Hotel LeVeque 

There’s a new hotel in downtown Columbus that’s actually pretty old.  If that sounds confusing, it’s because the LeVeque Building — since the 1920s, the most iconic building in the downtown area — has been rehabbed and converted, in part, into a hotel.  

I went to meetings at the hotel yesterday and today, and they’ve turned this Art Deco masterpiece into a pretty cool hotel.  The fixtures have been cleaned and brightened — allowing nifty Art Deco touches, like elevators with names like “health” and “prosperity,” to shine through.  The lobby area (shown below) is open and airy, and there’s a nice second-floor bar, too.  I spoke to someone who was staying at the hotel, and he said the guest rooms are great.

This is another nice step forward for downtown Columbus.  Every town needs cool hotels in the core area.

No Crawl On My Walk

I regret to report to everyone that, for the last few days, there has been no crawl on my walk into work.

I’m referring to the news crawl on the front of the Dispatch building, of course.  I’ve come to rely on it for my news blurbs in the morning, so I can feel that I’m at least somewhat informed when I arrive at the office.  And I’ve come to to look forward to the bullet-point format and phrasing of the crawl, too.  

ANOTHER SHOOTING ON NEAR EAST SIDE . . . . TRUMP ANTICS MYSTIFY EUROPE . . . . THREE-LEGGED FROG DAZZLES FAIRGOERS . . . . 17 RECIPES FOR SUMMER PORK . . . . FLYING CARS MAY BE JUST AROUND CORNER . . . .

The crawl always seems to feature incredibly provocative stuff, presented in the most cryptic style.  You’re never really sure what the news is, but it sure sounds interesting.

But now the crawl has gone dark, and with it, my morning mood.  Come back, crawl!

The Value Of A Park

Living near Schiller Park — a sprawling, 150-year-old green space that covers multiple city blocks and is home to mature trees, picnic tables, lots of shade, a duck pond, a rec center, tennis courts, a playground, an outdoor basketball court, and a stage where the Actors Theatre of Columbus performs on summer evenings — has really shown me the value that a park brings to a community.

German Village has a very strong and distinctive neighborhood feel, and Schiller Park is a big part of that.  The park  is constantly in use, from the joggers and dog walkers who circle it in the early morning hours to the mid-day basketball and tennis players and parents pushing their kids ever higher on the swings, to the late afternoon birthday parties on the picnic tables beneath huge shade trees and people reading books on benches or playing fetch with their dogs.  You see the same people over and over, which of course reinforces the feeling of community, and you take pride in this beautiful patch of green that draws people like a magnet.  German Village without Schiller Park wouldn’t really be German Village at all.

In the American neighborhoods built before 1900, parks were of course part of the design — because green space and parkland were traditional in the countries of Europe from which many Americans of that era immigrated.  I’m sure the German immigrants who gave German Village its name never gave a second thought to putting in a large park, because it was just expected and obvious.  

At some point after 1900, though, the builders of suburban communities saw parks as less necessary, whether it was because they figured people would be driving around and not interested in walking to a park, or because they concluded that the acreage of a park could be more profitably devoted to still more houses.  As a result, many suburban communities are seriously park-deprived.  

It’s too bad, because a nice park really makes a difference and brings a lot of value to a neighborhood.

In The City Of Trees

I’m on a quick visit to Boise, Idaho.  It’s my first visit to a place that, according to a big signs at the airport, bills itself as the “City of Trees.”  The airport signs also make it clear that Idahoans are proud of their beef and their potatoes — so I savored some of each at dinner.

Although I didn’t notice anything remarkable about the trees of Boise, I did think the state capitol building, pictured above, was pretty cool, and I was really struck by what you see in the distance behind the capitol — i.e., cloudless blue sky.  Boise gets sunshine at least part of the day for a ridiculously large percentage of the year.  We could us some of that during our Columbus winters.

South Village Grille

When a new restaurant opens in your neighborhood, it’s always fun to visit for the first time — to take in the ambiance and setting, scan the totally unfamiliar menu, and try a dish that might, if things go right, become a special favorite.

Last night Kish and I went to the South Village Grille, which has been open for about a month.  It’s on Thurman, in the spot formerly occupied by Easy Street, which was a favorite of ours.  But where Easy Street was a classic neighborhood joint and good brunch and burger place, the South Village Grille has a different aim:  according to the hostess and our waiter, it’s looking to recreate a kind of New York bistro setting, with food (and cocktails) made from scratch.  The interior is open and airy — a far cry from the Easy Street days, when just about every inch of wall space was cluttered with things like Frank Sinatra’s mug shot — with cool light fixtures.  And large mirrors on the walls. I’m not sure exactly what New York bistros are supposed to look like, but this design was both intimate and visually appealing.

More important, the food was appealing — in fact, it was terrific.  Kish and I started by splitting six enormous raw Chesapeake Bay oysters, topped with a tasty Thai vinaigrette sauce of the chef’s devising, and then I went for the hanger steak and fries and Kish had a wedge salad and the short rib.  My steak was great — cooked just right to medium rare — and Kish’s short rib was moist and tender.  She raved about her wedge salad, too.

We closed things off with strawberry shortcake (it is summer, after all) that featured a crisp shortcake biscuit, ice cream, a kind of creme fraiche sauce, and spicy, seasoned strawberries.  I can attest that it tasted as good as it looks.

I’m pretty sure we’ll be adding the South Village Grille to our list of dine-around favorites.

High Summer Coneys

I’ve always thought of the period between the Fourth of July and Labor Day as “high summer” — when it’s bright and hot and time to consume all of the great summer foods.  Like corn on the cob, and root beer floats . . . and coneys.  So today, on our way to the library, Kish and I stopped off at Village Coney, on Whittier, for lunch.  I ordered two coneys with cheese, fries, and a Diet Pepsi and got a cookie as a bonus.  

Although I ordered two coneys, I consumed three of them when Kish decided one was enough for her.  I initially declined the extra coney, but with the lingering taste of the cheese and chili sauce of the first two coneys, which were excellent, the lure of the third coney proved to be irresistible.  The fries were really good, too.

Bring on the High Summer!

Handy Signage

For months, they’ve been refurbishing Pearl Alley, which runs between, and parallel to, Broad Street and Gay Street in downtown Columbus.  The goal is to spiff it up for the farmers’ market and other events that often are held there.  The alley has been pretty torn up as they’ve put in new light fixtures and probably made some less visible modifications, but it looks like they’re finally done — with work capped by this new sign at the Third Street entrance to the alley that I noticed for the first time on my walk home tonight.

It’s kind of a weird sign, but at least it’s got some symbolism going for it.  The hand is extending what appears to be a giant pearl — get it? — and the tattoo on the bicep of the arm reads “Lynn,” which just happens to be the name of the alley that intersects Pearl Alley halfway between High Street and Third Street.  Pretty clever!

The Pearl Alley project was a pain for those of us working in the neighborhood, but I’m glad they did it.  Pearl Alley is used frequently, and if you want to encourage people to come downtown and even move downtown, nice urban spaces have to be part of the attraction.  The Pearl Alley project has been another step in the process.