The Chintz Room

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Some Columbus restaurants from days gone by have achieved legendary status. The Kahiki, with its dry ice drinks and over-the-top Polynesian decor. The Jai Lai, with its big photo of Woody Hayes and its “In all the world there’s only one” slogan.

The Chintz Room, located high in the Lazarus department store downtown, is one of the legends. Countless central Ohio kids of the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s got dressed up and trooped into the Chintz Room with their grandmothers for a lunch break during a downtown shopping trip. There they self-consciously ate chicken salad in the company of prim, hat-wearing ladies, ever-mindful of the need to keep their elbows off the table.

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Now the Chintz Room is back. It’s still in the old Lazarus building, but now it’s moved to the ground floor with a street level entrance. It’s decorated with mannequins, ladies’ hats, photos, and other memorabilia that recall its glory days at the center of the Columbus department store shopping world. And it still serves chicken salad, apparently made from the original recipe.

I don’t like chicken salad, so it’s fortunate for me that the Chintz Room serves other, more modern options. On my trip there yesterday with the Damages Dude — who did go for the chicken salad — I got the Tuscan pizza. It was excellent, with a crunchy crust, figs, prosciutto, three cheeses, and extra virgin olive oil, and large enough to satisfy a lunch-time appetite without being overwhelming. At $11.50, it’s price tag wouldn’t cause your grandma’s hat to go spinning off her head, either.

I’m glad the Chintz Room, with its echoes of Columbus’ past, is back and available for the downtown lunch rotation.

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The Clarmont Closes

The Clarmont, one of Columbus’ landmark restaurants, unexpectedly closed its doors today.  The announcement ended 65 years of serving food and drink to hungry and thirsty central Ohio patrons.  No reason was given for the decision.

The Clarmont was one of the anchors on High Street in German Village.  From its dated, Jetsons-like sign, to its highball drinks and traditional steak and seafood menu items, the Clarmont screamed “old school.”  That was one of the charms of the place, and made the Clarmont a restaurant landmark.  It was a place to have a drink after work or, for some people, to have a “power breakfast.”  I recall going there for lunch a few times, but I haven’t been there in years.  Perhaps the clientele that appreciates old school restaurants has just dwindled to the point where the restaurant was no longer profitable.

The closing of the Clarmont is a reminder that many of Columbus’ former landmark restaurants aren’t around anymore.  The kitschy Kahiki is gone.  The Jai Lai (“In all the world there’s only one”) is long gone.  Jack Bowman’s Suburban Steakhouse is gone.  The Top is still here, and the Florentine, and perhaps one or two others — but there really aren’t many of the landmarks left.