway as we approached the gorgeous, stone-clad, English manor-like, nearly century-old Granville Inn. Eye candy abounds, from its tree-shaded, immaculately manicured grounds to a stately but not stuffy dining room graced with hand-cut wood paneling, brass chandeliers and a giant hearth. There are also lovely indoor and outdoor patios where an electric guitarist strummed in a sophisticated, Kenny Burrell-type style.
Since it was "Wine Wednesday," we paired our delicious, local-ingredient-rich dinner with great-priced, four-variety flights ($10). After a pure-tasting Roasted Yellow Pepper and Carrot Soup ($5), we marveled over the Chef's Spring Salad ($8), whose prosaic name didn't prepare us for its stunning garden party flavors and presentation.
It was a trio of salads (anise- y and punchy razor-thin fennel and radish, delicate and heady edible flowers with herb greens plus a killer ensemble of mint, pine nuts, candied goat cheese and beet matchsticks) we won't soon forget. Ditto for the Scallops Lavallee ($27)-- four expertly seared beauties relaxing on a loose, buttery mushroom-sauced hash of lardons, asparagus and shiitakes.
Since it was a two-dessert kind of night, after the Inn's cheffed-up apple, walnut and beet carrot cake, we beat a path back up Broadway to Whit's Frozen Custard, a continual-line-out-the-door local phenomenon.
One lick of Whit's lush and silken Mint and (real) Dark Chocolate Chip ($2/heaping scoop) ice creamy treat immediately explained those steady lines. Because eating that delicious and old-fashioned stuff is like dunking your tongue into a cool and soothing cloud.
But it was time to head back to earth -- and Columbus. And time to plan a return trip to lovely old Granville.
Food critic G.A. Benton blogs at columbusalive.com
Photos by Jodi Miller
314 E. Broadway, 740-587-3333
116 E. Broadway, 740-587-0249
128 E. Broadway, 740-920-4032
Whit's Frozen Custard
138 E. Broadway, 740-587-3620
122 E. Broadway, 740-587-0253
126 E. Broadway, 740-587-0252
Elms Pizza Parlor
113 E. Elm St., 740-587-1032
121 S. Prospect St., 740-321-1198