Last night, on a whim, we decided to duck into Speck, the new downtown restaurant only a short walk from our apartment, to see if we could grab a meal at the bar. Getting a table can be a challenge at this hot new Columbus dining option, but Speck has a bar area and we decided to take our chances that two seats might be open. Luck was with us, and we grabbed two stools at the end of the bar.
I like eating at a bar every now and then. The vibe is distinctly different, and a nice change of pace. At a table, you see your server periodically, you’re a few feet from other diners, and there is a sense of some privacy. At the bar, on the other hand, there’s a lot more interaction with the servers and a lot more hustle and bustle; you’re only a foot or so away from people making drinks, slicing fruit, and washing dishes. There’s no sense of privacy, really, but it’s easy to strike up a conversation with the back of the bar staff.
Another key difference is that you are facing the array of different bottles of alcohol behind the bar, and seeing a lot of interesting drinks being made. The temptation to try something new is irresistible. As befits an Italian eatery, Speck has an extensive collection of European liquors. That’s why I deviated from my normal wine-only beverage approach and started the evening with a bright and refreshing Aperol spritzer, shown above. At the barkeep’s suggestion, I followed that up with a Fernet-Branca, an Italian digestif and apertif that was interesting from a flavor standpoint, but a bit on the bitter side for my tastes, so I switched to a glass of wine for my meal.
Speaking of the meal, we started with some excellent mussels, with a broth that demanded to be sopped up by some delicious bread. It was succulent. I followed that with an enormous and awesomely tender short rib, shown above, that looked like it should have been precariously balanced on the side of Fred Flintstone’s car. I ate it all, without remorse, and some of Kish’s cacio e pepe pasta, besides.
I had the feeling that the dinner wasn’t quite done yet, so I sought the bartender’s advice on one last drink to cap off an excellent meal in a fun setting. He suggested a pistachiocello, shown below, which was absolutely delicious. I could have guzzled a gallon of it, but somehow resisted the temptation. We headed out into the cold Columbus night, fully satisfied and happy that we took a chance on a few seats at the bar.
Our evening at the bar at Speck was a memorable one that we’ll want to repeat in the future. If you haven’t eaten at the bar lately, you might want to give it a try.