The Random Restaurant Tour (XIX)

Sometimes, you only need to look at a menu to determine whether a place is likely to be good, or bad.  When it comes to a BBQ joint, you’re looking for a menu that is brief, and preferably written on the wall rather than on laminated menus that are handed out to patrons.  That’s because, if you’re turning out the highest quality barbecue, it’s got to be the exclusive focus of your efforts.  You can’t be wasting time worrying about creating new salads, special soups, or other, lesser items.

Yesterday we ventured out of the downtown area to try the offerings of Smoked on High.  I’d heard about SoH from several friends and the word of mouth was very strong, so when the Red Sox Fan suggested yesterday that we give it a shot I was all for it.  We drove, because it was pelting down rain — a daily occurrence this August — and SoH is located just south of downtown on High Street, in a converted house located on the border between German Village and the Brewery District.

SoH passed the BBQ menu test with flying colors.  According to the options posted on the wall on the entrance to the order area, you can choose from brisket, pork, chicken, or ribs, a handful of sides, and three sauce options.  Oh, and yesterday chili was available as a special.  It was a visible demonstration of commitment to barbecue, and nothing but.

Of course, I went for the brisket sandwich, with mac n’ cheese and cornbread as sides.  When I ordered the brisket the cook pulled a virgin slab out of the oven, glistening with a great char, and sliced it up for my sandwich.  I was given my food, had decided to try the spicy and mustard and vinegar sauces, had paid for the combo, and was headed to my seat in a few seconds.  The speed was appreciated, because after looking at the meat I was definitely eager to dig in.

The sandwich was terrific — the meat was awesome, and the Red Sox Fan aptly noted that the bun was appropriately substantial to hold up against the weight of the meat piled on it — and the mac n’ cheese and cornbread were delectable, too.  Although it was a very close call, I decided I prefer the mustard and vinegar sauce.

Smoked on High is a short drive from downtown, but it’s also just a short walk from our house in German Village.  I’m pretty sure I’m going to become a regular.

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Tearing Down And Building Up

They’re in the process of demolishing the old Columbus Africentric School building along Livingston Avenue, adjacent to German Village.  As of yesterday, the site was home to mound of rubble, lots of heavy equipment, and one sad, lone section of the old school building yet to be torn down.

The Africentric School had been unused for a while, and it had become both an unkept eyesore and a weedy squatting ground for homeless people.  But then the property was bought by Nationwide Children’s Hospital from the Columbus City Schools at the end of 2017, and NCH has announced that after demolition is complete and the debris is removed, the property will be paved and turned into a parking lot.  Given the amount of construction currently underway for Nationwide Children’s Hospital — with multiple buildings and garages being built along Livingston Avenue in the area between the Columbus Africentric property and the original hospital complex — many people suspect that the former Africentric grounds won’t remain a parking lot for long.

With the old school building gone, walkers along Livingston Avenue will have a better view of the eastern part of downtown Columbus — for a while, at least. I’m generally not a fan of surface parking lots, but abandoned buildings are never welcome in a neighborhood.  I’ll take a well maintained parking lot over a crumbling magnet for vagrants, vandals and graffiti practitioners any day.

Passive-Aggressive Hugs And Kisses

In our German Village neighborhood, most residents tend to be very protective of our streets and sidewalks.  We also recognize, however, that come trash day it’s not uncommon for scavengers to drive up and down the streets, looking for the possibility that one person’s trash could become another person’s treasure.  A large discarded item often is plucked before the garbage guys swing by.

But what if large items are so ugly or smelly that even scavengers won’t touch them — and they’re not within the guidelines defining appropriate refuse to be collected on the standard pick-up days?  What’s a resident who cares about appearances to do then?

After this unappealing, overstuffed floral print chair and mirror appeared on the sidewalk and then stayed there, like a pimple on the smooth brick skin of Third Street, one resident decided to go down the passive-aggressive note route.  First one hand-lettered note — the one asking to “please make them not be here anymore” — appeared.  Then, when the floral monstrosity remained for a day or two more, the second one popped up . . . just in case the offender needed to know the proper method for disposing of the overstuffed horror.  And does the handwriting indicate it’s one note-leaver, or two?  The use of lower case in the newer note makes me wonder.

When I take my walk this morning, I’ll be eager to see whether the unsightly chair and mirror are still there — and, if so, whether a new, perhaps more pointed, note has sprouted on the rear of the mirror.  We’ve seen the passive-aggressive “please” and “thx,” and the even more ironic “XO” hugs and kisses.  What’s next?  A passive-aggressive smiley face?

Searching, Again, For The Most Interesting Dog In The World!

Russell’s dog Betty still has a lot of puppy in her, and taking her for a walk is a bit of an adventure. Every glimpse of another dog — regardless of age, breed, size, or whether they’re wearing one of those embarrassing head cones — puts Betty on full sensory alert and causes her to immediately begin panting and lunging forward in total sled dog mode. The other dogs are obviously the most fascinating things in the world. In German Village, which has more dogs out walking at any given moment than any other location in the free world, that means the Bettywalker is constantly trotting, arm extended and leash pulled taut, toward one dog or another. For Betty, only squirrels can rival other dogs as an attention-getter.

Imagine what it would be like if humans reacted in this way, treating every other person like they were The Most Interesting Man In The World in the Dos Equis commercials and making a beeline to every stranger you see on the street to give them a heavy-breathing, up-close-and-personal once-over. I don’t know about you, but I’m glad humans are a bit more diffident about other members of their species.

Hey, a squirrel!

Unplowed Ground

We got several inches of snow last night. That means we’ll be living with a snow-covered street for the next few weeks, because forecasts are for temperatures with highs in the 20s, or below, for the foreseeable future.

It’s not that Columbus has inadequate plowing resources; in fact, the city’s road crews are pretty good. No, it’s because our street, like most of the streets in German Village, is paved with brick. Brick streets and snow plows don’t mix — unless you like plows hurling bricks from the road bed into parked cars, passing traffic, and pedestrians.

So we’ll have to wait to dispose of the snow the old-fashioned way . . . by melting.

Neighborhood Wish List

The spot in the middle of German Village where the original Max and Erma’s once operated for four decades has been vacant for a few months now, without any apparent signs of activity. Recently, though, stickers that look like those irritating “My name is” name tags that always fall off your suit coat appeared on the front windows. Yesterday Kish and I took a closer look, and the stickers represent some people’s wishes for what business should now occupy the property. I’m not sure whether the stickers were filled out by neighbors, former employees, Trader Joe’s shareholders, or somebody else who likes comics. Seriously . . . a comic book shop?

I’d like to see a restaurant in the spot. Something ethnic, perhaps. Maybe a good Szechuan spot?