Columbus Monthly’s 10 Best Restaurants: Watershed Kitchen & Bar Lands at No. 9

The sister concept to Watershed Distillery has returned to form with chef Matt Howes at the helm and one of the best drink menus in town.

Nicholas Dekker
Heritage pork chop at Watershed Kitchen & Bar

Watershed Distillery elicited plenty of smiles when the nascent company first released its terrific gins in 2010. Seven years later, sister concept Watershed Kitchen & Bar gave us more reasons to grin when it began serving delicious meals in a lively, modern distillery setting that coheres with the restaurant’s stylish farm-to-table cuisine.

In March 2020, though, the pandemic unleashed upheavals. Watershed’s kitchen closed for more than a year. A few months after reopening, the executive chef from day one, Jack Moore, left to focus on his Black Cap hot sauce business.

Cheers, then, to Watershed for gaining altitude again with Matt Howes, a former sous chef now at the helm as executive chef. Old favorites are back (if slightly altered), like the braised short rib with grilled oranges, saffron emulsion, chile marmalade and Amish farm-sourced squash; double-bone pork chop with strawberry tapenade and heirloom-corn grits; plus seemingly common dishes that blow most competitors away, like crispy fingerling potatoes and fried Brussels sprouts. Watershed has also resumed its tasting menu, a bargain for diners, bundling multiple a la carte items.

N/aked as a jaybird nonalcoholic cocktail

A retooling of the menu is forthcoming, and recent three-course Sunday Supper specials offer a preview of the new direction. These meals have alternatively partnered pork with ricotta gnudi or egg fried rice, and swordfish with Italian-style salsa verde or a sweet potato purée.

As always, Watershed’s lavish, well-designed cocktail menu is among the best in town. Rocking a vintage Life magazine look, the most recent cocktail booklet had a something-for-everyone selection and a back-to-the-future theme invitingly described as “a conversation between classic styles and new ingredients.” 

Watershed Kitchen & Bar

1145 Chesapeake Ave., Fifth by Northwest, 614-357-1936,

This story is from the “10 Best Restaurants” package in the November 2022 issue of Columbus Monthly.