Openings: McCasky's Grille

Shelley Mann, Columbus Alive

McCasky's Grille is a new restaurant that's gotten a fair amount of buzz surrounding two topics. First, it's located in the building that formerly housed Handke's Cuisine, one of the city's most famous and beloved restaurants. And second, its menu (especially when considered in comparison with what Handke's offered) seemed, at first glance, to be a little boring. Well, a lot boring.

The appetizers are standard-issue bruschetta, calamari, hummus; the entrees are a steak, a roasted pork dish, scallops and a couple pastas. Nothing on a first read-through particularly sets this place apart. And yet, I was still looking forward to stopping in to see what exactly the new owners are doing with the space. And while I only tried a few of the sliders and a beer, I was impressed with what I ate.

To call this space distinctive is an understatement: the building is a former brewery, and Handke's used the cellar area (with signature vaulted stone ceilings) for its dining rooms. At McCasky's, they've set up the upstairs space (i.e. the separate bar space called Encore right before Handke's closed) as the main dining area for a sports bar/casual dine-in restaurant. Lots of the Handke's charm remains, including exposed ceilings and a huge mahogany bar.

So, the food. I tried the three sliders named Moo, Oink and Cluck. Cutesy names aside, these were actually pretty decent -- and one was a standout. The Moo is a standard cheeseburger topped with barbecue sauce and some crispy onions. The Oink is better, with real-deal smoked and pulled pork topped with bbq sauce and coleslaw. But the Cluck, pictured here, was my favorite. It's house-made chicken salad made with apples and cranberries so it's crunchy and sweet. And it's served on a delicious triple-ginger biscuit -- a buttery, flaky, Southern-style biscuit with some bracing ginger pick-me-up. Such an interesting combination of flavors.

Again, they're just a small part of the menu, but those sandwiches have me eager to return and see if more of the menu is tastier than it appears.