The Barn

IMG_3309Last night, the Carroll County Cousin, Kish, and I went to the newest restaurant in our neighborhood — The Barn at Rocky Fork Creek.  You’ll find it at the intersection of Route 62 and Morse Road, on the border between New Albany and Gahanna.

The Barn is located in a huge, barn-like structure that formerly was a Hoggy’s restaurant.  Hoggy’s, a barbecue joint, featured a large antique tractor hanging from the ceiling that I always assumed was designed to encourage table turnover by incentivizing diners to wolf down their food and get away from the presumed kill zone if the tractor ever were to fall.

IMG_3314Thankfully, The Barn has removed the Tractor of Damocles from the ceiling.  However, The Barn fortunately has kept the meatcentric orientation of the old Hoggy’s, with a few steps in the upscale direction.  It bills itself as a destination steakhouse, but it’s not the kind where the waiters wear black jackets.  Instead, it has a kind of rustic flair, with the servers sporting gingham shirts and the menu featuring some smokehouse and barbecue options as well as a fully array of steaks, seafood, salads, and sides.

I had a shrimp cocktail and the “king’s cut” of prime rib — a full 16 ounces — because sometimes only a red slab of beef with flavorful fat around the edges will do.  The shrimp cocktail was packed with shrimp and a sinus-clearing, horseradish-heavy cocktail sauce that let you know this restaurant isn’t afraid to offer bold flavors. The prime rib was great — a large, juicy, perfectly cooked cut that I savored bite by bite.  The prime rib is served with a large baked onion, and we got some very tasty creamed spinach for the table to complete a classic, old-line steakhouse meal.

The Barn just opened last weekend, and it’s still got some kinks to work out.  The place was packed when we were there, and it took too long for our food to arrive — which was a source of some concern because Kish and the Cousin were on their way to a show.  I’m hoping they iron out the kinks, because the food was quite good and we really need more restaurants — especially hearty, beef-oriented ones — in this neck of the woods.

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No Hoggy’s No More

Hoggy’s Barn and Grille has closed.  For years it’s been a mainstay of the neighborhood, holding down the corner of Route 62 and Morse Road on the Gahanna-New Albany border.  Now the restaurant is shuttered.

IMG_1138It’s always sad when a neighborhood joint goes down the tubes — particularly one that’s been operating for years.  We’ve been to Hoggy’s dozens of times, eating family dinners, chowing down on pulled pork and ribs and beef brisket, enjoying the mashed spuds with the skin on and macaroni and cheese and moist cornbread, washed down with a good beer or two.  We’ve had some laughs and good meals and dared members of our family to take a shot at the “Hoggy’s Challenge” eating contest.  I don’t think anyone ever did.

After the kids went away to college, Kish and I stopped going to Hoggy’s; it just wasn’t the same.  Apparently other people stopped going, too, because Hoggy’s parent company has gone into receivership, and the receiver has said that the restaurants were dogged by poor sales.  The big white barn at the corner of Route 62 and Morse is now closed, and who knows when — or even if — it will ever open again.

Creekside Under Water

When we first moved to New Albany and started driving through Gahanna on Route 62, the creekside area was an uninspired stretch of road that featured an undistinguished post office and  industrial-type buildings.  At some point, Gahanna decided that it could do better, and Creekside was the result.  The old buildings were torn down, the creek area itself was spruced up, and attractive structures and common areas were built on the west side of Route 62, next to the creek.  Both private money and public money were invested in the project.

Aesthetically, Creekside is a vast improvement.  It is a mixed use development, one of those ubiquitous “Eat — Work — Live — Play” creations that were supposed to be the wave of the future.  Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way.  Only 13 of the 70 condo units at Creekside were sold.  And while 75 percent of the retail space is occupied, there doesn’t seem to be much foot traffic.  Now, Creekside is facing a foreclosure action, and the city of Gahanna — which owns the public portions of the development — will need to deal with that process and its fallout.

The Creekside experiment is a cautionary civic improvement tale.  Creekside opened to great fanfare in May 2008; less than three years later, it is struggling to survive and needs to retool.  “If you build it, they will come” is a great line in a movie script, but when it comes to development projects it isn’t always accurate.

A Sad Farewell Amidst A Festive Season

The wine and beer drinkers of New Albany and Gahanna are feeling sad this holiday season.  Corner’s Beverage Shoppe is closing on December 15, after 13 years of providing the community with a fine selection of wines and beers, a pleasant and helpful staff, and an ambiance that is warm and homey rather than cold and institutional.  Ironically, the business is being sold to Giant Eagle.  Even more ironically, it is happening during the holiday season, when quick visits to Corner’s have become as much a tradition as a turkey and Christmas cookies.

Finding a good wine and beer store is like finding a good mechanic.  You come to trust their recommendations and believe that they aren’t trying to take advantage of you.  Why should they?  They know you are a regular, and they want you to return.  You know you can find a good bottle of wine, a decent cigar, an interesting new beer, and some useful suggestions from knowledgeable professionals.  Large grocery stores, staffed by a revolving lineup of minimum wage earners, just can’t offer the same feel or service.

I’ve been going to Corner’s Beverage Shoppe for all of its 13 years and have always appreciated the friendliness of its staff and their heartfelt advice on beverage selections.  To them, I say:  “Cheers!”  And, thanks.  You will be missed!

Budget Fireworks

‘Tis the season for fireworks.  Columbus had its big Red White & Boom celebration last night.  The weather was perfect and big crowds turned out to ooh and aah at the sounds, colors, and combinations.

For many smaller communities, however, Fourth of July fireworks celebrations are being reduced or eliminated due to budget pressures.  In Gahanna, which is one of the communities adjacent to New Albany, officials have said that this year’s Freedom Festival fireworks show would have been canceled if the city hadn’t already put down a $10,000 deposit.  The city is facing enormous budget deficits if it doesn’t scale back its services; it has already cut its capital improvements budget to zero.  The city’s investment in the Creekside project — which is an attractive, but apparently underutilized, development along one of the city’s main streets — hasn’t produced the revenue that was anticipated.  Taxes could be raised, of course, but city officials are sensing that residents are experiencing “tax fatigue” and therefore may not support additional levies.  So if the city won’t be patching potholes or filling vacancies, how can it justify using scarce funds for fireworks displays?

It’s sad when communities can’t support traditional Independence Day activities, but in this recessionary period civic leaders have to be realistic.  Fourth of July celebrations aren’t essential city services and in central Ohio there are lots of other options for fans of fireworks.  Gahanna’s decision is unfortunate, but not difficult.