The Crosswoods: The meat-and-potatoes capital of Columbus

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly
Hyde Park

The Crosswoods has two claims to fame: one-time home to Fifty-Five at Crosswoods (Cameron Mitchell's old stomping grounds) and the site of Columbus' first Chipotle. Only one of these restaurants is still in business, despite daily gridlock and the polish of Polaris.

Gone are countless restaurants, including Dick Clark's American Bandstand Grill, Fuddrucker's, Macaroni Grill, Vonn Jazz Lounge and Buffalo Wild Wings. In their place is a maze of parking lots, Marcus Crosswoods Cinema, a few ethnic restaurants and a stack of steakhouses. Without premeditated planning (the area is owned by several non-connected developers) the Crosswoods has become a Chinatown of sorts, but instead of Szechuan, it's steak.

Why did the high-end restaurants survive when so many others didn't? Some give credit to the 12 hotels in the nearby area, others to the surrounding businesses. Andy Bassitt, general manager of Ruth's Chris Steak House and co-chair of the Crosswoods Advocacy Network says unlike lower-priced chains, high-end restaurants like his don't rely on local neighborhood traffic that may be inconvenienced by traffic.

And things are happening for the Crosswoods. Folks from Ruth's Chris, Mitchell's, Starbucks and the Sheraton get together to plan for the future of the area. When construction is finished in 2016, a trench will allow commuter traffic to bypass the area, opening up the roads for customers and locals. The advocacy group talks about pedestrian access from hotels to the restaurants, monument signage (think Short North arches) and communicating with one voice. Bassitt happily lists positive changes to the area, including Blazing Saddles Saloon, Wurst und Bier and the remodel of the Marcus. "People are starting to look at this as being a destination," he says. "The future bodes well for the area."

In the meantime, managers and longtime servers offer inside advice on dining at these storied steakhouses.

Ruth's Chris Steak House

Headquarters: Winter Park, Florida; 135 locations

Opened: 1998

Their USDA Prime Beef is prepared in an 1,800-degree broiler, seasoned with salt and pepper and topped with butter and parsley.

General manager Andy Bassitt suggests telling the retaurant about celebrations ahead of time: "We personalize the table, decorate it and offer a free dessert. For anniversaries, we put rose petals on the table. For birthdays, it's confetti."

J. Alexander's

Headquarters: Nashville, Tennessee; 30 locations

Opened: 1993

Steak's not the only game here, but the slow-roasted prime rib served with smashed potatoes, horseradish and jus steals the show.

A few tips from the hostess: Check out the wine list for aggressive industry pricing. And if you feel tempted to take the art-covered menu home: Go for it. People do it all the time.

Columbus Fish Market

Headquarters: Winter Park, Florida; seven locations

Opened: 1998

To appeal to a broader audience, this former Cameron Mitchell restaurant recently added rib-eye, filet and prime sirloin to the menu. All steaks are grilled to order and served with smashed redskin potatoes and asparagus.

General manager John Byrne recommends the new weekday happy hour with prices getting progressively higher each day, capping at $5 on Fridays.

Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse

Headquarters: Beachwood, Ohio; 14 locations

Opened: 2001

Named for Cleveland's favorite quarterback, Bernie Kosar, the Steak Kosar is a popular choice. Think lobster served atop steak with bearnaise, asparagus and mushroom to complement.

According to regional manager Craig Dye, the private room (complete with a chef's table) is this restaurant's hidden gem.

J. Gilberts

Headquarters: Leawood, Kansas; five locations

Opened: 1998

Known for providing a full three-course meal at a value with its prix fixe menu, J. Gilbert's serves wood-fired steaks heated with mesquite charcoal shipped from Texas.

Longtime server Rich Puglia says all the steaks are grilled in the shed behind the restaurant. (And yes, that's pastrami in the butter.)