We’ve been waiting patiently for a new restaurant to open in the Gay Street District, in a spot formerly occupied by an Irish pub. The sign has been up for ESCO Restaurant and Tapas for a while now, the interior work has been done, and lately I’ve seen some activity in the place as I’ve walked past, but a look at the restaurant’s website indicated the Grand Opening wouldn’t be until this coming Friday. Yesterday, though, as we were on a stroll to the library to return some books, we saw a sign indicating that ESCO would be serving brunch. On our return trip we decided to stop in to check the place out.
I like it when I get an nice surprise, and this was a pleasant surprise, indeed. The restaurant decided to do a soft opening to work the kinks out before the formal Grand Opening on Friday, so we got an advance look at the restaurant and a chance to taste ESCO’s wares. You can see the menu and other information about ESCO Columbus–the third ESCO restaurant, following two established in the Atlanta, Georgia area–here.
The brunch menu is tantalizing, indeed. Although I engaged in a vigorous internal debate about whether I was hungry enough to try the chops and eggs, I opted for the seafood and grits. ESCO offers the option of shrimp, catfish, or lobster tail, and you can get them either fried or grilled. I chose the traditional form of shrimp and grits served with grilled shrimp. Kish, meanwhile, got the fried chicken and red velvet waffles.
The shrimp and grits were, in a word, fantastic, and looked so delicious that I immediately dug in and started eating before I remembered to take the photo above. The grits were well prepared, the sauce was buttery and included gouda cheese, which gives it a very smooth, delicate flavor, and my plate was loaded with plump, succulent shrimp–so many that you could easily enjoy a piece of shrimp with every bite of grits. This dish was a definite keeper. Kish reported that her chicken and waffles were also excellent, and came in such a heroic portion that there was plenty to take home and enjoy during the rest of our Sunday. As for me, I finished every bit of my shrimp and grits, and found myself wondering whether I would have some fried catfish instead the next time I try that dish.
It’s always a cause for celebration when a new restaurant opens on Gay Street, to help maintain its reputation as the coolest street in downtown Columbus. When the new place serves great food, and offers options like shrimp and grits that aren’t currently available from our other local eateries, the celebration meter goes even higher. I’m happy to welcome ESCO Restaurant and Tapas to the neighborhood, and look forward to continuing my culinary exploration there. I’m sensing a lunch there will be in my immediate future.